5 Social Media Lessons for Early Childhood Centers (Plus a Little Healthy Attitude)

When I was first asked to write a blog, I started paying more attention to what other bloggers were writing about and what I liked about their blogs and what I didn’t like.  It became very clear, very quickly what I liked were the ones that were written with a bit of snarkiness to them.  Not sure if snarkiness is even a word [editor's note: for the purposes of this blog, snarkiness is 100% legit], but found out through blogging, that it is used quite often. I also found that I liked the blogs to be short and to the point and of course be relevant to my interests.

I am the Director of Temple Beth El’s Early Childhood program located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  My assistant Heather and I participated in the Detroit Jewish Early Childhood Social Media Academy this year that was coordinated by the Alliance for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and generously funded by the Hermelin-Davidson Center for Congregation Excellence.  When I first heard the words "Social Media Academy", the thought that came to mind was Facebook and Twitter, and who doesn’t know how to use it Facebook, and why do I want to be bothered with Twitter? I felt confident in Facebook and how I was helping to promote my school by posting cute pictures of the kids and promoting Temple and school events.  Who knew it could be so much more. 

We were assigned a coach to help us discuss our goals.  We focused at first on Facebook because that was what we knew.  Our Facebook page was off to a pretty good start, but one of our goals was to get more parent involvement.  The first thing we realized was that our pictures were getting a lot of likes and views, so we started using Fotor.com, a site that allows you to easily create a photo collage and upload it to Facebook.  No more photo albums!  The next thing we did was add cute quotes to our pictures, using Quotescover.com and PicMonkey.com to help us layer quotes on top of our pictures.  Sure enough, we began to see that we were getting more likes, more hits, but still not a lot of comments.

The next thing we did to increase our Facebook audience was to make sure that we add a FB pin to the bottom of our e-mail correspondence that we send out and a reminder to Like us on FB on all written correspondence.

Once we felt we have exhausted FB, our coach suggested we try to involve not only our ECC audience, but our Temple audience as well.  Each month I am responsible for writing a monthly article for our Temple and I have begun adding educational tips for parents.  Each tip is then entered to our newly created Pinterest Boards.  Who knew Pinterest was even considered a social media site?  Now we are connected through Facebook and Pinterest.  I must say, it does become a little addicting but mostly rewarding to see my staff, parents and people who I don’t even know, following us on Pinterest.

So to summarize our goals and accomplishments in 5 easy steps, here they are for all you newbies:

1. Bulletin articles. We are all writing them, but what for? This is the place to start. Begin here by writing an article with the purpose of recycling it throughout your social media outlets. This article can LIVE ON! Include monthly “tips.” Include text that could be a subtitle to a photo.  An example:

Lauren’s monthly learning lessons are all about socialization.  Enjoy! 

Lauren’s Top 7 Tips to encourage Socialization:

  1. Teach kids words like: “Please help me,” “I need to learn this.” Model the language you would like the kids to use when they need help.
  2. Ask one child to ask another child a question about the toy they are playing with.
  3. Pair two children together and ask them to find a toy to play with together.
  4. Play follow the leader.
  5. Have children take turns making facial expressions and ask the other children to tell you what type of expression that child is making.
  6. Play the “Name” game.
  7. Talk about feelings.  Sad, embarrassed, surprise, hesitant, overwhelmed. Give them the vocabulary they need to express their feelings.

 

2. Facebook Pictures Next step …… this is where things get easier. Use the article to establish a story that you will share throughout the month. The tips section of the article will be used as an outline. We know Facebook fans prefer pictures, in fact, photos get 39% more interaction according to Fast Company. Start by reviewing your school’s photos, set up photo opps of your students that represent your tips. Use Quotescover.com or PicMonkey.com to caption the photos. No more drafting up the best caption. The captions can be verbatim to the tips in your article.  Remember, you are not generating content but REUSING your own!

 

3. Facebook Campaigns. Psst! Did you know you can schedule posts on Facebook? This makes campaigns so much easier! Simply draft your post, with your photo that represents your article, and then schedule it. By reviewing Facebook Insights, you will know the very best times that you should schedule your posts. Schedule these posts to “fire” all through-out the month. [Editor's note: make sure to remember what you've scheduled.  On rare occasions a worldly or local event may make your scheduled content appear insensitive or inappropriate, so keep in mind you may need to unschedule or edit if needed.]

4. Pinterest. Ready? Simply set up a board with theme of your tips. Spend a few minutes searching for tips that relate to your tips. A few pins are all you need to get started. Add a few more each week. By spacing out your Pinterest activity, you will increase your visibility. When you share often, more people will see your pins and those pins lead people back to your page by displaying your details about the pin. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-get-more-pinterest-followers/

5. Promote it.  Mention it in-depth in a bulletin article, this will give your readers a clue that you are doing more and are setting trends on social media. Include social media buttons in your email signature. Connect your social media networks. Include it on everything you send home to families. Personally ask your families to comment on your social media.

Is this cheating?? NO WAY! First, you are probably reaching different audiences by spreading your article out this way. Second, no marketer should rely on one method to spread their word. Third, remember the Rule of Seven. (http://thebabyboomerentrepreneur.com/258/what-is-the-rule-of-seven-and-how-will-it-improve-your-marketing/)

What I’m dying to find out is how to continue to improve my monthly article. Do you have any ideas? Moving from “a review of the month” to parenting/educating issues and ideas has been a start, but what is the next level? How can I increase my readership? How can I increase my readerships engagement levels to more than just a “Like”?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Social Media Super Powers

It’s Monday morning and the children are eager to come to school.  On a normal day, they are greeted with a “Hello” or “Good morning.  How was your weekend?”  But today Ben walks through our doors and I say, “Hello Ben.  How was your day out with Thomas the train?”  And right then, something amazing happens. 

Ben looks at me like I am almost magical.  How did I know that he saw Thomas over the weekend?  Is she psychic?  Clearly she must be magical!  Little did he know about my secret super power known as Facebook.  Instead of simply saying hello back to me, Ben went into an excited story about his weekend adventures.  This is what I call the Facebook connection; a special moment that would not have happened so easily and naturally without the super powers of social media.

So how did we gain these super powers?  It certainly did not happen overnight and we weren’t bitten by a spider.  It was a complex formula of trainings from the Jewish Community Center Association and Darim Online, mixed with dedication, teamwork and trial and error.  We began by posting more and simply having a more visible presence on Facebook.  Then, with the encouragement of Darim Online, we included more people to be admins and curators on our page and asked parents and staff to be intentional commenters.  Along this journey we started to find out what worked well for our program and what posts were reaching farther outside our norm.  Those that were successful we would duplicate when we could.  For example, our Monday Morning Mystery.  

Each Monday we would post three clues about a teacher and encourage our fans to guess who it was and the winner would receive a free challah on Friday when we revealed the teacher.  We had so much fun with this that it actually evolved into baby pictures of staff rather than clues.  Through this our families were learning more about our teachers and seeing into their lives a little more.  And we were beginning to learn more about our families’ lives outside of the JCC through their posts, too.  The Facebook connection was happening.   Teachers and parents began to playfully banter through our posts.  Parents began to see a more social, but still professional side of our staff.  Relationships began to grow and our overall sense of community became stronger.  Throughout the year we have heard our parents and fellow JCC staff tell us things like, “I love what you are doing on Facebook,” and “I check your page every morning to see what fun things you have posted.”  For that alone we will continue to grow our community and keep our posts alive and fun.  We have hopes of infusing more educational pieces for our fans and continuing to create an environment of discussion through our page.  Until then, we will keep letting the children think we magically know what they do when they are not at school!              

 

 

Shannon Hall is the Assistant Director of the Infant and Toddler program at the Pitt CDC.  Shannon, along with Fredelle Schneider, Director, Robin Herman, Assistant Director of Preschool and several of the Pitt CDC teaching staff has participated in the Detroit Jewish Early Childhood Social Media Academy this year, coordinated by the Alliance for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and generously funded by the Hermelin-Davidson Center for Congregation Excellence.

 

 

 

Thankful

What are you thankful for this week? I'm thankful for this catchy Facebook post from Shannon Hall and her team at the Sarah & Irving Pitt Child Development Center of JCC Metro Detroit. With the discovery that the most popular posts on their page were the photo collages, and knowing that the children would be focused on giving thanks in celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving (and Chanukah!) holidays, the team developed this creative idea. Using smart phones, the team snapped a few photos of children, noted what they were thankful for, and added the speech bubbles using the free PicSay app for Android phones. For iPhone users, the free app Bubble works great, too.

Then, in order to attract more attention then they would have by posting the photos individually, they collaged three responses into one photo using PicsArt, another free app for Android, iPhone users, check out the free and easy to use PicStitch. The result was a playful, eye catching photo.

They combined with photo with an invitation to a week long game. Comment on the post and they'd ask your child next. And comment they did! Parents responded with curiosity about what their own child might say, and also added their own grateful comments. The result is a community expression of gratitude, perfect for the week before Thanksgiving.

What was the strategy behind the team's thinking? As part of their work in this year's Jewish Early Childhood Social Media Academy organized by the Alliance for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Detroit, the team wanted to celebrate the children and families within their preschool program in order get the word out to the larger community about their offerings. Their strategy is to encourage their current actively involved on Facebook parents to inspire others to join the fun. Focusing on organic, fun, and engaging posts, their Facebook page has been a model of successful early childhood engagement.

In addition to achieving this immediate goal, creating social content that gets people to comment increases your "weight" in the Facebook algorithm.  Your content is therefore more likely to show up in the newsfeeds of others who have liked the page, which leads to more engagement, which sets a very positive snowball in motion.

How are you stewarding a culture of thankfulness and engagement on your Facebook Page?