Following the recent Campus Suite Academy live webinar on Using Facebook to Improve School Communication, presenters Andrea Gribble, Steve Williams and I had the opportunity to field questions from the audience of school administrators. Due to time constraints, however, we could not get to all them. I want to share the questions and answers that did not make the broadcast.
Our featured presenter and school social media expert Andrea Gribble of #SocialSchool4EDU has taken the time to answer your questions below.
Q: What are the recommended page settings? Should we allow others to tag photos?
AG: The main page settings are covered in the Facebook for Schools Guide. I don’t recommend photo tagging for schools. A form of tagging can be done by commenting on a post that contains a photo.
Q: Can you explain how boosts work?
AG: Boosts are a way to pay Facebook to expose your post to more people. I have personally never used a boosted post for schools. It doesn’t cost much (as little as $5) to reach more Facebook users who are not necessarily your fans. The more you pay, the more people you will reach. You have the ability to target certain people based on things like age, location (within 30 miles of your school), interests and more. The purpose of a boost for your school may be to promote a fundraiser, gather more fans, or just gain more attention for a specific post made by your school. Could be a good option for private schools or some public schools looking to drive enrollment. Urging current fans to help share posts and suggest it to others is a more economical way of growing your audience. See this article on Tips for using Facebook Advertising for Schools.
Q: What about student privacy issues and permission to use photos of students?
AG: Most schools will use either an opt-in or opt-out permission slip to get approval to use a student’s photo on social media. Your district should have already dealt with this in regards to using photos on websites, newsletters, in newspapers – but we understand the concern when it comes to social media.
- Opt-in – Students must turn in a permission slip (or fill out a form on the school website) before their students can be used on social media.
- Opt-out – Puts more responsibility on parents that if they do not wish their child’s photo to be used on social media, they must turn in a form indicating so. If not opted out, their child’s photo can be used.
Once you have created a list of “do not use” students, the trick is to make sure those photos are not used. Some schools put this responsibility totally on the teachers taking the photos. Others make sure that there are gatekeepers within the process that double check all photos used. In over 6,000 posts for schools, I have not run into a significant issue with this. We have had to remove a few photos, but it was handled appropriately and professionally between the school and the parent.
Q: Does Facebook allow school districts the option to block or restrict “comments” on a school page?
AG: Facebook no longer allows the settings that enable you to turn off the comments on your page. Even when they did allow this option, I never recommended it to schools. Social media is meant to be social! There are, however, a few options that you can take to help monitor or restrict comments:
- Make sure to turn the profanity filter to strong. This is a must on all school (and business) pages.
- You can add words in the “Page Moderation” setting to block certain words from the page. You could get excessive and add specific words that would help ensure any comment written would be blocked when it contains one of those words.
- Remember to set up your notifications so that you know each time a new comment is made. There are options to hide comments, delete them, and block users if they are repeatedly inappropriate.
Q: Our district currently uses a "dummy” Facebook account. Is there a way to just create a page without having it connected to a dummy profile?
AG: If you already have a page created, the easiest way to delete the dummy account is to assign several other real Facebook users as administrators to your page. Once you have them assigned to the account, you can remove the dummy account on the page roles. Once removed, you can then delete the dummy account altogether.
Q: How do you handle negative comments on Facebook (or other social media, for that matter)?
The key here is to first be always monitoring your accounts, then have a plan in place to respond. Check out this article on how to handle negative comments on school social media.
Q: What about legal/privacy considerations when kids names are listed in the text of a post?
AG: This is similar to a child’s name being used in a newspaper article, on the school website, or in the school newsletter. I recommend limiting the use of specific names, unless it is for a special recognition or award. First names only is a good option too. The exact legality can be traced back to your school policies. But again, follow the guidelines you use for the school website or newspaper.
Q: Where is the info box to shorten the link to Facebook?
AG: Simply click on your ‘About’ tab and then go to Page Info. If you hover over the Facebook web address line, a small edit pen will show up on the right side.
Q: Should we give fans the ability to tag others? Also, what about allowing posts to the page? Currently, we do not allow either.
AG: With all of the districts I work with, we do not allow fans to tag others or make new posts to the page. Let me clarify a few terms:
- Tagging – When you allow fans to tag photos, the photo itself will show up on the tagged person’s individual Facebook page. That person may or may not want it on their own page. That is the reason we don’t allow fans to tag the photos. Now, when a person comments on a photo and starts typing in a person’s name, this is similar to tagging, but the photo itself will not show up on the tagged person’s page. They will just get a notification that someone tagged them in a comment.
- Posting – Allowing others to post to your page is basically allowing your fans the ability to start new conversations. Not to be confused with commenting (which is allowed), when fans can say something about an initial post made by the school. Posting is starting a whole new topic that may or may not be favorable for the school. I do not allow posts to the school pages we manage. We have many fans share through direct messaging on the Facebook page, and then, of course, through comments. We have, however, experienced a few rants when posts were allowed. I’m sure that 95% or more would be positive – but it is really just a preference on our part. I know many schools who do open up for posts, and it allows for great freedom of sharing good information about the school.
Q: What are the issues with having a FB page that creates a "public" forum and then having to monitor/delete comments? Any guidelines?
AG: If you are referring to the freedom of speech that we are all entitled to here in the U.S., many schools tackle this with a social media policy – that obviously can’t just be handled inside the school, because anyone can use social media. Here is a great example posted right on the Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1Mians0 Also, for more information, monitoring and managing comments are covered in the Facebook for Schools Guide.
Q: If I want to add a new Facebook web address, will my old URL become obsolete or will both still function?
AG: Yes, the old URL will connect with the new shortened one.
Q: This seems like a full time job. Who is managing these social media accounts?
AG: It is a time-consuming job – and an important one. Put together a team and be sure to have the support of the communications lead in your district. Here is a recent blog post that breaks down how some schools are handling the workload of staffing your school’s social media: http://bit.ly/1iFfFSw
Q: What is a great following? How do you calculate this?
AG: What constitutes a ‘great’ following depends on the size of your district. I think a good rule of thumb would be your student enrollment number. If you have 600 kids in your school, and you have 600 fans of your Facebook page, you are doing well. Bigger schools may have a harder time getting to, say, 5,000 fans. You can also measure yourself against area school districts. It’s nice to have some friendly competition. Another measure is just to track that your fan base is continuing to grow. Even after being out there for several years, you should continue to see that total number of fans grow.
Q: Our district has multiple accounts – one is good but one is not so good. What should we do?
AG: If you have one good account that is doing well, and then another one that is struggling, close down the straggler. I’m betting that you will end up with an even better first account. If you do have several accounts for your schools already, that’s OK. I’m not saying you have to shut down the others, but it can be difficult if some are managed better than others. When you see one school utilizing it more than another, then parents may raise a concern.
Q: When it comes to increasing reach and the FB algorithm, is it better to create a new post instead of sharing posts?
AG: The experience I have had is that shared posts reach less people than new posts on your page. No one knows the exact algorithm from Facebook, as it is always changing, but Facebook likes new content. If it sees a new post, even if you are simply reusing photos from someone else’s page, it will reach more people. The downside to this is that it takes more time. The upside is you will reach more people and you will have control of the comments on the post. Remember, if you share someone else’s post and someone makes a comment, you won’t be able to hide or delete it from your timeline.
Q: I see only two options for creating a call-to-action button. How can I get more options like ‘Contact Us’ or direct them to district web page?
AG: It may be the device you are using. Make sure you’re setting up your call-to-action on your desktop. Check out the Facebook for Schools Guide, for more options.
Q: When sharing FB posts to Twitter, do you have any suggestions for getting pictures to post with the Tweet rather than just the link?
AG: If you are auto-linking posts from Facebook to Twitter, you will not get images to show up. There is no ability to make the pictures appear. One option is to use one of the advanced scheduling programs like Hootsuite or Buffer. These do a great job of sharing the image along with the post.
Q: How do you deal with "unofficial" social media pages that may misrepresent your institution?
AG: I have a two-fold approach. I first message the page and ask the page administrator to take it down. If they don’t take it down, then report the page. See below.
Q: If we change our FB address to a custom name, will that break all the links where the old address exists (on website, etc.) and we would need to relink?
No, it should not break old links.
Q: If we add a hashtag on our FB account is there a way that we can monitor it before it posts?
AG: No, you cannot monitor posts made by others before they actually post. You take the good with the bad in the case of people using hashtags. The posts made by other people using the custom hashtag will not automatically show up on your school page. You have to search for them.
Q: How do you determine if a hashtag is unique?
Q: Any recommendations for archiving posts?
AG: I don’t personally archive old posts, because they are archived within Facebook for us.
Q: Should we use our hashtag in every post? Or how will we know which posts to use it in?
AG: You don’t need to use it in every post, but use it frequently. It helps encourage others to use it. There is no rule on where to use it, but here are some examples:
- Way to show that #ColfaxPride!
- Don’t forget the fundraiser tomorrow. #ColfaxPride
- Who shows their #ColfaxPride the best? The photo that gets the most likes will win a free ticket to Friday night’s basketball game!
Q: How do you get a hashtag?
AG: There is no “formal” way of reserving a hashtag for your use – you just start using it. First step is to make sure it is unique (tagboard.com). Here is a little more help:
Q: Will these webinar classes be sent to us as an announcement or do we need to check back for the date and times?
AG: You should already be on the Campus Suite Academy mailing list, so keep an eye on your mailbox for future announcements. You can also go to the Campus Suite Academy and bookmark it for an archive of past announcements and listing of upcoming ones.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.