Amanda Holdsworth of the CASE commission task force on social media interviews Tucker Kimball, director of communications at the Gould Academy, about the independent school’s social media initiatives.
AH: What social media initiatives is your institution currently engaged in?
TK: We are active on Facebook with pages for alumni, program-specific, sports-specific, parents and competition programs. We also have ”Gloggers” who blog. We have been doing that for more than three years.
AH: Which initiatives do you think are the most effective or successful, and why?
TK: In terms of engagement, Facebook is most effective. It is very exciting to see the conversations going on. Last winter, Gould averaged 1,200-1,500 visits to the main Facebook page a week. Our blogs have had 46,000 visits over the last three years, while we have hundreds of visits a week on Flickr for each picture, but with so many photos, it would be impossible to monitor conversations. We have 20,000 video views on Flickr and 500 followers on Twitter.
AH: What have you tried that you think hasn’t worked, and why?
TK: We created something that didn’t need to be created: a Facebook fan page for the annual auction. It took the conversation away from the main Facebook page.
AH: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?
TK: How do we leverage these initiatives and integrate them into web and admissions strategies?
- Content-driven, SEO, keywords—target people who are searching based on narrow searches. We need to be in places where people are looking!
- Create more specific pages such as ridegould.org. This page engages visitors and there is a clear call to action. It will be the model for the rest of Gould’s site.
AH: Do you have social media policies or guidelines and, if so, can you share them?
TK: No. Gloggers are three students and two faculty members. Communications asks for student interest versus specific choosing of bloggers (the more passionate they are about blogging, the more they will do it) and then meets with the group informally. We find that students really self-edit and have yet to have a problem with content issues.
AH: Are social media initiatives integrated into your strategic communications plan? If so, how?
TK: Gould has a marketing plan (less of a PR plan) and social media is integrated with public relations…the lines have become blurred.
AH: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?
TK: The director of communications is the editor of Twitter feed, Flickr and YouTube. The communications office is housed in the development department. The communications office is comprised of a director of communications, an assistant director of communications, a graphic designer and a photographer/videographer.
AH: Where does the buck stop when it comes to social media decisions?
AH: What do you wish you knew when you were first exploring social media initiatives that you know now?
TK: It has been a positive learning experience all around.
- Set priorities
- Be patient
- It takes content—content is king!
- You get out of it what you put into it
AH: What are the two most important pieces of advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of social media initiative today?
TK: Have a strong interest in social media—it should not be forced on anyone. Experiment on your own first—get comfortable with it. Doing so means less risk.Talk to other schools about how to use it wisely and correctly. Go to conferences.
Creating relationships via social media makes the users engaged and stay engaged. When you go to make the “ask,” the relationship between the potential/current donor and the school is already.