Meeting People Where They Are

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Social media provides us with a wonderful opportunity to stay in touch in real-time with our customers, regardless of what industry we’re in.  Recently, an article on healthcare marketing and PR came across my desk – this person was able to translate a negative review into a positive scenario through the hospital’s social media response.

Many times in the non-profit or education sectors that I work in, my colleagues see social media as a throw-away tool.  Principals and executive directors are familiar with the basic underpinnings of Facebook and Twitter, but fail to see the usefulness of maintaining a responsive presence on social media.  By logging in and posting, a social media manager develops a rapport with readers, and is able to respond to direct messages in a timely manner.  Social media allows an organization to post articles that align with their mission, vision or work and help constituents visualize need and responsiveness.

And, the most important reason for social media marketing and PR is that an organization reaches it’s customers where they already are.  It is simple for a user to click “Like” or follow someone, and it’s that type of passive engagement that will develop future relationships.  What non-profit are millennial more likely to give to, one that they know about from a variety of sources and connect to, or one that they see once or twice a year?

For more information, or questions about your organization’s social media marketing, contact me through email, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Hooking a Reader on Social Media

Social media has become more cutthroat as it has evolved; more services, more information, and more users are vying for readers. To combat the information blitz, more social media managers have found success in using images to supplement information and links. This helps to highlight your post, drawing more attention than a simple text and hyperlink post. And most social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, show the attached photo in the information stream.

However, many non-profits and small business don’t have the marketing dollars to outsource photo editing or the software to do it in-house. One of my favorite workarounds is an online photo-editing service – Pixlr. This simple service allows for quick editing without the need to download software or pay for a third-party to edit.  Let’s use an example:

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Let’s assume we are writing about a children’s event for Halloween. This photo is not bad straight from the camera, but it could use a few things.

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After uploading my original photo to the Pixlr Express site, I quickly auto corrected the brightness and contrast, sharpened the image, and added text. Within five minutes, I had saved a new version of the image back to my computer. This photo can now be attached to a social media post with a link to the event advertisement or a blog post.

When adding photos to your social media accounts, you’ll want to keep the following in mind:

  • Do I have the rights to use the picture? 
  • Does the photo complement the information I’m sharing?
    • i.e. Photo of a man with a shovel for a gardening post
  • Should I add text to my photo?
    • Research shows that images with text have a higher click-through and conversion rate, but text probably isn’t appropriate for on-site sharing at events
  • Have I shared this photo before?
    • Keep your photos and content fresh; if people see the same content multiple times, the click-through rate declines significantly.

And if you are unfamiliar with photo-editing, Pixlr is great way to learn some basic skills. It allows you to crop, change contrast, and add images by simply pointing and clicking.

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Experiments in Social Media

Seeing as I use social media in my personal and professional life, it sometimes is a bit overwhelming. I receive information from a variety of sources, and wish to share it back out in various ways. How do you keep track of everything? How do you look back on your click rate and shares?

First, some thoughts on the different social media networks; I work hard to keep all my social media channels professional, but usually use them in different ways.

Facebook – Facebook is my most personal space; my closest friends and family are able to stay in touch with me.  I post personal photos, share funny stories and serious articles that I think my friends will enjoy.

Twitter – Twitter is my catch-all. It most closely reflects my stream of consciousness, and is where I connect professional with a wide audience. I read most of my news on Twitter and follow-up on news sites and Google searches.

Linked In - This is my professional space, where I try to reflect my skills and expertise. Here, I post articles that are directly related to my field.

Buffer

Buffer

To keep information flowing on these social media channels, one invaluable tool for me is Buffer – I’m a little late to the game on this one, but I’ve been using it for almost a year now. Buffer holds my updates in the queue and sends them out at pre-determined times to the social networks I select. I have Buffer connected to my Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In accounts, and it’s available on my iPad, smart phone and browser. So, anywhere I find an interesting article, I can share it quickly to my networks. I haven’t upgraded to the “Awesome” plan, but am considering it. That would allow me to add social media channels such as Google+ and shows analytics of sent messages. However, even on the free plan, I am able to see what topics receive the most clicks and shares, and better tailor my message.

IFTTT

IFTTT

IFTTT (stands for If This, Then That) is a handy tool to have, and I have adapted it for many things, not just social media. But, my favorite use is to help me manage two separate social media profiles. Currently, I am in charge of my organization’s social media accounts as well as my own, which at times is confusing. However, if I find an article on my personal accounts, I can tweet it out with the hashtag #EdCo, and IFTTT automatically emails me that tweet. I can then edit it, and send it out on my work account to a wider audience.  I’ve also used it to schedule monthly social media updates, thank new followers and automatically download photos.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite

Another key tool for organizational social media is Hootsuite – I only use Hootsuite for the work accounts. This helps me keep a clear delineation between my personal accounts and posts from my organization. This helps to prevent accidents, like those seen here.  Hootsuite is a multi-channel social media tool; I can post and search our organization’s Twitter, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts quickly.

Even with using these tools, social media managers must stay mindful that social media is an ever-evolving landscape. There have been complaints of Facebook not posting Hootsuite updates in the past, or glitches with IFTTT. Careful monitoring and staying up-to-date is the only way to become a successful social media manager.

What are some tools that you find useful? Share in the comments below or tweet me – @JenMcMillin.

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Help – I’ve been locked up! – MDA Lockup 2015

Jen in Jail

 

It’s true – I’m in the clink.  Well, I will be on March 19th.

You see, I’m participating in the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) Lockup this year.  I’m trying to raise $3,200 as my bail, and I encourage to visit the MDA website for more information about the organization’s mission and projects.  Before starting this project, I assumed that the MDA focused solely on congenital muscular dystrophy.  Since then, I’ve discovered that the MDA does research and outreach on multiple diseases associated with the muscular system, including Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) and Friedreich’s Ataxia.

If you would like to help out a great cause, and get me out of jail – please visit my personal MDA fundraising page or email me for more information.

 

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Measles and Information in the Digital Age

In the last few weeks, Measles and immunizations in general are a lead story on news sites, feed readers, Twitter and Facebook pages. There are the anti-vaccination parents, pro-vax families and some pro-choice supporters. However, many of the debates lack substantial data to back up their arguments. Instead, there is a lot of anecdotal information and misinformation.

Vaccine

As someone who works to disseminate information across sectors, I have significant experience with the location of quality news sources. It is a skill that needs constant development and refinement.  Below, I outline some suggestions to locate quality information and list some examples related to the current Measles discussion.

  • Stay up-to-date on general news – locally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Look for bias.
    • This is an important one that I think may people don’t think about enough.  Usually when I talk about this issue, it’s around college scholarships and financial aid; for-profit websites may ask for a fee to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when it is accessible for free.  In regards to vaccinations, look for influences on the page that might raise red flags.  This could be a blog that receives support from a pharmaceutical company, or a news site that only shows news from one point of view around a common agenda (such as organic living).
  • Weigh the information.
    • While difficult to do, especially people who aren’t familiar with a topic or field, weighing the information is key.  For a scientific topic like vaccination, we want to look for research-based results and professionals in the field.  While it is hard to read the original studies (an example here), look for news sources that cite research and statements from professional sources.  In an article from the Washington Post quoted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) director.  Looking at the CDC’s website, we can find possible side effects from various immunizations.  Looking for other sites that are against vaccination, I found many that had obvious bias, or not enough information to substantiate claims.
  • Talk to a local professional.
    • If at the end of the day, I am not satisfied with the research I find online or at the library, I track down someone locally that works in the field I’m interested it.  Whether it is a county health official or a pediatrician, there are always people who can offer their professional opinions.

Staying informed with quality information to make good decisions.  At one time, there was a study that showed a link between vaccinations and autism.  While research appeared as if it were from a professional and reliable source, it was later discovered that the data was false.  Studies since show that there is not an association between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism.  In a world with so many sources of information, it is important to read, learn and discuss.  And as new information becomes available, we need to learn and adapt again.

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Learning a New Language?

I am the first to admit that I am horrible at languages.  I took Spanish in high school and German in my undergrad, and neither one stuck.  I realized the importance of learning a second language (especially with the changing demographics in our country), but the format we were taught with just had no effect on me.

Fast forward to present day.  I still would like to know a second language, so I did an internet search the best FREE language learning apps and software.

A lot has changed since I was in school.

I found Duolingo with several positive reviews – and decided to try it for myself.  It was fun, interactive, and available on my smart devices as well as the web.  Photos and translations accompanied the training, and the program also makes you use your microphone to read back phrases.  I’m not far along, but I apparently remember more Spanish than I thought I did.

And recently, Duolingo announced that they have launched a platform for schools to use for free.  I encourage all my teacher friends (and parent and student friends) to check it out:

 

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Preparing Principals for the Real School

In the state of Illinois, the way to become a principal is to have some coursework, some testing, and 4 years experience teaching.

But is that enough?  As a community member (and mom to a future student), I wonder if we are adequately preparing teachers to take the step up to leading a school.  We ask teachers to lead a classroom, to inspire young minds to learn.  And then we assume that if they do that well and jump through some hoops, they are ready to lead an entire school.

With Race to the Top funding, more people are asking about requirements.  Illinois has revised it’s processes recently, but there is still no experiential learning component.  Some states have investigated this issue, and have come up with action plans.  For example, Massachusetts requires on-site training and mentor-ship by current “highly-effective” principals.

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Time and time again, when we discuss quality school leadership, it’s usually centered around the person.  A charismatic friend that supports the teachers and knows students by name.  A tireless beacon of hope to the parents.  And at schools that are lucky enough to have such a principal – it is almost impossible to replace that retiring principal with someone who meets the school’s expectation.  The new principal knows the rules and budgets, but doesn’t seem to have the same spark.

Could it be that they are so afraid of their new role that they are stiff and unsure of themselves?  Teachers, like other professionals, are able to student teach before entering a classroom to head it on their own.  Why shouldn’t a principal be offered the same opportunity?

Problems do arise when we start examining this model.

  • Is the prospective principal a teacher?  Then who will watch their class during that time?
  • Where does the money for the substitute come from?
  • Does the teacher need a semester or year to job-shadow a principal?
  • How do we define “highly-effective” principals?

But even with these questions, we still need to look at the viability and potential gains we could see from implementing a principal training model.  Our students and teachers deserve it.

For more information on the “principal pipeline.”

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