What a great way to learn more about Twitter, the effective use of hashtags, Tweetchats, and more!
With SCN’s Holly McCaw ably hosting Wednesday’s 45 minute virtual conversation, Jen Harris and two of her team members from Arlington Public Schools (Frank Bellavia and Gladis Bourdouane) provided a ton of insightful perspective and tangible tips about how schools can effectively tap into the power of this popular social media channel.
Here is the list of the resources referenced during Wednesday’s Lunchinar.
Jen’s amazing team shared these:
Tech Tips – Video library of tips for APS staff on Twitter, Periscope, etc.
#APSChats – Link to the APS staff Twitter chats page
Nurph – The tool APS uses for online Twitter chats and to archive of past chats (with video replay feature)
Katch – The video library of all @APSVirginia Periscope broadcasts
And wait — there’s more!
Now if you’re concerned about your school district’s policies about the use of social media, SCN featured school communicator Kristin Magette awhile back to give us some pointers.
Her 100 page book on social media is rock-solid and well-written.
And, of course. I’m envious!
But Kristin deserves lots of credit for taking the lead on crafting a win-win path for social media to follow in her district.
There’s still more!
Jenny Di Bella is the electronic communication specialist at Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL.
Jenny enjoyed participating in our Lunchinar and sent me these resources to pass along. She wrote:
“I use Tagboard to research hashtags– to see if it’s in use already or research its use. Here’s a super article about Tagboard.
Using this I created a #shareSHS tagboard so our community could easily view all of our school social shares across many sites from one dashboard.
I also like NomadCast, which is a 3rd party live-stream provider. It’s like Meerkat and Periscope, but NomadCast lets you stream directly to your Facebook page and Twitter simutaneously.
We used NomadCast to stream a live press conference from school in follow-up to an incident that occurred on our campus earlier in the day. We alerted parents about this via an automated call and social shares. Based on comments later, the live share was well received.”
And yikes! Murphy’s Law was there to slap us, too!
After the Lunchinar, I was excited to start gaining traction on Twitter.
But wouldn’t you know it, I soon bumped into my superintendent who said, “Hey, what do you think about the changes in Twitter?”
I didn’t know what to think because I didn’t even know any changes were on the horizon.
We’ll figure out how to record in full screen mode by next month, because “small screen” hardly represents the depth of experience and talent Jen and her two Arlington Public Schools team members brought to the table.
If ever I am on camera during a Lunchinar, we’ll go back to recording it in small screen.
Ron Colangelo’s office window at Comerica Park is lined with bobbleheads of Detroit Tigers. As the Major League Baseball team’s vice president of communications, Colangelo’s staff hypes games where bobbleheads, rally caps and other souvenirs are given away.
Miguel Cabrera bobblehead (MVP!)
There aren’t giveaways for all 81 home games in a season, but Colangelo makes sure every game is unique because of a celebrity throwing out the first pitch, a raffle to raise cash for a worthy cause, fireworks, something.
“It’s more than creating good will in the community,” Colangelo said, demonstrating how he keeps track of promotions on a large erasable wall calendar in his office. “It’s fun. So much fun.”
Truth be told, it’s not all fun. Home games represent a 14-hour work day. Colangelo’s season starts long before players head to Florida for spring training by organizing “winter caravan” media stops. Occasionally a player gets in trouble and he has to quickly gather as much information as he can and decide – together with General Manager Dave Dombrowski – how to field media inquiries as transparently as possible.
Nevertheless, a job in public relations is special because it allows one to become a “keeper of the brand,” said Colangelo, who held similar positions with the Florida Marlins and New York Jets before joining the Tigers in 2008.
Colangelo – who learned communications and customer service as a teen-ager working in his father’s fast food restaurant in hard-scrabble Newark, N.J. – oversees broadcasting, public relations, media relations, corporate communications, and crisis communications.
Ron Colangelo and his planning board.
The Detroit Tigers is a venerable brand that is revered by people with Michigan roots. The team is the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the American League. Its roots date back to 1894. The Tigers have won the AL pennant 11 times and the World Series four times.
In the throes of a 162-game season, it would be difficult for members of a large sports organization to “stay on the same page” without regular business communications meetings, Colangelo said.
Strong internal communications are the backbone of good public relations.
Representatives from each department at Comerica – ticket-takers to broadcasters — send at least one representative to Colangelo’s business communications meeting, usually held two or three days before the start of a new home stand.
Colangelo briefs staff about what’s coming up and synthesizes it into an over-arching talking point. With staff on board, Colangelo then provides a tip sheet to media outlets, hoping they’ll spot content they want to cover. (News-gathering organizations have unlimited real estate online so there’s more opportunity than before to “really push the brand out there” with personal interest stories with multiple photos, Colangelo said.)
Even the best plans take a back seat to stories that emerge organically.
Co Justin Verlander took over the new marketing campaign.
Colangelo’s themes for a September 2012 home stand were “every game counts” and “3 million fans,” but he says pitching ace Justin Verlander had a better idea.”
The Tigers’ ace hurler, who won the American League’s Most Valuable Player and Cy Young (top pitcher) in 2011, tweeted a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt he custom-designed to read “Keep the MVP in the D. Miguel Cabrera 24.” Cabrera, a teammate, came on strong in August to lead the league in several offensive categories.
Colangelo and staff seized Verlander’s promotional pitch, placing a rush order of “Miguel Cabrera for MVP” t-shirts for the DTE Energy Crew, who dance between innings at every game on the Tiger dugout.
Colangelo said he sent text messages to a few members of the media with clout suggesting they talk up Cabrera for MVP. “Cultivating and leveraging relationships is part of being a good communicator,” Colangelo said.
Staying on top of the scrutiny
“You’d be hard-pressed to find an entity other than the White House that has more media scrutiny,” Colangelo said. “ Our manager and players are available to the media before and after 30 spring training games and 162 regular season games. Nobody gives that much access.”
The advent of the Internet, email and social networking is revolutionizing the way pro sports teams communicate, said Colangelo, who broke in with the West Palm Beach Expos in 1990.
While most fans still follow team news on eight TV and newspaper outlets that cover the Tigers daily, new technology has spawned additional outlets that feed on a 24/7 schedule. The Tigers have been active on social media since 2009.
“Fans love that we tweet the lineup, roster changes, milestones,” Colangelo said. “You imagine somebody checking his phone during a meeting and being among the first to find out Cabrera just hit his 300th (career home run).”
The Tigers monitor everything said about the team, but rarely respond to stories except to correct a factual error they don’t want perpetuated.
“If a comment is vicious or too personal, I’ll pick up the phone,” Colangelo said. “Otherwise, engaging back tends not to be worth it. Fans are passionate about this team and, if things are not going so well, you see that reflected in social media.”
Colangelo said he can only imagine what it will be like communicating with fans in the future. His two-year-old son son squeals “Detroit Tigers” whenever he sees an Old English D. The tot can also independently operate an iPad.
“Leaves you wondering when should you start marketing to somebody,” Colangelo said.
Educators tip: Reach out to sports teams
Colangelo sees many opportunities for Major League Baseball players to use their celebrity as a springboard for helping teachers deliver curriculum, although the baseball schedule permits little free time during the playing season and few players make their winter homes in Michigan.
“My 12-year-old son would not be able to identify Canadian provinces, and probably some American cities, on a map of North America if he didn’t want to know where my job was taking me,” said Colangelo, who’s also done work with the National Hockey League. “I know good teachers use a kids’ interest in a sports team to teach them geography, statistics, and other things they need to know. School communicators can highlight this for parents.”
Students may be more interested in learning about South America if part of the lesson was delivered by Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez or Victor Martinez (from Venezuela), or Al Alburquerque (from the Dominican Republic).
“It might take appointing someone in the state Department of Education to reach out to pro sports teams for help in encouraging learning, but I think the interest is there,” Colangelo said.
Another tip for educators: Special moments abound. Feature them.
Colangelo said his favorite part of the job is being able to make special moments for fans. Sending a birthday card signed by Willie Horton. Arranging for Al Kaline to greet a woman attending a game to celebrate her 90th birthday. Getting Tiger announcers to give a shout out to a longtime fan listening at home.
One of those “sacred” moments came in September 2009 when legendary Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell, terminally ill, arranged to walk onto the field between innings to say goodbye to Tiger fans. Colangelo was his escort to the field.
“Ernie hadn’t prepared remarks, he just spoke from his heart,” Colangelo said. “Walking back, he asked me how I thought it went and I told him it was perfect.”
You can’t miss that message painted in groovy letters on an inside wall facing the front door of Moosejaw Mountaineering’s corporate headquarters in Madison Heights, Michigan.
I’d made an appointment with Gary Wohlfeill, Moosejaw’s creative director, to learn how customer engagement builds brand loyalty.
Nobody does customer engagement like Moosejaw. Whether you’re in one of their 10 retail stores, thumbing through a print catalog, surfing their website, punching up the call center, reading blog.moosejaw.com, using a mobile app, participating in a live chat, or interacting on social media, you’re going to be oddly surprised.
The tone (like the company name itself) is super silly. Irreverent. Irrelevant, even.
I expected I’d have to explain to Gary how I imagined principles of Moosejaw’s marketing program (“The Madness”) could be applied in K-12 schools. Gary didn’t need me to connect the dots.
Outdoor outfitters, like schools, operate in a competitive environment. Their “products” are the same, or very similar, to what customers can get somewhere else.
“It’s the unique customer experience that keeps Moosejaw in business,” Gary said. “It’s the way you differentiate yourself from the pack and develop your MVP (Most Valuable Player) customers.”
The life-and-death nature of mountaineering makes it easy to understand why people who sell this stuff are so serious. Moosejaw takes a different approach. “We sell the best outdoor equipment and apparel,” Gary said, “and we have the most fun doing it.”
The brand’s only been around for 20 years, but the trend for longevity looks promising. Moosejaw’s primary demographic are 18- to 24-year-olds (broke college kids), but Gary says the data shows that a lot of those customers continue hanging with Moosejaw after they’re established in careers. Gary said 2012 sales at the privately held company will climb between $50 and $100 million, with two-thirds of those sales coming on line.
Love the Madness
Gary – a political science major heading for law school until he discovered cinematography — is an avid mountaineer who was fresh off the trail of a two-week Alaskan adventure on the day of our interview.
Even before he joined Moosejaw’s marketing team seven years ago to enhance its visual brand, he said he bought his gear from Moosejaw because shopping felt like hanging with friends.
Moosejaw retail store in Birmingham, Mich.
“There’s no sales pressure,” Gary said. “People who think they couldn’t sell anything because they just wouldn’t be interested are a good culture fit for us.”
New hires for retail stores (seven in the Midwest, plus Boston, Kansas City and Boulder, Colo.) go through “Madness” training to learn Moosejaw’s offbeat personality.
Customers get folded into impromptu games of hide and seek and touch football. There are leader boards for customers who perform the most in-store pull-ups, push-ups or squat thrusts. Staff has been known to hide rubber rats in the store. Find one to get a free Moosejaw T-shirt with your heart attack. Tweets announce flash promotions. (First customer to bring staff at the Chicago store a bag of Skittles wins a T-shirt.)
One store hooked customers into a “The Battle of the Twins” — a popularity contest pitting Mary Kate and Ashley Olson against twins played by Lindsay Lohan in the movie “The Parent Trap.” (Dave Coulier, who played “Joey” opposite the Olson twins on the TV show “Full House,” saw it and posted it on Facebook.)
“MK & A” got Dave Coulier’s vote in the Battle of the Twins.
“Engage customers on something they’ll have a strong opinion on,” Gary said. “We could have them vote on whether they like the Patagonia jacket or the North Face jacket but that’s too salesy. Which set of twins they like better has nothing to do with anything we sell, but it’s more interesting.”
The puzzling pinnacle of Moosejaw’s madcap marketing could be its quest for a collection of 10,352 renderings of crying tomatoes. Customers oblige, for crying out loud. Check for them under the Madness tab on the home page.
Nonsensical, but so what?
Moosejaw’s Twitter account is always abuzz. Take, for example, a promotion called “Fridge Cam.” Every time a Twitter follower tweeted the phrase “I hate lobster bisque,” an employee from Moosejaw’s social media group had to dash to the refrigerator in the employee lunchroom and peer inside, where an interior-mounted camera gave a live look on moosejaw.com.
Customers got a kick out of it, Gary said.
Chief criteria for any promotion is that Gary’s six-person creative staff (which includes Moosejaw founder Robert Wolfe) think it’s funny. Moosejaw doesn’t aspire to become “The Howard Stern of the Great Outdoors,” Gary said, meaning there’s no intent to shock or be vulgar.
“Most of our stuff is so outrageous that there’s no chance someone could take it seriously,” Gary says.
A print catalog shot inside a Michigan prison drew criticism from groups advocating for prison reform, but not from Moosejaw customers. “The people who know us understood we did it because cells and a prison yard are a cool backdrop. And, well, who else would do that?”
The catalogs are crazy edgy. A few have used Augmented Reality technology. The holiday 2011 catalog had a downloadable X-Ray app that could be used to view the models in their underwear. A 2012 catalog was paired with an app that allowed them to virtually hose down a model sweaty after a workout.
“Some customers said it was a little creepy but not really offensive,” Gary said. “Most had fun with it.”
Same message, different channels
You don’t have to be outdoorsy to love Moosejaw’s website. Customers supply photos, drawings and other content. Employees decided to redecorate headquarters via a mural-painting contest between departments, photos were posted online so customers could pick the winner.
Email Moosejaw a question and you’ll get the answer as well as a comment that will leave you scratching your head., (The reply to my request to interview Gary included the statement: I ate two Twinkies for breakfast and I’m feeling really good about myself.)
“Madness” from moosejaw.com.
Moosejaw has an office dog. He tweets. Check the website for his feed.
The Moosejaw call center has pulled double duty as customers’ romantic intermediary. For a while they offered a break-up service and a “frenching” service. (Give Moosejaw contact information of the person you’d most like to French kiss at the midnight on New Year’s Eve and they’ll give him or her a call to get the ball rolling.)
Fine points of customer engagement (not random, but systemically)
I asked Gary for tips on how to create that friendly, feel-good vibe so customers will remain loyal even after they “grow up.”
1.Be authentic. Consistently.
“It has to be the same personality coming through each customer touch point or they’ll think you’re faking it,” Gary said. “That’ll put cracks in your brand.”
That’s why Moosejaw trucks bare the message “Driver carries less than $20 cash and is fully naked” as well as the logo. And that’s why shipped orders are plastered with stickers, including “sealed with a kiss” smooch marks signed by the employee who packed it. The head-scratchingly funny Moosejaw voice even permeates branded clothing labels.
2. Hire people who mesh with your culture.
Moosejaw employs 300 people and they’re not all gear geeks. Some don’t even do yoga. Activities don’t matter as much being able to play along with the Madness, Gary said.
“There’s not enough time to put every Tweet or Facebook post through the ringer (a multi-step approval process),” Gary said. ”You set the big picture and everybody aligns to it.”
3. Don’t be afraid to fail, but test the waters before you jump in.
Before sending anything out, Gary says his team asks the question: Is this funny enough that someone would forward it to 10 friends? If not, they keep thinking.
Twitter, a fleeting medium, is the proving ground for most new promotions. If it doesn’t create a buzz on Twitter, don’t migrate it to Facebook or Pinterest.
4. Offer prizes. They don’t even have to be that great.
Winning a prize creates a connection, even if it’s only a T-shirt. Moosejaw awards loyalty points that don’t convert into huge savings, but the brand’s social media followers have a blast trading them. (“I need 500 more points to get my Osprey backpack. Who can help?”)
Even size tags carry Moosejaw’s unexpected brand voice.
A spring promotion offers customers a choice of a water bottle or a “Prepare for Truancy” kit that included downloadable doctor’s notes. The kit had no monetary value but was hands-down more popular than the water bottle, Gary said.
What Madness means to me.
Obviously, educators can’t follow Moosejaw to the letter. The state superintendent of schools would have something to say about Prepare For Truancy kits and X-ray apps. School secretaries probably don’t have time to offer a break-up service on the side.
Decide for yourself whether there are principles of Moosejaw Madness that you could emulate – especially their determination to do just about anything to engage customers.
I’ll close with a clip of my favorite Moosejaw stunt: bologna whipping.
I could buy my Merrell hiking boots a lot of places, but I want to buy from people who toss cold cuts like Frisbees.
Now that you’ve read this, what’s on your mind? Tell us what you think on our Message Board.
Some parents won’t read anything that isn’t printed on paper, but that number is plummeting.
If your school isn’t using social media, you’re missing great opportunities to connect with your community and solidify the value of children and schools, technology consultant Kevin Honeycutt says.
Photo by David Hartstein.
Just do it. Set up a Facebook page. Put someone in charge of updating once a day, if possible, or at least once a week.
“Use Facebook to tell your ‘Some Pig!’ stories,” Honeycutt said, a reference to E.B. White’s classic children’s book “Charlotte’s Web.” “The results could be phenomenal.”
For any poor soul who doesn’t know this heart-warming story of friendship, the dexterous Charlotte weaves “Some Pig,” and other affirming messages, into her barnyard web. When Wilbur the pig parks himself proudly beneath the web, he becomes something special. The web spares Wilbur from slaughter.
Honeycutt says short, easy-to-produce Facebook status updates about great students, parents and staff are helping to ensure survival of his tiny town, Inman, Kansas.
Journalism purists hate this trend, but Facebook updates don’t have to include students’ last names, ages. Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rules leave school communicators wary of disseminating information in which students are identifiable, but Honeycutt would say “don’t back away.” Keep walking and you’ll find steady ground.
A popular national speaker, Honeycutt serves on Inman’s Board of Education, but doesn’t produce the Facebook posts.
Make Inman your friend
Even during the dog days of August, Inman Schools’ Facebook page feels active with a discussion about new covers to better protect iPads and updates on parking lot resurfacing.
The page features colorful images of smiling students at a pool party, a back-to-school ice cream social, and PTO-sponsored chair massages for teachers.
I’ve never been to Inman, but I like the hopeful new-semester feeling I get looking at their page.
Honeycutt says these “Some Pig!” stories fortify Inman’s sense of community and pride in their next generation – just 450 students in grades K-12.
At this writing, the Inman Schools’ Facebook page has 381 likes – many of them alumni. A couple alumni have returned to Inman to raise families and cited the Facebook page as a factor in their decision, Honeycutt said.
“School administrators were reluctant to try Facebook because of a fear that’s where anyone with an axe to grind would migrate,” Honeycutt said.
Consequently, many of the first school Facebook pages were set up as “broadcast” accounts to disseminate information from school to parents and other “friends.” But info flowed only one way.
Before long, educators recognized that Facebook doesn’t call out the cranks. That’s because transparency is built in, Honeycutt said. No one can post anonymously.
Furthermore, statements and misstatements can be responded to instantly. Misunderstandings and inaccuracies can be corrected before they’re perpetuated.
“Snipers are more likely to be sitting in a coffee shop or diner,” Honeycutt said, “than scoping out your Facebook page.”
That’s not every district’s experience, however. A Mansfield, Texas district removed its Facebook page in 2011, two years after it debuted, because so much staff time was required to moderate inappropriate or undesirable comments.
Controversy abounded in Forest Grove, Oregon, last year when the school system removed negative comments from its Facebook page about a budget issue.
Practical and educational uses
Most schools block or filter the use of social media on school devices, but that’s changing, too.
Some teachers are using Facebook– or the Facebook-esque EdModo – as Union Station for exchanging files, hyperlinks, videos and polls with students.
Teachers are also setting up subject- or class-based Twitter accounts to provide student followers with instantaneous updates regarding meetings and assignments.
Don’t trash print
Honeycutt’s not saying districts should stop producing traditional newsletters. He is suggesting that no new content need be produced for print. Newsletters can be an aggregation of stories that have already been posted to the web.
“Recreating news is a lot of work,” said Honeycutt, who works through the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas. “Post on Facebook right from an event. Don’t let news cool down.”
He encourages educators to upload as much live video as they can. Out-of-town relatives will swoon over clips of their favorite student receiving a diploma, singing solo, or scoring in an athletic contest.
And it’s easier than you think
The notion that maintaining a multi-faceted social media plan requires communications expertise and a lot of time is a myth, Honeycutt said.
“Once you’ve produced the content, you can move that work around and find different audiences,” Honeycutt said.
He publishes on seven websites. He also has three youtube.com channels.
Now that you’ve read this, what’s on your mind? Tell us what you think on our Message Board.