I should probably start this post by telling you that I sort of fell into my role as Communications Director for Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri.
Previously I was a reporter for a few community newspapers and while I loved social media as much as the next person, I didn’t use it regularly in my professional role.
That changed when I started working for the Club and my main job became overseeing all marketing efforts to promote our 11 Boys & Girls Club sites in the six communities we serve. As my role expanded to include other duties, I noticed our social media sites were expanding too. Today, we rely on our sites more and more to connect with parents, board members, supporters, donors, and colleagues to inform them about what’s going on at the Club. Here are a few tips I picked up along the way that may be useful for your own afterschool programs.
Judge your time truthfully.
If your program is anything like mine, many employees wear many hats and I’m guessing it’s just one or two employees doing the heavy lifting on your social media sites. Posting takes time and content and I see quite a few organizations that seem to want to do it all and end up having so-so pages in the process. I really urge you to think very hard about what you can actually manage and then make that page great. For us, that means Facebook and Twitter because that’s where our parents, teachers, and supporters are.
Another thing to consider is how you’re going to stay consistent. Have you ever been to a website or Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in months? It’s better to update regularly than post a ton of updates/photos all at once. If you have a lot of content and can post every day, great! If you’d rather post every other day or just twice a week, that’s OK too. Just make sure you’re posting regularly.(Facebook and Twitter both have great options to schedule posts to make this easier. Check out their “help” sections to more on this.)
Think about your audience.
For most afterschool providers, our social media audience is primarily parents of the kids we serve and teachers/administrators in our districts. Those of us who rely on community support should also consider the donors, partners and board members (if applicable) who help make our program run. Think about what posts would be most important to them, what do they want to see?
You can also have the best and most updated social media site but it won’t do much good unless someone is looking at it. On Facebook, for example, I know that 8 p.m. sees a spike of our audience who are logged on. Therefore, I schedule all my posts to publish at that time, giving the posts a better chance to be seen. The “insights” tab on Facebook is a great resource to learn everything about your audience.
Consider the information.
Photos of smiling kids having fun and learning are the bread and butter of afterschool program posts – as they should be. But instead of just a photo and short caption, consider adding a little more information to give your audience the whole picture.
For example, if I posted a few photos of Club members working in our garden, I might caption it with “These Boys & Girls Club members are learning how fruits and vegetables go from seed to table – and the hard work it takes to get them there! When they harvest these cucumbers later in the summer they’ll learn a few simple recipes that can show them how delicious fresh vegetables can be, putting them on a lifetime path of healthy eating.”
Instead of a photo just showing kids weeding a garden, I can explain how this program benefits them in a long-term way.
Ignore all this advice as needed.
To be really honest, at the end of the day I’m sort of just winging it with social media. One of the great (and annoying) things about social media is that it’s always changing, so keep it loose and fun. See what posts your audience likes, shares and comments on and continue doing that until you need to change it again.
I also recommend following other afterschool program social media pages and shamelessly “borrowing” their good ideas. We’re all about sharing our best practices for our afterschool programs, social media should be no different.
Guest Blogger: Emily Jarrett, Communications Director of Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri