Closing down the blog…for now

Life has been getting in the way while I make other plans; it’s great, but it means I’m not blogging much. To that end, I’m closing down the blog for now. Everything else is as before: I’m available to consult, present, chat or otherwise ruminate about all things education and communication. I’m just on a blogging hiatus.

Thanks, readers. It’s been fun –

Liz

Flexing Your Faculty: Teacher Blogs

I’ve previously written about the valuable role students can play in generating content for social spaces. Student-generated content is a great way to communicate the culture of your school, straight from kids who experience it every day. But you might not realize that there is another source for content creation right under your nose—the faculty.

Faculty bloggers are a great way to round out your school’s story online. You can show off your outstanding teachers to several different audiences. Potential families and potential employees are both curious about what life is like on campus. Although student recruitment is a major part of outreach, staff turnover rates in international independent schools range from 10 percent to as high as 60 percent. This makes staff and faculty recruitment a big part of school marketing.

Making the Case

Faculty are already busy—they’re teaching, after all—so asking teachers to blog on top of their regular duties might be a hard sell. There are ways to make the case, however. Teachers already regularly communicate with parents in a variety of ways. Think about how some of that information can be turned into blog posts—for example, photos from a field trip, quick video clips from presentations or class reading for the week. If the class is using technology or other tools in the classroom, all the better. Initiatives like 1:1 programs (one laptop for each student) are also great fodder for blogs.

Another way to make the case is to appeal to a teacher’s professional goals and career arc. Blogs can be a great way to create and maintain personal brand. As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for international school teachers to change schools. Some migrate to new schools every two to three years and having a digital record of classrooms and activities can be a great way to show course progression, teaching styles and interest to potential employers.

Privacy Concerns

As always, protecting students and families is critical. Faculty should adhere to the same data protection and privacy policies used for all school publications. I am personally a big proponent of having the majority of content publicly available, but keeping kids safe is of the utmost importance.

Finders, Keepers

Your teachers might be creating the greatest blog content ever written, but if it isn’t easy to find, they might as well not bother. Make faculty blogs easy to find for all of your audiences: potential families, current families, potential employees and the teaching and learning community at large. Consider creating a page on your website that lists all faculty blogs and make it easy for users to navigate between them.

Final thoughts: Blogs aren’t the only way to share faculty-generated content. Microblogs like Twitter, photo sharing sites like Flickr or the many social bookmarking sites are also options. It’s up to you, the school and your faculty to figure out what works best.

Sharing Your Success Part Four: Blog ROI

This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring some of the ways you can gather data about your social media presences, make sense of it all, and report your findings. Read parts one through three here; the most recent post is at the top of the page.

So you have a blog…does anyone care? Is anyone reading it? Let’s find out.

Many blogging platforms have built-in metrics dashboards. These will give you basic stats, like how many hits the blog received (lifetime, in the past month, or even a particular day) and the most viewed posts. All of this is valuable quantitative information that will give you a few pieces of the metrics puzzle.

Having numbers is great, but counting the number of times that someone landed on your site doesn’t tell you much about your audience. How did they get there? Did they like what they were reading? How did they interact with the content?

Gathering data from multiple sources will give you a clearer picture of the impact of your blog.

Don’t underestimate the comments. Just like Twitter and Facebook, the things people say about your content can be incredibly valuable. Copy, paste, and save comments and feedback. Take a critical look at the comments and use them to guide your future efforts. What did people like? Not like? What generated the most interaction?

How long did they stay? By using a tool like Google Analytics, you can find out the amount of time people spent on your site. This is a particularly useful stat for blogs. If on average, users spent more than 20-30 seconds on a blog page, they were probably reading. Remember the lurkers: readers who don’t leave comments or otherwise interact. This is a good way to get information about those enigmatic readers.

How did they get there? You can learn a lot about your traffic by taking a look at your other social presences. I call this “data layering.” For example, look at the shortened urls you used to promote blog posts via Twitter. How many people followed those links? How many people RTed those links? And how many people mentioned that post in a tweet?

Search Terms: What search terms brought people to your blog? What did they search for once they reached your site? Frequent search terms can provide valuable insight into your audience’s needs and interests. Make note of them.

Next time…bringing it all together: tips on generating reports.

Sharing Your Success: Reporting Social Media ROI

When the time comes for you to “justify your existence” to the higher ups at your institution, will you be prepared?

One of the most important aspects of using social media to engage and converse with your audiences is to record the impact of those efforts – not just quantitatively, but qualitatively. And eventually, the powers that be will come a knocking. They’ll be asking you to report to the board of directors or the VP or the president on just what you’ve been doing and why it is valuable. This isn’t the time to shrink in fear – this is the time for you to shine!

In a series of upcoming posts, I’ll outline some of the tools I use to gather data, crunch the numbers, and put together cohesive reports on the various social technologies. I’ll specifically highlight Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social tools today. Here are a few things to remember as you gather your findings and put together your report(s):

Summarize: you may have the best facts, figures, graphs and charts on earth. But you are presenting your findings to busy people who may not have the time or the inclination to dig deep and fully absorb all of your hard work. Don’t be insulted, just know your audience. Condense your findings into a brief executive summary and place it at the beginning of your document. Include the nitty gritty details after the summary; those who seek more detail will find it at their fingertips.

Highlight: here’s your chance to show off. Directly quote some of the great things people have said about your institution, something interesting you’ve learned, or a new contact you’ve made thanks to your efforts and include it in your report. Share your anecdotal evidence of success.

Benchmark: how do you stack up? While there might not be a lot of public data for you to compare with your institution’s, you can still do internal comparisons. How have things changed from month to month? In the past year? Work with what you know to demonstrate growth.

Clearly state your goals: talking about how great you’re doing is all well and good, but where do you go from here? Be specific. “Our goal is to double our total twitter followers in the next six months” or “we plan to increase admissions applications by 25% this year using Facebook.”

Stay tuned for more as I highlight some of the great (and sometimes free) tools out there to help you collect your data.

Student Generated Content: A Few Tips

At the start of the school year, I gained a staff of 15 direct reports: student bloggers, photographers and videographers. I take the content they generate and post it for public viewing (web, blog, social tools, etc). It’s been an interesting challenge to give direction to a group of teens armed with iPhones, MacBook Pros and iPads, especially when I’m about 5,000 miles away (8000 km to those metrically inclined). Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far when sending instructions from California to Sweden:

Be as Clear as Possible

“Take lots of pictures” doesn’t accurately describe the types of photos you’re looking for, and it doesn’t help anyone figure out what to shoot. As with photographing any event, come up with a shot list: candids, photos of people, photos that give a sense of the location, photos that tell a story. Without this instruction, you’re likely to see lots of self portraits or photos of landmarks that could have been more easily obtained via stock photography. Photo of students in front of said landmark? Much, much better.

Make Content Delivery Easy

We’re all guilty of drafting blog posts and never finishing them, or filling a camera with photos and never importing them to the computer. This seemingly tiny disconnect between capture and delivery can be a juggernaut if you don’t address the issue. We’re handling it by cutting out as many intermediate distractions as possible. The mobile app version of Spot, our internal staff, student and faculty network, has a built in tool for uploading photos direct from the iPhone into the system. Students can tag and upload the content right then and there, so there are no excuses about misplaced cables or media cards. In turn, I can access and sort the content quickly and easily.

Build Content Creation into the Coursework

Instead of writing in a notebook or even in a Word document, we’re moving towards a more share-able model for coursework. This is currently in its early stages, but the ultimate goal is for projects to look less like a traditional term paper and more like a series of blog posts.