To Link or not to Link?

Linking Facebook and TwitterShould you link your Twitter status to your Facebook? Vice versa, should you link your Facebook status to your Twitter account?

When it comes to syncing status updates across social media platforms, the possibilities are endless. You can interconnect Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr, etc.; the list goes on and on. But the question remains – should you be linking updates? In this post, I’m going to focus only on the links between Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter to Facebook

If you want to send your Twitter updates to your Facebook account, you can use the “Twitter” Facebook application. Whenever you publish to Twitter, it will automatically post as your Facebook status. (I believe this only works for Facebook personal profiles – does anyone know of a way to send tweets as your Page’s status?)

Let’s think about this for a moment. How many times a day do you post to Twitter compared to the number of times a day you update Facebook? The culture of Twitter is more like a rapid-fire approach – many small nuggets of information and mini conversations that can happen quickly in a short period of time. Facebook statuses, on the other hand, are more like single-load – the occasional update. If your tweets are feeding into your friends’ Facebook news feeds, your friends might think you’re posting too often.

Not only do these two social networks have a difference in the frequency of posts, but they also have different languages. Twitter has its own speak – with @s and #s and RTs abounding – that the average Facebook user just isn’t going to understand.

Facebook to Twitter

If you want to send your Facebook Page updates to your Twitter account, you can visit http://www.facebook.com/twitter. This application allows you to choose whether all of your updates or just a selection will be pushed to Twitter.

Syncing your Facebook Page status to your school’s Twitter account can be helpful because it eliminates the need to publish the same thing twice. It lessens the work and alleviates some of the time spent on social media.

However, you must be careful about what you publish. The most common example goes something like this: You say “Follow us on Twitter” which also gets published to your Twitter followers. No one likes redundancy.

Also, my biggest pet peeve with publishing from Facebook is the fact that Facebook will add a bit.ly link to the end of your tweet. If you’ve extended beyond the 140-character limit, this link will take the user to the full status. However, the link will be added even if your update fits in the Twitter 140. So, your users will click a link just to be taken to a page on Facebook that displays nothing but the status they just read on Twitter.

My advice is to use caution if you decide to link either way. I personally do not link Twitter and Facebook, but I have the time and resources to give each community individual attention. It all depends on how frequently you post to either network and the resources that are available to you. If you are posting similar content on both platforms at the same frequency, or if you are feeling a time crunch from social media, linking updates may be beneficial to you. What matters is that you stay consistent in updating your networks and that you share good, valuable content.

Related links:

Facebook for Business – Chad Richards’ presentation from Hoosier PRSA Social Media Boot Camp 2/27/10
Don’t Link Your Facebook Fan Page and Twitter Statuses – Rachel Reuben (Thanks to @drewmillikin who shared this post on Twitter)
How to Link Twitter to Facebook – AJ Vaynerchuk

Social Media Time Management

Social Media Time BlockLast week I attended a “Productivity in Social Media” seminar with Kyle Lacy from Brandswag. (Check out Kyle’s follow-up blog post from the seminar – 5 Tips to Being Productive in Social Media.)

My goal for the seminar was to learn how to more efficiently manage my time in social media. It’s a problem that I know I’m not alone in dealing with. We all have a tendency to get sucked into the “black hole” in social media. It’s so easy to lose a few hours on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. For many of us in the communications and marketing world, it’s become a part of our daily job but we haven’t quite figured out how it fits in our daily schedule.

My biggest takeaway from the seminar was setting up time blocks on my calendar for social media. (See Tip #3 on Kyle’s post.)

It seems so obvious. Just set up a half hour in the morning and evening to devote to social media. Maybe you only have time for 15 minutes, but at least put it on your calendar twice a day – in the morning and just before you leave for the day.

Spend that time in “focus” mode. Do nothing but social media for that time block. Don’t go over your time limit, but try not to leave before your time is up either. If you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone, you can easily just tell them that you have to get back to other things and they can contact you via e-mail if they need to continue the conversation.

The biggest challenge to this concept is that it may feel like it goes against the natural ways of social media. Social media is a constant stream of immediate, up-to-the-minute information, and in this time-crunch world, it can feel like you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities for engagement if you’re not constantly watching the timeline or news feed. Don’t fall for it. Life will still go on.

So close your TweetDeck, finish reading your blogs, turn off your Facebook chat, and go do something else.

Technology Is Not the Finish Line

I am a self-proclaimed tech geek. I grew up in the age of computers. It’s natural to me. As technology evolves, I want the next thing – I gotta have it. It’s a race to keep up with all of these new and exciting gadgets. But I at least recognize that all of this technology has to have some kind of meaning to me. I don’t want the next thing just to have it; I want it because of what it can do for me.

Technology Complements Traditional EduI came across this picture from one of our Western Civilization high school classes, and the juxtaposition of technology with traditional teaching really struck me. On the one hand, you have the traditional teacher holding up a decades-old photograph with two desks full of actual historical items in the background. On the other hand, you have the modern student on her laptop accessing virtual images and documents of the same nature.

The two methods of teaching and learning aren’t fighting each other – they’re complementing each other. They can coexist in the same classroom. (See my friend Dr. Scott Hamilton’s post “The Buzz About 21st Century Skills.”) Today’s students are technology-driven. They learn comfortably when they are sitting in front of a computer, or accessing their e-mail on their phone, or even having a study group over Facebook. But that’s not the only way they can learn. There’s a difference between finding a historical picture in a Google image search and holding it in your hand. There’s a difference between reading a digital copy of a book from 1900 and flipping through the weathered pages. The best teachers recognize this. But they also recognize that the connectedness of the whole world through computers opens up a whole new set of possibilities when it comes to discovery and learning.

For school communicators, we also have to recognize this complementary connection between technology and traditional media. I see a lot of people chasing after the next thing in online/digital marketing, which is great because it pushes innovation, but it also has its pitfalls. It feels great to be an early adopter or to jump in with the crowd so you don’t feel left out, but what do you do once you’re there? What do you do after you set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account? What do you do after you’ve launched your new web site? What do you do once you’ve spent your entire ad budget on online ads?

You need to have a strategy. You need to keep your online strategy in line with your overall communications strategy. Keep a healthy mix of technology initiatives and traditional methods. Keep running print ads, but maybe throw in a few online ads and see how they do. Keep printing your alumni magazine, but also put it online in a flipbook. Use Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Flickr/etc. but use them in a way that is meaningful to your audience.

Just remember that technology is a tool that we can use to achieve our strategic goals, but it is not the only tool.

While many of my colleagues are in sunny San Fran this week for #NAISAC10, I’ll be attending two workshops this week in Indy – Being & Staying Productive in Social Media by Kyle Lacy (@kyleplacy) and PRSA Social Media Boot Camp. Hopefully I’ll have some new insights to post and I look forward to reading posts from the NAIS conference.

You’re Doing Facebook Wrong

Facebook PageJust a few days ago, I attended the annual CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference for the first time. (CASE=Council for Advancement and Support of Education, NAIS=National Association of Independent Schools) For myself, the experience reaffirmed that most of the things I’ve been doing with our school’s web communication and social media have been “on the right track,” shall we say.

However, I got the sense that many of the communications directors at other schools around the country have been thrown into the world of social media without having the chance to be educated on how it works. This is one of the reasons that I set up this blog – to share my knowledge of online communication for independent schools.

I was honestly shocked to hear that many people, from communications to alumni departments, were confused on the difference between a Facebook personal account and a fan page in the name of the school.

Pages are for organizations, companies and brands. Personal accounts are for individuals.

The Wrong Way
You should not be setting up an account with the first name “X” and last name “School.” That would be a personal account, and if Facebook finds out that the account is actually an organization and not an individual, it can shut it down and you will lose all of your “friends.”

This is also wrong because it limits your Facebook communication to one individual. Whoever is in charge of the personal account is the sole connection to the Facebook community. But with a Facebook page, you can have multiple administrators, so that if one person leaves to follow their dream of being a Las Vegas stage magician, you can simply drop him or her as an admin and continue on with your community.

The Right Way
What you need to do is set up your own personal account, if you haven’t already. Use your real name. Use an e-mail address that you check often. Add some info to your profile. You don’t have to add friends if you don’t want to. (Although, in my honest opinion, if you’re not willing to be social online with your personal account, how are you going to manage an organization’s presence?)

Then, set up a page in your school’s name. Add a pretty picture. Fill out some contact info. Say “Welcome to our school’s fan page.” on your wall.

That’s it. Congratulations, you’ve just set up an online community for your school. And the best part, your fans are already on Facebook. They are comfortable with the Facebook community and they like to interact with other Facebookers. Your fans will slowly start to find your page, but it’s best to start telling them that you’ve arrived. Publish it in your alumni magazine and your newsletter. And, when it starts to grow and become an interactive community, put it in your admissions brochure.

Another great benefit of a page versus a personal account is what Facebook calls Insights. With a page, Facebook gives you access to pertinent analytics for your page, such as page views, unique visitors, growth of your fan base over time, number of interactions, video plays, photo views, etc. Anyone who is an admin of the page can see these Insights. It’s great for keeping track of your community and watching it grow.

But wait…
A few of you are saying, “What if I already set up a personal account in the school’s name and it already has 1,000 friends?”

Well, you’re not too late. After you’ve set up your page, go back to the personal account and tell your “friends” that you’ve smartened up and moved to a page. Tell them where to find you. You may need to post this several times so that all of your friends can see it in their news feed and know that they should become fans of your new page. I will warn you, though, you will lose some people in the transition.

I hope that I’ve helped clear up some confusion, but if you have questions about the differences between Facebook personal accounts and fan pages, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to continue the conversation.

Can you measure a relationship?

MeasuringMeasuring. It’s a pretty hot topic right now. In education, everybody’s talking about measuring how well a teacher educates his or her students and measuring how well a student is prepared for the real world. It’s not so easy to say that a piece of paper with a bunch of numbers can tell you about the relationship between a teacher and a student.

Measuring is also a hot topic in the social media realm, and for many of the same reasons. In the business world, people want to know what is the ROI for putting time into social media. In the education industry, we’re not so concerned about ROI in terms of dollars, but it is sufficient to say that, as communicators, we do want to know that there is a return on our investment of time and resources. You spend time checking the Facebook page and updating Twitter and uploading to Flickr and Youtube, but what is it all for?

The answer is relationships. The ROI of social media is relationships.

You develop connections with your current families, prospective families, alumni, donors, and people and businesses in your local community. A school is its own community, but it doesn’t stop at the walls of the buildings. Your school’s community extends all around the globe in this age of digital connectedness.

But how do you measure those relationships?

Well, you can count the numbers – number of fans, number of followers, all those demographics in your Facebook page insights – and I recommend that you do keep track of these numbers. But are you also paying attention to the conversations that you are having – or more importantly, that others are having about you? When you are retweeted, did you make a connection? When someone replies to your post, did you make a connection? Is that connection an alum, a prospective, a parent, a student, a donor, etc? Are these positive or negative conversations? It all needs to be taken into account when you want to analyze the effectiveness of your social media efforts.

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on what else we should be thinking about when it comes to the value of social media in our communication efforts.