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The Commons: Our Blog

Timely, sometimes tough, questions and insights from NAES and Episcopal school leaders on leadership, governance, Episcopal identity, community life, and other issues.

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  • 5 Tools to Take Your Social Media to the Next Level

    Jonathan F. Cooper
    June 19, 2019

    NumbersThese days, being active on social media is an essential part of your school or church’s web presence. The landscape of social media is changing at a rapid pace—one need only examine Facebook’s numerous attempts to re-invent itself over the last few years to get a sense of just how quickly. This is reflected in the sheer number of platforms now available, which presents a obvious challenge—which social media platforms should you use, and why? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ (RIP), LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine (RIP), and now TikTok have all shaped the social media landscape in unique ways. It is also interesting to observe how certain features have become common across platforms, Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), and Snapchat stories for instance.

    Determining which social media to dedicate time and effort to can be a hard challenge. Identifying where your current or target audience are is a good first step. Another good idea is to think about what you intend to communicate—events, news, images, or employment opportunities? To aid you in your social media journey, I have compiled a list of 5 useful tools that I have found indispensable in my own work. I hope you find them useful!


    1. Buffer

    Buffer is an extremely versatile platform for cross-posting between different social media. Want to schedule or share the same post across multiple accounts? This is the tool for you. Once you have set up a post, you can then customize it for the particular variables of each platform (character limits on Twitter for instance). An added pro is that Buffer works just as well as a smartphone app as it does in a web browser on your computer.

    (Another tool you can consider is Hootsuite. Both Hootsuite and Buffer have basic free versions, but if you exceed the limitations of the free versions, at last check Buffer is about half the price per month as Hootsuite.)


    2. Snapseed

    Snapseed is a relatively unknown, but extremely powerful, photo editor from Google (think Photoshop for your phone). It also has the benefit of being free. The editing tools themselves are both numerous and versatile. As with Instagram, you have the ability to create a vintage or stylized look for your photos. However, unlike Instagram, the image doesn’t suffer a loss in quality after going through the app. You also have advanced options like tilt-shift, simulated HDR, and double exposure. This is a great way of taking your cellphone photography to the next level—once you’ve finished editing, simply export to Buffer and share across all your social media accounts!


    3. Facebook (and Instagram) Ads

    If you are wary of running paid advertisements, that’s very understandable. However, Facebook ads (which can run concurrently on Instagram) are a great way to get started. The demographic customization is extremely powerful—perhaps scarily so—but you would be hard-pressed to find better bang for your buck at this price point. Since you pay per view, up to a set budget, you only pay if the ads are effectively reaching people. An especially useful feature is to be able to target to people who like pages similar to your own, so, for instance, you might advertise a musical event to people who already like your city’s symphony orchestra or opera company.


    4. Twitter Cards

    Do you ever use Twitter and wonder why when other people share links they get a clickable image in a box, but when you do, you just get the URL? Those are called Twitter cards, and they are a part of Twitter’s ads platform. Here’s the secret though—you don’t have to pay to use them! From a desktop browser, click your logo in the top-right corner, then click on “Twitter Ads.” From there, under “Creatives” and then “Cards.” You can now create a card with a video or image that can link directly to another URL. To use it, hover over your created card and click “Tweet.” IMPORTANT: Make sure you uncheck “promoted only”—that way your tweet will still show up even if you don’t put any money into the ad.

    N.B. You will probably be asked to input your payment information at some point in this process—don’t worry, this will only charge you if you run a paid ad. You can still use the cards for free regardless.


    5. Facebook and Instagram Live

    Facebook and Instagram both offer the opportunity to live stream events to your followers for free. Perhaps you have parents who wish they could join you in chapel but have to work, or maybe you want to create a “I wish I was there!” feeling around an event. Either way, both of these tools are very easy to use and allow you to interact with the people watching if you wish. NAES even streamed part of Eucharist at our last Biennial Conference in Atlanta. Overall, Instagram is probably better geared to reach followers quickly with their IGTV feature, but Facebook is better suited to being able to link to the live video and its subsequent recording for desktop users. You could always stream to both simultaneously, of course!


    BONUS. Automatically Share Your Newsletters

    Marketing automation platforms such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact usually integrate with most social media so that your electronic newsletters are automatically shared when you hit send. This is a great way of sharing your newsletters to a wider audience, and perhaps getting some new subscribers!

    I hope you enjoyed and can make use of this list! Please let me know if you find these tools helpful or if you have any great tools you’d like to share. You can email me at jfc@episcopalschools.org, or leave a comment below!

  • Summer Off?

    Ann Mellow
    May 28, 2019
    I’m always a bit bemused when non-educators talk about school folk having the “summer off.” Sometimes it’s said with enviable longing (“how I wish I got the summer off!”) — and sometimes with a critical disdain (“They get the summer off. That’s barely working!”). The image conjured is one of teachers across the land lounging in chaises — fruity drink and junky summer novel in hand. This bemuses me because it is not really about a “summer off” at all, but rather a “summer on.” For folks in the school world, summer might be about supplementing income: teaching summer school, working ... ยป Read More
  • Tuesdays With St. Matthias

    The Very Rev. Craig Loya
    May 09, 2019
    The one and only connection I have to St. Matthias is that, every Tuesday, I preside over three short liturgies in St. Matthias Chapel on the campus of a local school. Those three liturgies are the extent of my formal responsibilities as chaplain. The school was originally founded by an early Episcopal bishop as a religious boarding school for girls, and is now a formally independent co-ed day school, but has retained the tradition of weekly chapel services. It’s a somewhat unusual arrangement. The school has no formal relationship to the Episcopal Church, and religious identity or education are not part ... ยป Read More
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