School District Spotlight: Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools
You may remember our blog post about the Top Ten School Districts on Social Media, where we highlighted 10 school districts in Canada that are doing awesome things on social. Our list included the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) from Red Deer, Alberta for their impressive use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
We recently spoke with the communications team at RDCRS about their efforts on Instagram in particular. Instagram is a mobile visual platform that is consistently underutilized by school districts, but RDCRS has found a way to build goals around their schools’ Instagram use that could be useful for other school districts in Canada and the United States.
We spoke with their Communications Coordinators, Meghan Alton and Haleigh Packer, to get the inside information on how RDCRS finds success with Instagram and other social media platforms.
Box Clever: How large is your school division?
Meghan Alton & Haleigh Packer: We have 21 schools that span across 4 counties in Central Alberta, stretching as far west as Rocky Mountain House, as far south as Olds, and as far north as Blackfalds. In total, we have 3 high schools, 4 middle schools, 6 elementary/middle schools, 6 elementary schools, and 1 online school that services home schooling needs.
BC: You have one main Instagram account for your school division (@RDCRS). Do you represent all of your schools on that account?
MA & HP: Yes, all schools are represented, but the schools that provide us with more content are featured more often.
BC: Are all of your schools using their own Instagram accounts?
MA & HP: 12 out of 21 of our schools have their own Instagram accounts, but all are using Facebook, and most of them have Twitter. We would love for all of our schools to be on Instagram! That is one of our goals for this school year.
BC: With 12 different schools on Instagram, how do you ensure that your brand standards are maintained?
MA & HP: Each school has their own brand standards guidelines. We empower them to take their own photos and videos to post directly to their accounts. Each school generates different content based on their school culture. For example, École Camille J. Lerouge School is a fully French immersion school, so their school culture is quite unique compared to other schools that are not French immersion. We find that by empowering the schools to develop their own brands, the content ends up being creative and individualistic. Check out the hashtag #RDCRS on Instagram and Twitter to see what we mean!
BC: Who takes the photos and posts them to your social media accounts?
MA & HP: It really varies from school to school, but we take a team approach when it comes to managing of all of our social media accounts. We can’t emphasize this team approach enough; sharing the responsibility means that it actually gets done. When you put all of the responsibility on one person (if it is not their full time job), it can become too much to handle. So we spread the responsibility across multiple people, and it really works for us.
We have three different versions of this team approach: In some schools, it is the administration that runs the account: the Principal or Vice-Principal. In other schools, we have three people that each run one of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter . And the third approach is that in some schools we have representatives that are responsible for taking photos for each grade, and they submit their photos to the administrative team to be posted.
Again, we empower the schools to do what works for them, but in all scenarios, it is a team effort. We are always open to discovering new team efforts that work.
BC: Do you have a graphic designer or does that work stay within each school as well?
MA & HP: All of our graphic design is done in house, and each school is responsible for creating and posting their own posts. However, what gets created is largely dependent on the information that needs to be distributed. For topics that are school division wide, such as enrollment information, we will create the graphics for the entire school division and share it out from the main school division account and sometimes post directly on school accounts.
BC: What are your goals for your Instagram accounts?
MA & HP: Right now, our main goal is just to get all schools across RDCRS on Instagram and using the platform consistently.
We are also launching a social media committee made up of representatives from each school. This committee will meet periodically to discuss our social media goals and updates to the platforms such as algorithm changes, and to provide training. It will be the responsibility of this committee to coordinate brand guidelines between schools and plan consistent messaging.
As Communications Coordinators, we know the value of having a clear and consistent message for each school’s brand on social media, and one of our goals is to ensure that those running the school accounts also understand how important it is.
BC: Do you use any third party tools for posting to social media?
MA & HP: For Instagram and Facebook, we prefer to post directly from the platform itself. We find that our engagement and reach are better when we post natively. We do have Hootsuite for Twitter for when we need to queue up content, and we use the Repost app for sharing photos from the schools onto the main RDCRS Instagram account. Some of the schools are also using Boomerang to create content, which is really fun!
BC: Boomerang is SO fun.
Do you record any data metrics, and if so, what do you keep track of?
MA & HP: As of right now, our efforts are focused on tracking what the schools are doing on social media. So we track vanity metrics, including the quantity and frequency of posts and number of likes. For the other platforms, we track shares and reviews on Facebook.
We do all of our reporting on a monthly basis, and we pull reports on the first of each month. This allows us to keep on top of the stats, and we can notice any gaps in posting before it goes on for too long.
BC: Are you using any paid social advertising?
MA & HP: Yes, we often run reach campaigns in order to provide awareness about the Catholic school system to people in the communities. A lot of newcomers to Alberta often don’t know that Catholic education is fully funded by our government, so we use advertising to provide that education to parents while also promoting our school division.
We don’t really have a peak time for advertising, as we push it out when it is needed. School enrollment times are busy for us, but we also advertise in the middle of the school year, depending on what needs to be promoted. We have been very impressed with the outcomes of our social media advertising.
BC: How does your content on Instagram differ from the content on other platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter?
MA & HP: Instagram is a visual platform, so we share our “fluffier” content there. These are the pictures of what has happened in our schools, such as fun events or themed days. These photos show the culture of our schools. We use Facebook and Twitter for more informational purposes. If we are sharing any urgent news or emergency information, we use Twitter.
We also share Lost & Found items on Facebook, and those posts always tend to do really well!
BC: Are you currently using Instagram Stories?
MA & HP: We are going to roll out Instagram Stories with our schools soon!
BC: Excellent. We recently wrote a blog post about how to use Instagram Stories that you can find here.
Do you have any big wins you want to share with us before we go?
MA & HP: Our big wins this year have come from the satisfaction that we get from seeing our social media goals being carried out by the schools, and seeing it work! It has lead to us being named as one of Box Clever’s Top 10 School Divisions on Social Media, and we also won a Bravo Award for our social media strategy at the 2017 CACE Conference.
Ultimately, our use of social media allows us to see how much the staff genuinely cares for the students, which is one of the coolest parts of it all.
If you have questions about how to promote your school division on social media, contact Box Clever!