Announcer: OTAN, Outreach and Technical Assistance Network.
Melinda Holt: Hello, everyone. I'm Melinda Holt, and I am a PS II tech integrator with the Outreach and Technical Assistance Network. I'd like to welcome you all for joining this OTAN tech talk, spotlighting adult education through social media. Cynthia Eagleton, from San Mateo Unified School District Adult Education, is the presenter for this OTAN tech talk. Cynthia, go ahead.
Cynthia Eagleton: Hi, everyone, and welcome to my tech talk about social media for adult education. I'm Cynthia Eagleton, and I came into social media through the doors of advocacy and community. I learned while I was doing, and that's why I know that you can learn while you're doing too. So we all have different feelings about social media and have used it in larger or smaller ways, and I'm here to help you learn a bit more. I'm going to focus on a big picture view because I think in some ways it's easy to find the How-To, which I'll talk about also. It's not that hard to find the How-To, but getting that big picture view is a little bit harder to get, and I want to offer some cautions, advice, and encouragement.
So social media. Here's how I see it. When you're in need of something, when you didn't finish high school, and you are tired of working at McDonald's, and you want to get that high school diploma, and you want to go to college and you want to do that next thing, what are you looking for? You're looking for hope. You're looking for advice. You're looking for a sense of connection or a community you can belong to where you can get what you need to meet your goals. And that's what I think social media is. Social media is the stories that we're drawn to often in times of difficulty, times of good and bad things, but often in times of difficulty.
So I think the job of the social media person for the school is to provide stories that provide hope and cheer and lay out those pathways to success. Thinking about storytelling, I think about, well, how do you have a story to tell? You have a story to tell because you listen to other people. So the other part of the job of the school social media person is listening, listening to your community and listening to what's going on at your school and all around it. Social media is really about relationships in so many, many ways. If you are going to tell the larger community about a new program or tell them about graduation that's coming up or whatever you're doing, where do you get that information?
You get it from people. And in order to get it from people, you need to have a good relationship with them. So that's really key, whether you are the person doing the social media or whether you are in charge of finding that person, hiring them, and making sure they're doing a good job. You have to have a good relationship with students, with staff, with administration, with basically anybody that's handing off information to you to put out there on social media. And because we all know, social media is so complicated, it's important to remember that it really involves trust and you must listen, respect what other people do and don't put out there.
You must be accurate in what you put out there, and you must remember the golden rule. So don't put something out there that you wouldn't want put out there if it was about you on social media. I'm sure you've all heard of the word algorithm. Different types of social media work differently, but something like Facebook, unless somebody has it set up that they see the newest thing on the feed, is going to show you, in essence, what is most popular. So it does help to have a lot of followers for your school. The more popular you are, the more you're going to show up in someone's feed, and we do want to reach people, right?
We want to provide information to our students and potential students and to our community members. We want to be seen. So it is important that we have followers, people that have liked and followed our Facebook or Instagram or Twitter pages. How do we get the followers? Well, I think of it in terms of relationship with a capital R which is, there is a courting thing going on, right? You bring someone flowers, you say, hey, would you like to go to dinner? That's what brings them in. The beautiful pictures, the happy news, the great programs. You need something catchy, so that they initially like and follow your page.
But if you don't keep providing that information, it's like a marriage, right? You got to have those date nights, you got to still bring the flowers, you're going to lose your followers. And when you don't have many followers, that's when the algorithm is not in your favor, and that's when your information is not seen. And since so many people rely on social media for information these days, we want it to be effective. And the last thing is just to-- we all know this too about social media, right?
We want to be aware of posting fake news, so whatever you're sharing when you're trying to lure folks in, make sure it's accurate, and perhaps lure is not the right word, but to invite them in. Well, social media has become a thing, right? It's a real thing. It's not new anymore so of course, there's a lot of jargon to know. I am not going to go over each of these words, but since you can watch this video again, I have put them all out here for you to contemplate or look them up.
There are lots of social media options these days. Sort of the big mama or papa is Facebook. Instagram, super-important, especially for young folks. Twitter, super-important for news and politics. Blogger is like having your own little newspaper. YouTube for videos. LinkedIn, professional. Pinterest, fun. TikTok, fun. Next Door is not yet something that schools can have their own account on. I'm going to go over a few of these with you. The ones that I think are the most important for you to have. And if you want to stick with just one or two, that's OK too.
You don't have to do everything. You can start with one of these or you can have three but use one more. And it's OK to take your time and find your footing. So Facebook is the institutional presence. If you're a school, that's an institution you should have a Facebook account, and you might be surprised to know that-- you might think people are going to just look on the internet to find your website, but they don't always do that. They sometimes literally just go to Facebook the same way you might go to Google and look for adult education or GED or ESL. They use it like a Google search. So it's really important that you're on there.
There's lots of different things to know about Facebook. I think something that not everybody knows that's good to know about is if you have a bit of a budget for your social media or a promotion, if you pay $10, it will boost your post and get it out there to more folks, to folks beyond your followers. It's advertising, right? And that's a reminder also that as with all social media, the reason it's free is because we are the product, so we all know that is what it is. But if you pay $10, you'll reach more people. Because there is an algorithm at work, it is important to post regularly. It doesn't have to be-- you don't have to limit yourself to graduations and start of the semester. You can regularly post about the many wonderful things of your program.
Instagram is really popular with a younger demographic, and I think it's important to have. I'm not saying you have to have it, but I think it's very helpful to have it. Something that's very important to understand is that Instagram posts square photos, and you might think, well, that's no big deal. Well, if you have a photo of your school board and your director and a student who won an award, and now you're going to trim it down, so it fits on Instagram, who are you going to trim out, right? So that's something to be aware of when you're gathering your photos for Instagram. And because Instagram is so photocentric, your photos should be good.
And that kind of brings us to the truth that your social media person should be good at photography and/or somebody else in your community should be, so that they're providing your social media person with good photos, they're really, really important. And Facebook bought Instagram, so you can post simultaneously to both of those things. All right. Twitter. Twitter is also very important. It is fantastic for getting news out there quickly, and for finding out what is happening, and it is super-important when it comes to elected officials, and that's important for advocacy. So I do recommend that you have a Twitter account. You don't have to post everything to all three accounts.
You can say to yourself, this feels like a Facebook post or this feels like Instagram or this feels like Twitter, or you can do all three. But if you take the time to play around and look at these things and look at who's posting what, you'll get a feel for what they do, so that you grow in your confidence in when you want to use each of them or if you want to use all three. And there are ways to organize your feeds and information when you're using these, such as on Twitter, has something called lists. So that if you are also following people on Twitter like the county health agency or an elected official, you can organize those into lists. That makes life a little easier for you. So a bit more about other forms of social media you might want to have.
I think Blogger is really good to have because Blogger is like a little newspaper. We've lost a lot of newspapers, whereas before maybe your local paper would cover some of your success stories, they aren't always there anymore, plus it's just nice to be able to really publish a success story. So if you have Blogger, which is a Google product, you can write up a story about an achievement of one of your students or one of your alums, and you can post it there on your blog, and then from there, you can post it on social media, and that's super-convenient because in the future, you may say to yourself, hey, I'd like to post that story again about someone who graduated from our pharmacy tech program because we have that program starting up again, so I want to showcase it by posting this story. So I recommend having Blogger.
YouTube, also recommend. You can have your own school or program channel. You can have your own videos on there, and you can have playlists of other videos that other people have made. So you can have a playlist of pronunciation videos or a playlist of health information like where to get your vaccine or where to get whatever is important for you in your area. LinkedIn is also important for institutional presence. This is a good point to bring up the issue that sometimes people take names that don't belong to them. So you may be looking for an account for yourself on LinkedIn and, oh-oh, XYZ Adult School has already been taken by Joe Schmoe who just took it.
So even if you don't want to use your accounts right now, I recommend that you go ahead and get them, so that you have those names. I don't think Pinterest is super-important to have. It could be fun. TikTok, I haven't used for school social media as the security could be a little iffy and/or it could be fun. Next Door does not allow school accounts yet. A city has it, county has it, and so on, but not schools. But I recommend that your school's social media person go on Next Door to see what's happening. It's a good place to know what's happening, which ties us back to the idea that the social media person has to be two big ears as well as one big mouth, right? You have to know what's going on in the community, so that you can share that information.
Strong social media. You need to know what you're saying and you should be able to say it concisely. I'm sorry I didn't talk about on-- Twitter has a limit of characters, so those tweets have to be short. You do not have time to write a paragraph about what's going on with your high school diploma graduation. It has to be very short. The information should be organized and easy to share. You need to understand your audience, not just who are they but who are they, plural, and how they intersect. People that follow your page may be potential students, current students, alums, local agencies, other adult schools. So when you're producing content, that's what you call the stuff you put out there. You want to think about who you're producing it for and who is interested in what.
Images, got to be good. Keep your posts consistent, so that you are building an audience and making the algorithm work in your favor. Say what you are for versus what you are against, which ties into the idea of every institution, every community has strengths and weaknesses. You should know what they are as the social media person. So that you can showcase the strengths and get ahead of the shadows. There's no point in being denial about the weak points of your program or your school, but you should know what they are, and in terms of social media, you should be casting a light on the good stuff you have.
And social media is absolutely a place to build and connect with other networks, and it is used by organizations, by elected officials and the press, so it's really important that you have a presence on there, so that you can connect with them in that way. All right. Photos. Every post should have an image. If you have a post that says you are starting a new class on medical tech training and there's no photo, no one's going to look at it. If your photo is good, they will slow down to look at it. So that sounds pretty easy. It gets complicated when it comes to things like flyers, which come in the form of a PDF.
You need a JPEG to post on social media, so one way I get around that is to take a screenshot of things. And that connects in with the issue of accessibility because a picture doesn't tell its own story. We'll get to that a little bit later, but hold that in your mind. Sometimes, you don't have a photo, and you're going to use a stock photo, and who is generally in stock photos? Well, this might surprise you, but it's white people. Now, is your school all white people? Probably not, because that's not what the world is. So when you're looking at stock photos, make sure they are representational of your community. And that's another reason to create a bank of your own photos, and that's another reason for your social media person to be good with a camera or to have someone else in your community who's good with a camera.
Of course, if you take your own photos, you have to think about permissions. How will you handle that? That is really an institutional decision, how you deal with it. You may want to go with verbal permissions. You may want to go with written permissions. You may want to think about who is most likely to show up in your photos, like staff members, student council, student ambassadors, and have them sign written permission in advance of each year, and then go with verbal permission with others. Whatever your institutional decision is, at heart, you want to come from a position of respect, and understand that people have lives and stories that are much bigger than they share with you or should have to share with you.
They're not obligated to tell you their full story, and why they do or don't want their image and/or their name on there. Lots of times, people have no problem with having their photo on there, but they don't want their name, or their first name is great, but they don't want their last name. So be respectful and ask somebody how would they like to have that? Would they like to have their photo on there? Is it OK to use their name, first or last? Be a good listener and come with respect. Now, you can tag people in a photo, where you hover over their face and up pops their name. Should you do that?
Basically, I think there are times when that's good, mostly not. When is it good? All right. Maybe your director likes having their photo taken and it's good to get your director and that school name out there, so maybe it's OK to tag the director. Elected officials tend to like having their name and image out there, but not if it's an unflattering photo or an unflattering situation, right? So you're going to tag somebody's photo only when it's a real win-win. And when you do that, that gets back to relationships. It's about building a relationship with that person because they're going to know you tagged them.
All right. More on photos. So I like to use Google Photos to organize all my photos because facial recognition, it's really convenient. I can look at my thousands and thousands of photos, and I can put in someone's name, and I get all the photos that I've taken of that person, and I can say, hey, this is exactly the best one to use. They look great in this photo. I'm going to use this one. I can put in a date. What happened in 2017? When I make albums of events, I can go for a particular album, International Day, 2016, or High School Graduation, 2019. Boom! I got those photos. Very convenient. Remember that Instagram has to be square only.
I suggest communicating all this to your staff members because they will sometimes be providing you with photos, but be prepared for them to forget it, so you'll have to repeat it and repeat it. Tricks that I use are taking screenshots of things when I have to and trimming them down. I've saved slideshows and Google Docs as JPGs, and I use Hootsuite and other types of photo software to trim photos to needed size. Now, wait a minute. I don't know if you can read that, but I can. Adult Ed is funded by the state to provide classes for disabled adults, but are our websites and social media accessible? Yeah. Good question, right?
So accessibility. Now, because I'm self-taught, these are all things I'm trying to learn more about along the way, and honestly since my mom is deaf and my stepdad was blind, I should know even more than I do but I don't. So here's what I know, and I think OTAN is a great place to find out even more. So, for those folks that have visual impairments, are blind, they need to have a way to know what's happening in those images. That's why we use Alt Text or Image Description. With Alt Text, if you hover over a photo, it will tell you if somebody has written in Alt Text what it is. It might say computer screen or two people standing by a flagpole.
Image Description is basically the same thing, but it is in the body of the post. Again, PDFs cannot be read by screen readers. So if somebody gives you a flyer and it's a PDF, first of all, you got to make it into a JPG. Then, the information in the flyer-- and flyers are pretty common for exciting new programs-- you will now need to put that information into the body of your post or, through Alt Text, link it to a web page where they will get all that same information. Hashtags, use Camel Case. What is Camel Case? Camel Case means starting the first letter of each word in your hashtag with a capital letter. So with adult education matters, It will be capital A, capital E, and capital M, for each of those words.
Captions for videos. I have not learned enough to share with you. These are two places to explore, and I need to explore more at OTAN to learn how to do that. A lot of what I have learned is by following people on social media like Crutches and Spice, Sassy Outwater-Wright, Disability Visibility, and have learned from them. And I will tell you, social media has a phenomenal amount of great information out there and great folks to learn from. And here is information from OTAN about creating an accessible website, and from the US Department of Education on disability discrimination. So this is a really important issue, and I suggest that you communicate it to your staff, and I think it's really important that we all learn more about this together.
All right. Tools. Hootsuite is great. This is what Hootsuite looks like when you're using it. You can see these are each a different social media account like Facebook, Instagram, and so on. It can be free for up to three forms of social media, which is really helpful, or if you want to pay for it, you can get it for about $30 a month and have 10 social accounts and one user. With social media, you can set things up in advance. Now, you can also do that just using Facebook, but it's just so easy with Hootsuite. You have an actual calendar, and you can set things up weeks and months in advance. You can easily drop in Alt Text. You can easily size things for Instagram. It has free shareable images.
You can shorten links with Bitly. You can check your stats with their analytics, and they have lots of advice. You'll usually get one email a week-- I don't think that's flooding you out-- with great advice about how to do good social media, so really helpful. With Instagram, there are no live links on Instagram, so people will often say, link in bio and then that's like your informational-- it's the part of Instagram that says, San Mateo Adult School or kitten lover and when you go there to that Bio section, you can have a link to Linktree, and Linktree is a place where you can add all your links that go with your posts. So for example, if you're posting about a new class, they would go to Linktree, and it would have a direct link to go to the place on your website where you register or learn more about the class.
Adobe Spark is a place to spark things up with graphics and text. And I suggest using Google News Alerts and setting the alert to your own school or your program or your district or your consortium or anything you think you're going to want to be crowing about or talking about, so that you know about it, because sometimes, you're not always in the know, right? You're doing your job, but you're not constantly checking your own feed for information and that will give you a little ping so you know what's happening. All right. Hashtags. There is the wonderful Ms. Branka Marceta who used to be with OTAN, and she was part of a wonderful CCAE Lunch and Learn Webinar on legislative advocacy.
I really suggest that you check it out on the CCAE web page with lots of great information about hashtags. What I always call hashtags is the Dewey Decimal System of social media, but of course, there are probably young people that don't know what the Dewey Decimal System is, so there's a place called a library, and on the back of the book, the spine, are some numbers, and that's how the librarian knows where to put the book in the stacks, and that's pretty much what hashtags are. It's a way to organize information. It is, in essence, a search tool. If somebody is looking for career education or GED or ESL, they might just go to Facebook and type in #GED, #Sacramento, and I hope your program pops up with information, but if you didn't tag your post with hashtags, it won't.
So you really need to use hashtags with your post. I won't say you have to do it every post, but it is really good if you do. And again, you're also riding that algorithm wave to your favor when you do that. You want to make sure it's accessible, capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, that's Camel Case. You can use them in different ways. You could do it where you have your school name at the start, like here is SMAS for San Mateo Adult School, and then the topic, like #SMASesl or #SMASstudentcouncil or #SMASgreen for Green Team. You can do a broader thing that's about the topic of the subject, like ESL or GED. #WorkforceWednesday, every Wednesday you could have a post that relates to career or your career education program.
You definitely want to use hashtags for advocacy, absolutely. You want to be checking in with CCAE, COABE, and other organizations to know the hashtag of the year, like #SupportK12AdultEd. All right. Tagging in. Tagging in. Again, here is Ms. Branka Marceta. Branka likes to call tagging in a tap on the shoulder because people know when you tag them in. I like to say that when you tag somebody, it's amplifying them. It's increasing their visibility. When you tag somebody in, you use this little @ sign followed by their handle, that's their name on social media. If you don't know what it is, go to the search bar on whatever social media you're using, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, look for them. You'll find it. You'll see the @ sign with their handle.
Then, when you post something, you can-- I'm doing my air quotes here-- "tag them in." So an example of when that would be handy would be an advocacy. If an assembly member visited your school for a special event and you have a beautiful photo of the assembly member and your graduates or your students doing something really wonderful, yeah, tag in that assembly member. That's a win-win. They're going to like it. They're doing good. They're in the community. They're connecting with your fantastic school. Your school is great. When you tag somebody in, depending on their settings, you may-- when you look at their feed, you may see it, but no matter what, they will know about it, so it's a relational tool.
Social media posts is a way to promote and publicize the many wonderful things that you do at your school. These are just a few of the things that I think about when I think about promotion. Programs, classes, student council clubs, student ambassadors, events, conferences. Success stories. I really recommend having an archive of them that you've published on Blogger and/or some sort of bank, so that when you need to, you have an easy way to grab those stories and post them again. I also recommend having some kind of alumni bank, where when people graduate, you ask them for some basic information, of course, with their permission, name, contact information, what class or program they took.
And that way you have a way of connecting with folks in the future, and you can run "Where Are They Now" series. What's happening with this person now? They did our-- they graduated from our ESL program. They went to community college. Now, they're at San Francisco State. Wow! Wonderful news. Let's share it. Advocacy, absolutely. Social media important for it. So hashtags are important. It's important to use the hashtag that is the current hashtag for that time period. You definitely want to check in with folks like CCAE and COABE on that.
There's lots of wonderful information out there to help you. CCAE has an advocacy hub. COABE has a social media messaging center, and I really advise you to look at what they're doing, get their advice, and also go to their news feeds and share them, and that way you're amplifying the message, and you're building that relationship between your school and that organization. Community. We need our community, right? We need information. Wildfires, floods, pandemics, things are always happening. We have to share that information about how to cope with it to help ourselves and help our communities that we serve.
So it's helpful to follow trustworthy sources of information, so that you can communicate it out to your social media community, such as you may have a county alert system. You might want to follow that, and then share that information. Thinking about languages is important. If you can share information out of multiple languages, that's important to do. Community events. If you share an event in the community, like a job fair or a volunteer opportunity, that is helping the students that you serve and anybody else that follows your social media to get more involved in community and civic life. Sometimes, if those folks are immigrants, they call that immigrant integration. We have metrics on it. That's important.
Heritage and theme months and holidays, also important to share about I like to tie those in with an event if possible. So for example, if it's LGBT month, you can post about that. Maybe there's an event at a local pride center. Post that too. Tie it in together. You may have a student who's new to the area and not know there's a pride center. Bingo. Now they've learned about it. So all kinds of great things you can do that are possible when you follow or search for all those other wonderful organizations and groups. So storytelling, as we know, is metaphorical framing. You can also use real frames. You can get an old frame.
You can paint it. You can doctor it up. You can put hashtags on it, and it's just really fun for photo ops that can be easily shared on social media. Announcements and updates, vacation breaks, school days that are closed, federal holidays, teacher and service registration, all important to post about. Emergencies, important to post about. Lots of those. And again, emergency alert systems. A lot of the counties have these now or maybe every county does, but they're fantastic, and I suggest signing up for it and teaching your community how to sign up for it as well and posting about it.
The website. If you don't run your school website, you should coordinate with your webmaster. Oftentimes, especially younger people will just use social media for information and not use the website, so think about how you can bring them to the website. You can take screenshots of the website on not just a laptop but a phone, because a lot of folks are just phone users. You can post links to specific pages. You can make little videos about the website with Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic, and OTAN can tell you all about how to do that. That's where I learned to do it. And you can share those videos on social media.
So, folks to follow and amplify. That means share out their posts, make their voices, their message, bigger. These are some of the folks that I follow that I recommend looking into. All right. Some cautions, advice, and encouragement. So cautions. You want to keep your account secure, change your passwords as needed, and keep your passwords in a secure place. I don't know if I have on here, and I really do recommend-- and I didn't do this myself but I recommend it. Make an email account that is just going to be for social media. So it is janesmitheysmith@xyzschool account, it's probably easiest if it is a Gmail account, and everything runs off of that.
Because I started in the Neanderthal times, I didn't do it that way, but that's the way I recommend to do it. Keep your posts accurate. Understand the impact of social media. I think we all know it's really big, for better or for worse. Don't share misinformation. Take responsibility for what is messaged. Know that you're in a position of trust. Workload and compensation is really important. If social media is treated like something done on the side, who's going to do it? And, yeah, maybe you'll find someone to do it for not much money or when they have free time, but is that the person that you want doing it?
You really have to think about who could bring so much to the job. Storytelling is so important. It's so important. So treat that position with respect. Provide good compensation and respect and that's really a-- of course, how you handle the job will bring or not bring respect, but it's also a real top-down thing from the director. The position needs to be framed as important. Burnout. Social media can end up being a real 24/7 thing, so it's something you have to be on-guard for. All right. A bit of advice. Set up your posts, keep them going, regular posts, build audience. You're surfing that algorithm.
Choose names you like. You can change names, but it gets complicated. Administrative respect and support makes a really big difference. Representation really matters. Who is telling your story? We all come with a story. I'm a 60-year-old white cisgendered, straight, Christian woman, single mom of a black daughter with a mother who is deaf. That is going to affect how I tell stories. Who's telling your stories? Think about that. Something that you can do is something called a social media takeover, where you don't actually handover the keys. You don't give them the password, but maybe you ask the student ambassadors to create the post for you for a week, or maybe you ask the high school diploma department to make posts for you for a week and you frame it as a takeover, and that's the way for you to supply a real multiplicity of voices and have some real representation happening.
Create a guideline and information sheet for your staff. Follow other people. There is really great stuff out there. It's really inspiring. All right. Last thing. A bit of encouragement. There's a lot of information, I know. But just do your own pace. Find your way. Everybody's got a genius. You're not going to know what yours is if you don't try it. I do keep bringing up the issue of representation because it's really important. So look for how to increase that in the stories you tell and who's doing the storytelling, and if you're reluctant, reluctance has benefits. It slows us down. We don't drive a car without brakes.
I don't think you should ride a bicycle without brakes. Brakes are good. We got gas and we got brakes. Use them both. And if you have questions, I am here to answer them. Thank you for coming to this tech talk.
Melinda Holt: And that is the end of this OTAN tech talk. Thank you, Cynthia, for a great presentation. For all of you viewing, if you would like to present a tech tool or have some tips to share with your colleagues in adult education, send OTAN an email with your OTT idea to email@example.com. We'd also encourage everyone to subscribe to the OTAN YouTube channel where archived OTAN videos like the OTAN tech talks can be found. Check out the OTAN website for even more resources at www.otan.us. We hope to see you all at future OTAN tech talks.