Friday, March 11, 2016

Digital engagement an ongoing effort

IASB has made it a goal to expand the use of technology-driven communication. From targeted email delivery to online blogging integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, online contact has become a primary component of the Association’s connection with its members and the public.

The March/April Illinois School Board Journal offered an in-depth look at IASB’s digital engagement and quantified results for the various online platforms currently in use. Below is a summary of the article.

Illinois School Board News Blog

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IASB’s most recent online outreach is the Illinois School Board News Blog, which evolved from the Association’s monthly newsletter, The Illinois School Board Newsbulletin. The Newsbulletin officially became the News Blog in May 2015.

The News Blog gives the Association an ability to report on topics of interest and timely information in a format that can be accessed at home, work, or on mobile devices. Updates or corrections are made instantly; links go to live sources; and viewers can share information with other users without leaving the blog site.

In its first eight months, the News Blog has posted nearly 300 news articles and announcements, generating more than 27,000 “page views.” Popular topics include legislative activities, legal opinions and court cases, local school district issues, and division news, awards, and events (see the accompanying chart).

Social networking

IASB’s social media accounts were launched in September 2014. Both Facebook and Twitter have become popular online portals where Illinois school leaders can find, comment about, and share information that matters most to them.

“It was important to us and our members that we do this right. These networks offer tremendous opportunities, but they also create significant liabilities if they are not monitored and regularly serviced,” said James Russell, IASB associate executive director for communications and production services.

While Facebook provides a more personal atmosphere that fosters conversation through a “community” that encourages sharing of photos, videos, and other media, Twitter’s rapid dissemination of information through short messages is particularly effective at offering live coverage of education-related events.

For the past two years, IASB has “live tweeted” from a variety of events and activities at The Joint Annual Conference. In November 2015, more than 23,100 impressions were recorded from the 83 tweets posted by IASB. To help foster conversations between Twitter users, IASB created an official conference hashtag, which reads like a play-by-play overview of what was happening. The 2015 conference hashtag generated 627 tweets and reached reaching more than 150,000 Twitter users.

Both social networks have been successful in meeting the initial objective of providing more communications options and opportunities to connect with members and followers. By the end of 2015, the Association’s Facebook fan page ended the year with 414 “likes,” and 135 posts and reached 21,700 users, generating 636 “engagements” (likes, comments, shares), and more than 1,200 link clicks.

Twitter has shown an even greater reach. IASB ended the calendar year with 1,069 followers and sent 382 tweets that garnered 167,000 impressions, 3,311 “engagements” (retweets, likes), and 885 link clicks.

YouTube video channel

While the News Blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts make up most of IASB’s social media presence, the Association’s video-sharing platform has also generated considerable interest.

The channel, which can be found at ILSchoolBoards, currently hosts 96 videos. YouTube visitors can find instructional guides to Association products and services, general guidance on advocacy, and other tips for board members and education officials.

To date, the most popular video posted is “Illinois Vision 20/20: Fulfilling the Promise of Education,” which has been viewed more than 4,000 times. Since 2013, the channel has generated 19,628 views, and more than 40,000 minutes of viewing time.

Public and members-only websites
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Of course, the mainstay of IASB’s digital presence was and is its public website. Created in 1996, is the digital warehouse of anything and everything that IASB is and does. Everything from online training and policy updating services to executive searches and legal guidance is offered.

The website content and its use have grown at a phenomenal rate over the past 20 years. Last year, the 1,835 pages of content on the site generated nearly 1.4 million “page views” that were seen by 110,000 individual users.

In 2009, the Association added a Members-Only website with interactive tools and features. This member-exclusive content includes assess to the annual conference planner and panel handouts, archives to board of directors’ minutes, and additional resources on topics such  as community engagement, superintendent evaluation, and board secretary duties.

Targeted e-mail delivery

Since 2010, IASB has also used Constant Contact email software, building an archive of 16,623 contacts. With nearly all online adults using email regularly, it is by far the most active digital communication tool at IASB’s disposal.

Last year, the Association sent 664,421 emails through 344 different group mailings. These groups included school board members, superintendents, secretaries, targeted audiences. Information sent by IASB includes event invitations, training announcements, policy notification updates, surveys, executive search openings, and other services available to members.
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When combined, IASB’s digital communications tools are a part of a cohesive effort using multiple mediums and platforms to reach different audiences at different times. “Not everyone will use every method, but our goal is to connect with everyone by the means they choose,” Russell continued in The Journal article. That includes direct mail of print publications and notices, including this magazine.

“The diversity of this large state and our membership means that we cannot abandon or forsake old technology for new. We must keep up, but we can’t leave behind or keep out those who can’t. That requires a balance of resources that will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Members who have questions or comments about IASB communications should email, or call ext. 1131.