February is national CTE month. Programs around the country use this month to highlight what is happening in career and technical education. One way to showcase CTE is through school social media.

Our school and also our district sponsor events like open houses and showcases. The timing works out well for us because our students are about to register for next year’s classes.

This year, my welding-teacher husband agreed to let me help him promote his program using social media.

Today, I’m going to go over what we did, the lessons learned, and what we’re doing next based on a month of consistent social media posts. 

If you’re new here and are not quite ready to start an account for your program, check out Episode 3: Have You Been Wondering How to Utilize Social Media to Recruit Without Having to Do All the Work?.

If you are wanting to start using social media to promote your program, be sure to check out Episode 12: How to Begin on Social Media: A Tool to Recruit.

Also, download The Simple Guide to Planning a Week of Social Media for Your Program.  This guide will help you be less stressed when using social media to promote your program.

What We Did for the CTE Month Social Media Campaign

My husband Jared has had his program Instagram account for 8 years now. He has never concerned himself with planning and strategy when it came to social media.

In the past, he has posted irregularly and on-the-fly when something was occurring in class or when he would remember. He has always wanted to increase his engagement on social media, but posting always took so much time. Social media was low on the priority list because he still needed to teach.

Since I’m always talking about social media and program promotion, he let me help him this month. He wanted to see what a little planning would do for consistency and if it would save him time.

Jared first decided what types of content he wanted to post so that we could create or collect images. 

Jared chose the following categories to highlight:

  • Student spotlights
  • Quotes 
  • Facts about welding as a career
  • Course highlights
  • Weekly giveaway
  • CTSO (career and technical student organization) spotlight
  • Behind the scenes

We used the 5 Free Customizable Templates that you can download here.

Once all the images were created in Canva or selected, he used Planoly to plan one week at a time. He usually did this on the weekend. He would write the captions for those images and then schedule when he wanted them to post throughout the week.

Lessons Learned from a Month of School Social Media

The first thing that we learned is that planning saves time. Getting all the graphics and images ready before the month starts removes stress. This let Jared schedule ahead of time.

The next thing we learned was that his students engaged the most with videos and facts about welding. His reach increased by 31.3% from January. His engagement also increased by 300% from January. We found this out by clicking on “insights” within Instagram.

The biggest lesson that we learned was that planning is necessary. We tried to change our plan last minute and it didn’t go well.

Story Behind Biggest Lesson Learned

It all started with the final giveaway post, which was on the last Monday of the month. On a whim, I had the idea to change up the qualifications. Instead of tagging and sharing the post with others, I thought it would be fun to get some user generated content. 

In the social media and marketing world, user-generated content (or UGC) is a great way to get content for future posts. One way to get this content is by creating a special hashtag that can be followed. 

Last spring some students started making memes of classes and teachers at the school. Since they are so popular, we decided to combine the meme idea with the hashtag idea. 

Jared and I still believe that the idea was a good one, but we should have thought through the idea more.

User-Generated Content Using Hashtags Doesn’t Work With Private Accounts

One of the problems was that most of the students have private accounts (which is great for security and highly encouraged). But, images are private–even those with a hashtag. If a student posted and used the hashtag, it wouldn’t show up with all the other “public” posts.

A student then had an idea that because his account was private, he could create his own account where he could post his memes. This is where things started to go downhill. 

First off, there is no way to control what people (students) post on social media. Some of this student’s memes had swear words and could be mis-understood. This is when Jared got a call from the district PR person. The student had used Jared’s photo in the bio and therefore the district thought he created the account–not a student.

For students to “win” that week’s giveaway, they needed to have the most “likes.” The private accounts made this difficult so Jared started to curate the memes by having students send them. 

There were a couple issues with this. First, he was posting a lot of posts per day and filling his followers feeds. Jared is pretty sure he lost some followers because of this.

The next issue was that we know that at least one person was offended by one of the memes because they called the district. 

Jared quickly and professionally, announced a winner and took down all the memes. 

While this idea did increase enrollment and the students absolutely loved it, we need to remember that we work for the school. Because of this, we need to plan better.

What We’re Doing Next for School Social Media

Based on what we learned, Jared is planning on continuing to use video and the welding facts on a regular basis. He’s also decided that he wants to try to feature his former students in a “Where are they now?”.

He sent out a survey to his former students who follow him on Instagram and already received 40 responses with photos. 

The planning of the month’s images worked well so he plans to continue this same planning method. He’ll still write his captions once a week to keep things current.

He is now more aware of what he could and should be taking photos of. He has already started taking more photos in class. But, now he doesn’t have the pressure to instantly post. 

In the end, posting consistently for CTE Month on school social media increased Jared’s following and engagement on Instagram. His program’s visibility has increased which hopefully means that more students will find his classes.

Planning ahead of time is key to being consistent. Not deviating from the plan is also advised. Continuing to check to see how followers (students) are responding to posts helps to plan for the next month.

If you’re wanting to use the strategies we learned, be sure to download The Simple Guide to Planning a Week of Social Media for Your Program.

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