Social Media for School Nutrition: Getting Started

Using social media for business can be intimidating; what if you post something offensive, or someone visiting your page posts something offensive? What if no one likes your pages, or follows you? What if your pictures don’t turn out well, or you don’t have anything interesting to post that day? And then there’s the big question—Where do you START?!

There are a lot of “what ifs” when you start your own Facebook or Twitter, but the bottom line is that using social media to market your school nutrition program just makes good sense. You’re meeting people where they are, and these days people are online.

Today we’re going to share some of our top tips and best practices for getting started on social media, and these tips are good whether you’re a school nutrition professional or not! This is the first of three blog posts in our Social Media for School Nutrition series—check back throughout the summer for parts two and three.

Tip #1: Review and Select Platforms

First you have to decide where to establish your online presence. Facebook is always a great place to start—if you already use Facebook, it’s a comfortable space to begin.

Twitter can seem a little more challenging, but it’s quite similar to Facebook. A Tweet is equivalent to a status update, and so Twitter is really just a stream of status updates, just like your Facebook news feed. Instead of sending and accepting friend requests, you merely follow people who then may (or may not) follow you back. There are people with private accounts, and to follow them you need to send a follow request, but those are relatively rare; most folks on Twitter have publicly visible accounts. You can follow friends, strangers, celebrities, your favorite sports teams, and your favorite organizations (like SNA and SNF!).

Instagram and Pinterest are visual, so if you don’t feel confident taking a lot of photos at this stage, save those platforms for when you’ve had time to practice.

Tip #2: Choosing URLs and Page Names

You’ll need to choose names for your pages and accounts. On Facebook, you’re also prompted to choose a unique Facebook web address for your page; choose wisely, as you’re only allowed to change the suffix once! Your web address will look like the following:

If another company or service is using the version you select, Facebook will prompt you to choose a new suffix.

On Twitter you are limited to a 15-character username, and you may find that your first choice (or two) is taken. When you’re choosing a Twitter username consider how it will look on promotional materials; it should stand alone in representing your program or some aspect of your program.

Tip #3: Study the Field

In the last five years the use of social media by school nutrition professionals has skyrocketed. School nutrition programs have developed comprehensive and sophisticated social media marketing campaigns, and professional organizations like SNA and SNF are committed to staying on the cutting edge by providing members with access to social media expertise. Are you attending ANC 2015 in Salt Lake City? Check out the following education sessions:

  • Your Online Brand: #SocialMedia Dos and Don’ts with Dayle Hayes of School Meals That Rock on Sunday, July 11 at 2:15 p.m. We love Dayle’s practical approach to social media for school nutrition professionals, and we can’t wait to see her hands-on session for ourselves.
  • On Monday, July 12 there are two marketing sessions during the 2:15 p.m. block that will surely help you market your program in the 21st century: Toot Your Own Horn—How to Promote Your Program in 3 Simple Steps and Understanding Millenial Moms—Your Future Customer will both offer insight into effective, real-world marketing for today’s parents and students. Though not social media-specific, both of these sessions will focus on modern marketing techniques for your program.

We also encourage you to go out and see what your fellow school nutrition professionals are doing on social media. Review the Facebook and Twitter accounts of your colleagues and their programs to get a feel for different styles and approaches to social media outreach for school nutrition. Take notes on what works and what doesn’t, and use the ideas that work as jumping off points for your own inspiration.

Tip #4: Take a Webinar

There are many free and low-cost webinars available online. Facebook and Twitter hold regular events for users, and Hootsuite always has a useful, practical array of topics for users of all levels. Facebook provides Facebook for Business; ‘like’ their page for news, tips, and best practices for using Facebook for business.

Similarly, you will find free and low-cost webinars online to help you use other platforms—Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram—to market your school nutrition program. Keep an eye on SNA’s Webinar Wednesdays and Talk Tuesdays series for their next social media topic, which are specifically tailored for school nutrition professionals.

Tip #5: Create an Editorial Calendar

First you might be wondering, what exactly is an editorial calendar? For a person with a busy schedule, it’s a valuable organizational habit that saves time.

Simply put, an editorial calendar is a schedule of posts—created in advance—that can be either copied and pasted into Facebook or Twitter, or scheduled to post automatically (more on that later!). By planning out the majority of your posts in advance you can reduce productivity-killing Facebook surfing while you figure out what you want to post that day.

Use a downloadable calendar, or your favorite calendar app (like Google Calendars) and simply plug in the values for each day. Work two to three weeks in advance, planning and scheduling posts, but leave room for flexibility; there will be time-sensitive, last-minute updates that present themselves on a regular basis. Block off a period of time—one hour or two—and set a timer, and only compose and schedule posts during this time. Also, do as much of it as possible while not on Facebook! You will be amazed at how quickly you’ll complete the task, and how much time you’ll save this way, versus composing and posting each day.

We have a lot in store for you in July, so check back with us at Beyond Breakfast for updates from ANC in Salt Lake City, our next installment of Social Media for School Nutrition, and our final installment of our Resources Roundup—NEA Healthy Futures!

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