In this School Lunch and Social Media series, we’re going to walk you through the steps for setting up your School Nutrition program’s social media accounts.
“That’s what social media is: it’s a conversation.”
In Part 1 of this series, we explained how to tell if your School Nutrition program should be on social media or not. Then, in Part 2, we discussed the various social media apps available and which one may be best to start with, depending on your specific program and its goals.
By now, you’re probably anxious to find out how to set up the account and get going. But hold on just a second! There’s one last point we need to cover before you’re ready: what social media is, and what it isn’t.
What Social Media IS (and ISN’T)
Social media is one of the best ways available to get your parents and students more involved in your program. But how exactly do you do that?
The key is to actually engage your audience. In addition to responding to comments, thanking people for Likes/Shares/Retweets/etc., and commenting on other people’s posts, you also need to keep in mind every single time you post something that no one likes to be advertised to.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t promote your program and your meals, but it does mean that you need to be thoughtful about how you do it.
Here’s an example of the same post written two different ways:
The Wrong Way
[Image of a plate with food on it.]
This is what’s for lunch today. It’s new. You should buy it!
The Right Way
[Image of team member holding a plate with food on it.]
Kathy’s hard work on full display! She and her teammates have been coming up with such great meals lately. Can’t wait for you all to try this one later today at lunch time!
You see the difference? The second one isn’t just telling the students what they could find out by looking at the menu. It’s giving them more than that. It gives a backstory to the image — not just to the meal itself (it’s a new dish we just came up with and we can’t wait for you to try it!), but also to the people behind the meal (“Kathy,” who works hard and cares about the students and the quality of their meals). It gives your School Nutrition program a relatable identity and humanizes your program. You won’t see that on a regular menu.
Think of it like this…
The key word in social media is “social.” Imagine going to a casual party and someone there tries to sell you something:
“This dip is very good. You should purchase it. It will really help me with my reimbursement dollars if you do.”
You would walk away and maybe even leave the party.
Now imagine someone hanging out, eating the dip, and yes, maybe she mentions how good the dip happens to be, but she also says how nice the weather has been lately, and how she likes to go hiking when it’s so nice out, and, Do you like to hike, too? Oh, really? You do? Well have you ever hiked that one trail right outside of town? It has a great view at the top. You should check it out sometime.
Sounds like a much better conversation, right?
And really, that’s what social media is: it’s a conversation. It’s not a one-way avenue for you to sell, sell, sell. It’s not a megaphone for you to speak at parents and students. It’s an opportunity for you to engage with parents and students.
What (Exactly) to Post
So now you know how to engage with parents and students, but what exactly should you be engaging with them about? You want to discuss your program and your meals, but beyond that, what should you be posting, specifically?
You’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t as you go along, but here’s a list of ideas to get you started. Some seem obvious; others, less so. But just remember that you can post about whatever you think is important or fun. The main thing is to keep it casual and conversational as much as you can.
- “We’ve been hard at work coming up with new recipes. Can’t wait for you to try this one! Like this pic if you’re going to try something new today!”
Important/timely updates to the schedule
- “No french fries today. 🙁 Their flight from France got delayed. But don’t worry, they’ll be back tomorrow! Promise!”
Interesting information about your team members
- “Did you know: Frank the cashier once met Frank Sinatra while on vacation? Ask him about it when you see him! (PS: It’s cool, but we like our Frank better!) (PPS: Google Frank Sinatra if you must.)”
Events/occurrences in your School Nutrition program
- “It was hilarious. This morning, Miss Johnson was carrying a measuring cup of milk when she turned and bumped into Mr. Fletcher, who was peeling potatoes. Mr. Fletcher didn’t miss a beat. He was like, “It’s OK, Sue. No use crying over peeled milk.”
General topics that everyone can relate to
- “In light of how hot it is today, we will be baking your pizza by leaving it inside Principal Smith’s car for a couple hours.”
Random food facts
- Chicken has to be stored at 40 degrees F or lower for proper food safety. Just thought we’d share a “cool” fact.
- Found this online. It’s a Poptart breakfast sandwich. Anyone with the courage to try it at home, post a pic and tag us in it!
Notice, too, how some of these posts ask for participation. As we discussed above, it’s important to engage with your audience. Part of that means letting them participate and making it a real conversation.
Preparing Posts in Advance
Depending on how you are handling social media — whether you have one person doing all the posting or you have the whole team contributing — it’s helpful to have some posts lined up ahead of time.
You can’t do that with topical posts, like ones about the weather or last-minute updates to the menu, but if you are planning an event, a new meal, or something along those lines, why not write up a couple of posts in advance?
The best way to handle writing posts ahead of time is to come up with a bunch of posts at the start of each month and lay out a calendar of when to publish each one. This is called an editorial calendar. You can find a lot more information on how to set up an editorial calendar, how often to post, and more by clicking here. Just remember that a lot of the information in that article is geared toward large businesses, so take it all with a grain of salt. Start small and do what you think will work best for your program, not what works best for some giant company.
And that’s it. You’re finally ready to get started!
Click below to read Part 4 of our School Lunch and Social Media series, “Setting Up Your Accounts,” for step-by-step instructions and helpful tips specific to School Nutrition programs.
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