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Ore. high school brings savvy to digital marketing

By Wendy Owen

The Oregonian

Published: Saturday, Dec. 28 2013 9:54 p.m. MST

In this undated photo, Beaverton High School Social Media Team members check a website on a smartphone, in Beaverton, Ore. In the background, the team has planned out the month in advance and knows which students, staff and alumni will be featured as well as notices sent out to students about events and scholarships.

The Oregonian, Associated Press

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Beaverton High School's Social Media Team has it down to a science.

They know that moms of students use Facebook between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and love to share stories about their kids. They also know that Beaverton High students prefer the photo-centric Instagram over Facebook. (Now that their moms and dads use FB, it's no longer cool.)

Both sides still tweet, but adults tend to use it for business whereas kids will tweet anything.

And, of course, everyone knows email is old school. It's waayy too slow.

Beaverton High is creating a name for itself in the digital world. It's getting the word out in stories and 140-character notes about its students, alumni, staff, upcoming events, tips on being successful in school as well as photos of BHS happenings.

They call it digital marketing.

"There is a tremendous story to tell here," said Beaverton High Principal Anne Erwin, who is in her second year at the helm.

She realized e-newsletters, a neglected school website and newspapers were not getting the word out about the school. Parents and technology companies stepped in and updated the school's website, created a BHS app and the Social Media Team is telling the school's stories.

Now, Erwin said, "There's a buzz about what's going on at Beaverton High School."

The Social Media Team set a modest goal of 75 followers and left that number in the dust long ago. The Facebook page has 577 followers in the United States and a smattering of international followers from Mexico, Norway, Kenya and Japan, among others.

The number of volunteers at the school has increased as have donations, Erwin said.

People have a better understanding of what goes on "at that school on Farmington Road" and have stepped up to assist, Erwin said. She estimated about a 30 percent increase in volunteers so far this year. She did not have a number on donations, but listed new basketball hoops and a sound system in the gym among the items.

Schools, especially high schools, have had websites and Facebook pages for years and some have taken great efforts to keep the sites up to date with school news, but they don't seem to have the fan base that Beaverton High has developed.

Business and marketing teacher Katy Robinson said the secret to getting students to embrace the school's social media is to not use it as an investigative tool. In other words, the school never "friends" students or follows their Twitter accounts and social media is otherwise not used to peer into a student's personal life.

In addition, nearly all posts and tweets for the school are student written.

Robinson uses her prep period to edit the posts and monitor the incoming messages as part of her work with the school's Social Media Team, a four-member group of juniors and seniors, all girls.

They created a plan with four focuses - students, families, community and future students.

"We need to reach them where they are finding information," Robinson said. But it wasn't easy.

"How do you find content and do it equitably . instead of featuring the most popular kids?" she said.

They mapped out the entire year. They would feature students, staff, alumni and businesses from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities and alternative peer groups.

They have a weekly theme and schedule profiles and stories so their followers know when to visit. Every Tuesday, it's a student; every Wednesday, it's staff and every Thursday, it's a graduate.

"We don't just randomly put up something," said Robinson, who added that is a common mistake for schools.

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