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.
Ari Shapiro, international correspondent (formerly White House correspondent) for National Public Radio and a 1996 Beaverton High graduate, was among the first alumni to be featured.
Shapiro then tweeted about the interview, and the Social Media Team began getting messages from some of his 40,000 worldwide followers.
"They saw how global it really is," Robinson said.
The Social Media Team includes Casey Wise, Paige Colorito, both seniors, Payton Crawford and Maddy Johnson, both juniors.
They remember starting on social media with Myspace as youngsters.
"That was so long ago," laughed Crawford.
Now, they rattle off the best times to post stories on Facebook, photos on Instagram and tweets on Twitter. Like a lot of students, they're attached to their smartphones, but in addition to messaging friends, they're posting information for the entire school and community.
"At some high schools, everyone fits into a box," Wise said. "When you look at Beaverton (High), we're not like that. We have ukelele club, knitting club. Everybody does something different."
Their work has impressed district leaders, and the district is chipping in some funds along with the high school booster club to help pay the $4,000 they need to attend a social media conference in New York in February.
In return, the students will create a social media user manual for the district and will teach principals the secrets to getting social media to work at their schools.
"It's exciting to be able to share our knowledge," Crawford said.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com
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