Utilize Social Media for Lights On 2012

On October 18, more than 1 million people will gather at some 7,500 sites across the country and at U.S. military bases worldwide to rally in support of the afterschool programs that help working families, keep kids safe and inspire students to learn.

For afterschool programs on a tight budget, social networking (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr) is a great way to enhance your outreach for Lights On Afterschool and get your message out without spending any money. Here are a few ways to incorporate social media into your event. Anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account can join the conversation and send public messages of support for afterschool programs!

NOTE: In all social media outreach, make sure you have proper authorization to use any names, pictures or videos of children.

Twitter is an online, informal method of communication that uses micro-updates. If you haven’t already, sign up for a free Twitter account for your program. Remember, keep your tweets short, no more than 140 characters.

  • A week before Lights On Afterschool
    • Coordinate with your partners and event sponsors. Make sure you know their Twitter handles so you can mention them in tweets.
    • Try and generate some buzz for your event. Encourage your followers to re-tweet the date and time of your event or supportive messages about afterschool to help spread the word.
    • Be sure to include a hashtag – like #LightsOn2012 – so your events can be linked to the national online efforts.
  • A few days before Lights On Afterschool
    • Tweet the participation of special guests or local dignitaries.
    • Tweet at reporters who cover education or the city desk, for example, to try and get them to attend your event. For example: @EdReporterX Be sure to stop by Elm Middle School on 10/18 @ 5:30 to see #afterschool in action!
  • Day of Lights On Afterschool
    • Get people at the event to live-tweet what’s happening. For example: #Afterschool dancers at Elm Middle School are taking the stage! #LightsOn2012
    • Encourage parents or program participants to re-tweet your updates.
    • Quote speakers. For example: Heard at #LightsOn2012 @CongRivera said “Afterschool is the best investment in our youth.”
    • If your technical capacity allows, project a live-stream of tweets about your event!
  • One to two days after Lights On Afterschool
    • Keep the conversation going by thanking your speakers and honored guests.
    • Share pictures of your event. If you are sharing pictures of children in your program, make sure you have all the appropriate permissions!o Do a #FF (Follow Friday) list of community leaders who participated in your event.
    • Create a timeline with storify.com to keep all of your tweets from Lights On Afterschool in one place.

Facebook is a social networking service and website where individuals and organizations reach out to others, share information and keep in touch. If you don’t have a Facebook page dedicated to your afterschool program, create one today and invite area stakeholders, local community and business leaders, parents and school officials to “like” your program. Once your program has a Facebook page and generates some fans, create an event page for your Lights On Afterschool event and encourage your followers to RSVP. Click here for more tips on how to set up an event page.

  • On your Lights On event page, be sure to clearly state the location, date, and start and end times for your event. Be careful about updating the page; even the smallest changes can send out a notification to your fans.
  • Encourage friends who have liked your page to leave comments. Be sure to thank commenters, respond to questions and encourage dialogue. 
  • Consider posting status updates counting down the days/weeks leading up to Lights On Afterschool. For example: Only one week till our middle school students showcase their new STEM robots at Lights On Afterschool. Hope to see you there!
  • Cross-promote the event using other social media outlets, like Twitter and Flickr. 
  • Be sure to continue to promote Lights On Afterschool after your event and share pictures and stories. For example: Check out City Council Member Jones talking to parents at last week’s Lights On Afterschool. Thank you, Council Member Jones, for your support of afterschool.

If you have the technical capacity to upload video (i.e., a computer with Internet access and a device that records video), sign up for a free YouTube channel for you program. YouTube is a website where people can discover, watch and share videos.

  • Consider uploading videos of youth practicing their Lights On Afterschool performance in advance of the big event, parent testimonials or youth talking about what they like about afterschool.
  • After uploading the video to YouTube, email the link to parents, allies and key community leaders. 
  • If your program also has a Facebook page or Twitter account, consider linking the accounts so that when you upload a new video, it will send a tweet to your followers and alert your Facebook friends.

Flickr is a photo-sharing website. If you don’t already have a Flickr account, it’s free to set one up, or you can log in with a Google or Facebook account. Set up a Flickr page dedicated to your program or Lights On Afterschool.

  • Upload pictures of your Lights On Afterschool event in action! Make sure to capture students as they complete a science experiment, volunteers setting up for the event, and the faces of parents and community leaders watching youth perform.
  • Create a visual storybook of your event and use it throughout the year in your outreach.
  • Consider linking your Flickr account to other social media platforms – like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more.

Don’t forget to register your Lights On Afterschool event, and happy planning!

This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 13, Issue 8).

Click here to read the rest of this issue.