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The DonorsChoose.org Teacher’s Guide to Social Media

As part of the Teacher Success team here, I’m always looking for new ways to help teachers spread the word about their projects. Recently, I sat down with Eric Vilas-Boas, DonorsChoose.org’s own social media guru, to get some tips about how teachers can use social media to their advantage.

Teachers—like everyone else—use social media to connect with each other, but we’ve seen some of our most successful teachers use it to fundraise as well. What do you think makes social media an effective way for teachers to share their DonorsChoose.org projects?
One thing that I like about Twitter and Facebook—why I use them and why I love seeing teachers use them—is that they help you connect to an entire world that you otherwise wouldn’t get to experience. They link people together, so a potential donor can hear about a project whether they know you personally or not.
Have you noticed any particular teachers who use social media well?
We’ve seen a lot of teachers make really, really fun use of imagery. We’ve seen classroom photos and lesson ideas, and some teachers even make fun videos. Obviously, if you’re going to use images of students, you need to make sure you have permission, but classroom photos and videos—showing how your teaching is contributing to students’ development—is really, really powerful and speaks to potential donors in a very real way.
Some teachers tap into current events too. For example, we’ve seen teachers post about how people can support classrooms in Flint, Michigan. Others have taken a lighthearted approach: One of the coolest project posts I’ve seen were these Star Wars photos, which we saw a lot more of when The Force Awakens came out. 
Expert teacher fundraisers really use their project lifecycle to their advantage, and let the world know if their request is about to expire or if it’s close to the finish line. Sometimes a donor might think, “The project costs too much. I can’t help.” It’s a very powerful thing when a—for example—a teacher can say, “We just need $25!” or “Even if it’s $1, please donate.” It removes some of that friction and creates urgency.
To say that teachers are busy is a huge understatement. How can they get the most “bang for their buck” without spending the whole day online? 
Keep in mind what hours of the day people are going to be watching their feeds, and try to post when people aren’t quite as busy. Early to mid-afternoon hours are peak times for posting. Evenings are great as well.
A lot of teachers, when they post a project, take advantage of our partner funding opportunities. Do you have any advice for teachers who want to give a social shout out to a partner?
It’s always a nice thing for a partner who has generously contributed to projects to see the impact their gift has made. So definitely tweet a nice note to them with the right handle and hashtag! That way we see it and our partners see the love too.
Also, I would say—and this applies to all your posts—that on social media, it always helps to show that you’re human. Include photos of your supplies, tell the partner how the project has made a difference, show the love!
What about reaching out to a partner with questions about a project that hasn’t been funded yet? 
Every once in awhile I do see that happen, and I have to say: it’s always best to go directly through us. Partners aren’t really set up on their social media channels to deal with that. At DonorsChoose.org we have a great process in place through our teacher relations team and our help center to field any requests or concerns you may have. Our own site is definitely the hub for that type of thing. 
Let’s talk a little bit more about gratitude, which is a huge part of DonorsChoose.org experience for teachers, donors, and staff.  For teachers, gratitude can help build momentum for their next project.
Yes, absolutely! Shout out your donors for sure. Anytime you have handwritten student thank-you notes, take photos of them before you send them out.  You can use the awesome imagery to shout out the people who gave to a current or past project. It’s a cool, powerful, and—most importantly—very genuine act to share gratitude. 
Thank you so much for chatting today, Eric. You’ve shared some awesome tips. If a teacher reads this and only remembers one thing, what should they take from it?
Put a personal touch on your posts. That will help your post—and any project you mention—reach a wider audience.
Is there anything else teachers should know about using social media effectively?
I would say use it more! It’s a lot of fun. We always love to “like” Facebook posts and retweet selected teacher tweets every day for our DonorsChoose.org accounts. So definitely tweet at us, or say hi on Facebook, and let us know what you’re up to in the classroom!
People love stories, and teachers have some of most compelling ones. That’s really what social media channels are best for, I think—connecting us to each other’s stories. That’s what a great classroom project does, and that’s what social media can do too.
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Download fun (and free!) shareable images to use on social.
Have a question for Eric? Ask him in comments!

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