Help Focus Your Social Media Accounts By Knowing Who Your Audience Is

How social media can be a lifeline for students

In 2013 our Ritenour High School journalism department was rethinking our curriculum and had created a committee that held several major players from across the district: teachers, district communication members, professionals, and school administrators. Purpose became confusing and often overloaded with ideas. It took a casual statement from Francis Howell North sponsor Aaron Manful to help me really sift through the ideals to understand what was important. 

“Who is your audience?”

What a simple idea but one that has really stuck with me. It also helped me as I work through how our business of journalism evolves. Social media has been a key component to reach our audience and it has seemed ever evolving in it’s options and appearance.

Ron Steinschreiber is the Ritenour print teacher for “The Pepperbox” while I am the broadcast instructor for KRHS Radio and TV News. This is a constant conversation we have, might I say conflict, on differing opinions on how we reach our audience. That is why I feel you need to ground yourself in your thinking of who you are creating messages for and where that belongs based on that audience. 

Two years ago we began to evaluate our numbers within our department’s multiple media. This helped to understand who we were reaching. Here is what we realized about our audiences:

  • Print newspaper: students and staff in building
  • Facebook: staff and community
  • Website: contest and school district
  • Twitter: other school districts, district administration, other districts or professional organizations
  • Instagram: students both high school and middle school

“Who is your audience?”  

As a team, we begin each year setting up goals for the year. Goal setting should reinforce what is important to that team so that your guiding principles can be reflected in the work students are creating. Our team believed students were our audience and knowing that we began to think of what Instagram would look like that would reflect that for them. 

A mixture of news and “fluff,” or fun videos, would be the core of our social media. It is mixed in with school messages that are important to students. Our views for our videos rate from average of 300 up to 1000 per week. 

Programming includes:

  • Ritenour Roundup – weekly top news in 1 minute 
  • Huskies Sports Zone – weekly sports update
  • Contests – often the most engaging way for students to get involved including best shoe contest while working with other organizations to give away free tickets to dances, sports games
  • Storytelling – interviews with stories on a topic, like “You Don’t Know My Story” which is our version of Humans of Ritenour, using both audio, video and photo
  • Photo Galleries – Homecoming and Prom dances is our biggest draw of likes

Recently, it took some major events to see the importance of what we have created for our student body. We have been the go to for major announcements regarding quarantine. Our administrators have turned to us weekly to ask, “what will you be creating this week to help everyone through this?”  When graduation and prom was cancelled it became a place for students to grieve together with mostly anger and sadness. While the instinct was to turn off commenting I remember that this was a place for them. It needed to be a place for them to communicate outloud and feel some power of what is happening. 

If your audience is students, maybe team building with your staff about what messages and media would look like to build your audience so the students know that this social media belongs to them. So when it comes time they have resources that help them through these times, which includes laughing, crying and celebrating as a school.

You can follow us at @KRHSmedia on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and our website Ritenourlive.org

Jane Bannester

Jane Bannester teaches at Ritenour High School in St. Louis, MO. Bannester leads the nationally, award-winning Media program, KRHS Media. Jane works with KRHS 90.1 FM, a FCC low-power, non-commercial FM radio station, the oldest in Missouri in a high school. Bannester has been recognized as the Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year, EdSurge Top Journalism Innovative Educator, and a JEA Distinguished Broadcast Teacher. She is a regular speaker on topics of Audio and Video nationally.

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