September 30, 2009 / It's Worth It

Forest Hills Central staff wings it on Facebook

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

When the Profiles yearbook staff from Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, Mich., began brainstorming ways they could spread awareness about the yearbook last year, it didn’t take long for them to turn to the social networking website that the majority of their students had begun to call their online home.

“It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that the school was almost obsessed with Facebook,” said adviser Rick Lanning.

Unfortunately, at the time, the school blocked access to social networking sites such as Facebook on their network, which meant Lanning and the students had to wing it – literally.

“Me and a few of the guys on staff just met at Buffalo Wild Wings after school one day with a laptop,” said Lanning. “We sat in a booth, ate wings and set up our Facebook page. It was really pretty fun.”

The Facebook group for the Profiles yearbook opened up a ton of promotional possibilities for the Forest Hills Central staff. In their first year, with a school population of around 1,350, they were able to attract almost 800 members to the group. In turn, they were able to send regular bulletins to the members, reminding people about order deadlines and other updates about the book.

Forest Hills HS facebookIn addition, at every deadline the staff would post photos on the page, basically serving as a sneak preview of the book.

“The staff really enjoyed it,” said Lanning. “It kind of became a game. At every deadline, a different staff member would pick their favorite photo to put up.”

Lanning said it would be hard to gauge exactly how much of a bump the Facebook presence can bring to yearbook sales at a school. At Forest Hills Central, the yearbook typically gets a buy rate as high as 90%, so sales haven’t been a big problem. But he sees Facebook being a valuable tool for reaching out to the yearbook’s audience.

“Whatever way you can find to reach out to students can never hurt,” said Lanning.

Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is a Web Content Specialist for walsworthyearbooks.com and yearbookhelp.com, as well as a regular contributor to Idea File magazine. He's been a writer and editor for Walsworth Yearbooks for the past 13 years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.