February 5, 2010 / Marketing

Yearbook staffs using Facebook to reach audience

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

Looking for ways to generate sales and spread awareness of their product, many yearbook staffs are starting to turn to the expanding world of Facebook. For some, the social networking website is becoming a fertile ground for marketing directly to their students.

As the school year was getting near its halfway point a couple months ago, Sherwood High School yearbook adviser Lori Leonard was starting to grow concerned. The Maryland school’s order numbers were down, and the staff began scrambling for ideas to generate a buzz.

They took a shot at creating a Fan Page on Facebook to promote the yearbook, and immediately set out gathering as many fans in their school as possible.

“All the kids posted about the page in their status updates, and sent invites to all their friends,” said Leonard. “We got 500 fans right away in that first week.”

As Leonard puts it, the staff has been “blasting” on the Fan Page with yearbook messages frequently, and positive results are starting to show. While careful to admit not all new sales can be tied directly to Facebook, Leonard said Sherwood has added around 250 new orders in just over a month and the Fan Page has most certainly helped.

“The best part was that now (students) were getting a reminder about the yearbook right there, when they’re at the house with their parents,” said Leonard. “Instead of a reminder at school, which they’re going to forget, now we’re hitting them at home.”

The yearbook staff at Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, Mich., has maintained a Facebook Fan Page for the last two years. According to adviser Rick Lanning, the reasoning has been simple – they’re reaching out to the students to talk about yearbook in a spot where they can be found.

“It’s about spreading awareness and promotion,” said Lanning. “We’re able to send out bulletins reminding people about deadlines and getting people to purchase.”

The Forest Hills staff has also used Facebook as a fun way to provide sneak peeks of the upcoming book, posting the occasional photo or spread from the yearbook on their Fan Page Wall.

Bethany Drobeck, the yearbook adviser at Winnetonka High School in Kansas City, Mo., said her yearbook staff created a Facebook Fan Page this year for the first time as a way to spread the word about yearbook distribution in August. Since then, the role of the page has grown and the staff now routinely posts updates and photo albums.

“I was just looking for another way to communicate to students and Facebook made sense,” said Drobeck. “We could even be doing so much more than we are, and we’re going to in the future. We’re going to have more interaction, asking for story ideas and things like that.”

For its part, Walsworth has been providing assistance to schools this year in getting their social media efforts off the ground with the e-book, Promoting Your Yearbook in the Facebook Era.

The quick-start guide shows yearbook staffs how to set up a Fan Page for their school yearbook project and provides some insight into the value of getting – and keeping – the whole school informed about the yearbook and its progress.

“Facebook Fan Pages are the best place online for yearbooks staffs to generate and maintain a buzz about the yearbook within their school community,” said Brennan Burger, relationship marketing specialist with Walsworth. “Most students, parents, faculty, yearbook staffers are already on Facebook, so this provides a convenient way for them to ‘Become a Fan’ and follow the yearbook through the entire year.”

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.