Association Social Media: International Reading Association

In this series of interviews of Association Social Media Managers, you’ll be able to compare notes on what all of these fab organizations are doing with their social media management – from how they organize the roles and responsibilities, to how they manage content flow through the organization and out to social, to what campaigns they…

In this series of interviews of Association Social Media Managers, you’ll be able to compare notes on what all of these fab organizations are doing with their social media management – from how they organize the roles and responsibilities, to how they manage content flow through the organization and out to social, to what campaigns they tried, to how they see the future of association social media.  


 Next up in our interview series, Jayme Gravell, social media strategist at the International Reading Association (IRA). Welcome!

1) First things first –  in what department in your organization does your role sit?  Who do you report to? 

The social media strategist is part of the recently merged marketing and communications team. I report to IRA’s communications manager.

2) Describe your social/digital “ecosystem” – what social media sites do you (or the org as a whole) manage? Are they interlinked in specific ways? How do you decide what content to post where? Do they have different audiences?

IRA has an active presence on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and Google+ daily. We also use InstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn whenever possible, and Storify to archive our monthly Twitter chats. We’ll often share the same piece of content on multiple sites, but at different times or in different ways.

We post more frequently on Twitter than anything else. We have the ability to promote other organizations or authors using Twitter and can share sillier content like BuzzFeed articles or Weird Al music videos. Facebook we post two to three times a day, usually linking to an article from Reading Today Onlinethat published that day or a new member benefit becoming available.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for what we’ll post where, but we do know that anything tech gets a lot of play on Google+. Roundup posts, like the weekly children’s book reviews we publish on our blog, are really popular on Twitter and Facebook. Position papers do well on LinkedIn. It really is a matter of knowing who is following you on what channel and crafting the content and message accordingly.

Our sites are not interlinked, per se, but the artwork is consistent on all of our channels so we remain easily recognizable to our followers. We customize them based on campaigns, products, or upcoming events.

3) Can you describe the internal collaboration workflow with other areas of the association (e.g. are you part of a team that meets on a regular basis)? How do you manage content flow? How do you manage monitoring and responding across the organization?

Before our team merged with marketing, we met regularly to align strategies. Each quarter, we’d do a half-day planning session for the products, projects, and events that were coming up to make sure we were hitting them from all angles.

For example, when The Writing Thief by Ruth Culham was published, the marketing team sent out targeted e-blasts, purchased external ads, and ran house ads in our journals and publications. On the social media side, we invited Ruth to be a guest expert at a Twitter chat (#IRAchat is held the second Thursday of each month, from 8 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. ET). We created a book-specific Pinterest board. And on October 28, we offered our first Google Hangout on Air with Ruth and four children’s book authors.

Our educational resources team sends around a monthly “pipeline” report detailing when all of the new books, e-books, IRA Essentials articles, and IRA Bridges lesson plans are coming out, not just that month but for a year or more ahead. And there’s a crossfunctional team that meets quarterly to align content across all channels. Social media is only one piece of that.

We have a moderate-sized staff—currently, there are 67 of us in the organization—and I get to work pretty closely with at least half of the people who work here, spanning eight different departments. That’s one of the cool things about social media; it touches almost everything.

4) Describe a typical day for you – and any favorite tools you use regularly for anything related to social media.

Fortunately and unfortunately, the world of social media is one that doesn’t slow down. It’s important for me to stay on top of the trending topics and the individuals making headlines while also meeting the expectations of the organization and its members.

The first thing I do in the morning is check for notifications and see if there are messages or comments that need to be addressed. Following that, I compose and schedule posts for any material that IRA has published. The communications team has a “daily huddle” every morning where we discuss  our goals for the day and ask for and offer help. It’s a short, 15 minute meeting, but some days that’s the only face time we get with one another and it is very helpful for everyone involved.

The duration of my day is spent monitoring our pages and sharing content across all of our channels. We use Hootsuite to track specific hashtags and mentions. And, as I mentioned, we use Storify to archive our Twitter chats, but I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite tool (more like the bane of our existence).

At the end of the day, I try to unplug, but continue to check my email and look for notifications. I began my communications career in the Governor’s Office, where things usually needed immediate attention. The ability to shut my computer off at the end of the day is a welcomed culture shift, but I often catch myself checking my iPad on commercial breaks. Old habits die hard!

5) Is community management (group moderation) part of your responsibilities? Please describe those activities.

There’s an IRA discussion group on LinkedIn that was started by a member who then turned the admin of it over to us. I monitor that and approve posts, but it’s a self-sustaining community. I run our monthly #IRAchats, but my role is less moderator than facilitator.

6) Have you done any social media campaigns?  Can you share any success stories (or lessons learned)?

A few. The past two years we’ve launched a campaign around International Literacy Day. Last year, we worked with Sony Pictures on the release of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Our campaign included giving away copies of the book that inspired the movie (courtesy of Simon and Schuster) and some movie swag. We also ran a contest that called for participants to submit videos of what they did to celebrate ILD and how they showcased the theme “Invent Your Future.” Winners received a Sony Xperia tablet. We didn’t get nearly as many entries as we’d hoped, but we saw a good deal of chatter on social media.

This year, we worked with NASA on a “Lift Off to Literacy” campaign. There was talk of another video-driven contest, but in the end we decided to nix it. Our bread-and-butter audience is comprised mostly of classroom teachers, who already have way too much on their plates. So instead of requiring them to produce something, we made this year’s content more passive. It was tied to our activity kit; anyone who registered for the kit was automatically entered to win a prize pack from NASA. More than 10,000 people registered prior to the event. Even better, we now have their email addresses on file for when we launch next year’s campaign.

The second (and larger) component of the campaign was asking teachers to commit to adding an extra 60 seconds of literacy-focused activities in their classroom for 60 days. We asked them to share photos, videos, and stories about what their students were doing using the hashtag #ILD14. We’ve gotten excellent results! One of our most active educators, Allison Hogan, just detailed her experiences for our blog. Staff accepted the challenge too! You can read more about that here and here.

Recently, a Facebook post of ours went viral. It was a link to a story on our blog, “Should We Be Teaching 100 Sight Words to Kindergartners?” Within 24 hours, it reached 119,000. In less than a week, it reached a quarter of a million people. And not just the post! Nearly 30,000 people clicked on the story and stayed on the page longer than four minutes. Plus, we got 81 comments, 677 likes, and most importantly, 1,314 shares. [Screenshot below]

Keep in mind that nearly 100% of our engagement is organic. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve paid to promote on Facebook, and it’s usually in conjunction with our annual conference—and we’ve never spent more than $50 in one shot. I think it’s a testament to the power of strong content that we haven’t seen the kind of dips that other nonprofits are struggling with on that channel.

7) What’s the hardest part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is keeping up with the number of products IRA produces. The organization has so many resources, activities, and lessons to share with its members, and I want to make sure they all get the coverage they deserve!

8) Give us a glimpse into the future. If budget and resources were no object, what would you love to see in terms of your association’s social media presence in 3 years?

Definitely I would do more with video. I’m working on putting together a budget for some of the equipment we need to do video the right way. Nothing too fancy, but things that would give us a more polished final product than the iPad I’ve been using to shoot footage. And if money was no object, I’d love to hire an additional staff member to work on these videos, because videos take a LOT of time and I’m already stretched pretty thin.

One thing I would like to see is for us to showcase more of the incredible work being done by our staff and affiliates across the globe. People who advocate for literacy and provide professional development to literacy educators in places like Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, and Bangladesh. I’m thinking a playlist on our YouTube channel specifically dedicated to documenting projects overseas could help share the work they’re doing with a wider audience, and truly demonstrate the impact they have on the communities in which they’re working.

Thanks so much!  Got questions for Jayme?  You can reach her at or @IRAToday.

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