Students react to the new JCPS Twitter strategy


Margo Morton

The Jefferson County Public Schools’ Twitter has recently gained more and more attention from the Louisville community due to tweets responding to complaints about school cancellations or using images and slang.

Justin Willis, the JCPS Publications Specialist and ‘94 Manual graduate, began coordinating the Twitter in September, though there are several people who contribute content.

“[The goal was to] increase its content, increase its followers, and increase its engagement. The fact that people are talking about it is wonderful,” Willis said.

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Some of the tweets have brought a negative reaction from students.

“I think JCPS has overstepped some boundaries of acceptable behavior by specifically calling out students in passive-aggressive way. I think they’re being immature in that way,” Delayna Shulak (12, MST) said. “There’s no reason they need to be interacting with students the way that they are. I think their actions made the situation worse and drag negative attention to themselves.”

Followers should look at the tweets through two lenses, Willis said. The first is context—looking at what JCPS is specifically responding to. The other is content—finding a “well-intentioned effort on someone’s part to give a specific message and to be clear and accessible and helpful.”

“I think it’s a constant struggle for companies and organizations to figure out the right tone and the right approach and the right content to deliver,” Willis said. “You can remove all the personality and unique quality to every message and take it to where people just don’t care. The fact that people are talking about it at all, especially students, I think that’s pretty great.”

Not everyone is critical of the account’s new approach.

“I think that their new Twitter tactic is interesting and also accomplishing what they want, which is for people to pay attention to their Twitter,” Avalon Gupta Verwiebe (11, J&C) said. “And while a lot of kids say they’re going too far, most will also agree some of the things they’ve tweeted have been funny.”

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Maggie Ising is a social media assistant at Current360, an advertising and marketing agency with shops in both Louisville and Florida. She calls the approach questionable.

“It seems that they have a big fluctuation of a voice. It’s not consistent,” Ising said. She suggested that JCPS could perhaps create a separate account made specifically to interact with students, since the current account does what she believes to be a good job on announcements and directing people to numbers and times. “I think it would make more sense to have it separated, if each one had a separate voice.”

Ising described her reaction to the account’s most popular tweet, pictured below, as a “double take.”

"It was unprecedented that students were largely the ones who decided to deliver it with retweets and favorites and comments," Willis said of this tweet.
“It was unprecedented that students were largely the ones who decided to deliver it with retweets and favorites and comments,” Willis said of this tweet.

“This message offered a friendly reminder that the next day would be cold, added some innocent humor with the figures, and—although unspoken—let students and parents/guardians know that school was on as scheduled to and prepare for it,” Willis said. 

Using the free Twitter Analytics service, Willis was able to see the total impressions of the tweet, embedded media clicks, and other factors. The full report is below.

Individual Tweets can be analyzed for their 24- and 48-hour performance through Twitter Analytics.
Individual Tweets can be analyzed for their 24- and 48-hour performance through Twitter Analytics.

Twitter Analytics can also give reports over a longer period of time. The 28-day report from Dec. 17, 2014 through Jan. 13, 2015 is below.

“New content was produced throughout the break, but engagement and general interest typically dips during that time,” Willis said. “The average will also be skewed by the existence of two-to-three days with extreme temperatures. Extreme weather is always connected with equally spiked levels of visitors, interest, and activity.”

[pull_quote_right]I find myself laughing out loud at the clever ways that students keep us all on our toes.[/pull_quote_right]Impressions: 923,900 (33,000 a day) These ranged from 1,277 organic impressions a day on Sunday, December 28, to 311,748 organic impressions on Thursday, Jan. 8.

Engagement Rate: 6 percent average. These ranged from 2.2 percent on Sunday, December 28, to 17.5 percent on Friday, Jan. 9.

Link Clicks: 5,400 total, average of 192 a day

Retweets: 1,400 total, average of 51 a day

Favorites: 1,300, average of 47 a day

Replies: 1,700, average of 60 a day

JCPS created the account in November 2010, and had 2,817 followers by January 14, 2013. A year later, that number had grown by over 300%, to 8,955. Just five months ago, the account had 15,737 followers, and now has 23,293 followers—an increase of 68%.

“Our Twitter account has more followers than all five of our peer districts. Of the top ten largest school districts in the nation, only two—New York and Houston—have larger Twitter followings,” Willis said.

JCPS is not only school district Twitter that makes a conscious effort to interact with students. According to Willis, Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina is considered by many to be the best public school district Twitter in the country.

“Students often debate their tweets and replies because some see them as having an edgy or provocative tone,” Willis said.

He encourages student response and interest in the tweets as well. [pull_quote_left]I want people to be proud of this district and want to share the good news.[/pull_quote_left]

“Myself and several others who follow district social media are consistently impressed, often in awe, and always inspired by the comments and contributions that students make,” Willis said in a follow-up email. “This especially includes dissent that is witty and clever, the use of images (thinking of the starter pack phenomenon), and memes. I find myself laughing out loud at the clever ways that students keep us all on our toes.”

As far as negative student response goes, users are rarely blocked. In the first four years of the Twitter, Willis recalls only three people being blocked.

“The main reason that people became blocked was that they were using f-bombs and tagging our district’s handle. F-bombs and other crude, racist, sexist, etc., language are intellectually lazy and shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s searchable content,” Willis said.

Looking into the future, Willis wants to continue the upward trend of engagement by including more stories highlighting JCPS students and directly communicating with students, parents, and teachers. He has created JCPS Instagram and Vine accounts as well, but they’re just there as placeholders until the district decides if and how it wants to use them.

“I’m not trying to just turn it into a numbers game, but I really want to increase engagement. I want people to be proud of this district and want to share the good news,” Willis said.