Have corporations learned how to make social media work for them yet? Well......
Last week we noted that Jeb Bush's FEE (Foundation for Excellence in Education) and the Higher States Standards Partnership (a group funded by the US Chamber of Commerce and a few others well explained here by Erin Osborne) were launching a shiny new Common Core promotional blitz. (And by "shiny" I mean "shiny in the same way that artificial turf is shiny.")
And somebody in the launching team apparently said, "Hey, let us use some of the social media that I hear is very hip these days. The social media with the viral things-- we should use some of that, because I hear it is big with the young persons. (Also, with the rap music.)"
To anchor this blitz-ish like sort-of onslaught, the marketing team deployed four teachers as the face of "Learn More. Go Further." The four include a Florida DOE teacher ambassador (and previous virtual school instructor), two charter school teachers, and a pubic school reading specialist recently promoted to assistant principal. Beyond the obvious non-public-school slant, there's the more subtle slant involved in choosing four ladies; no secondary man teachers. The designers of the program did select one apparently-Latina lady; the other three are looking mighty white. I'm not suggesting any of these choices reveal nefarious purposes, but given that they had to be deliberate marketing choices, I find them.... interesting.
More puzzling is the fact that the four ladies resemble each other pretty closely in physical type. Some people have made observations about the type, and I want to be clear that using a woman's body type as a basis for criticizing her is just unacceptable uber-jerk behavior, and those people need to either grow up or shut up. But regardless of what configuration we're talking about, these four women look very much the same. I'm reduced to telling them apart by hair style. If four women look like each other, I don't see that as a sign of dark conspiracy-- but this is somebody's deliberate choice, and the messaging was supposed to be, "Look-- a wide variety of teachers support Common Core," then somebody failed.
At any rate. LMGF has set these four up with their own twitter accounts, because, you know, the social media. I've been following their progress. Let's see how they're doing.
@USTeacherFaye first tweeted in March 15. She has 33 tweets as I type this and each one is a promotional comment. Here's a typical tweet:
My passion for kids is what inspired me to be a teacher. My passion for their success is why I support Common Core: http://bit.ly/1fMIS5g
I can call this "typical" because she has actually tweeted it twice. Ditto for "Students face so many challenges. Academic standards shouldn't be one of them. Support Common Core." She usually tweets once or twice a day, but not on weekends. She has three re-tweets (two from LMGF and one from a Tom Greene at AEI). She has not once tweeted at anyone else, and she has not responded to any of the tweets directed at her, which seem to cover a wide range of Core-related crankiness.
@USTeacherRian lists herself as a government and economics teacher. Her first tweet is also March 15. She has 36 tweets and two retweets (one from LMGF and one from USTeacherFaye inviting people to follow the four spokesladies). She is also a one-or-two-a-weekday tweetress, but she was feeling feisty on April 2nd and responded to two critical tweets (CCSS is not a curriculum, y'all).
@USTeacherBeth is "excited to help more students go further to college and great careers." 33 tweets since March 15. I'll confess that I love Teacher Beth best of all. For one thing, she actually took a break from posting advertising copy with links to throw in an Emerson quote (“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.”). For another, she has a whopping five posts in reply to others, and one of them is to me. I'd tweeted a variety of more substantive challenges to the ladies and was becoming sad at the lack of response, so I tweeted to all four that I was beginning to suspect that they were bots, or paid interns. Awesomely, Teacher Beth tweeted me the following reply:
So now I have a huge twitcrush on her and her minimalist post-modern sniptweeting.
@USTeacherAngela is the group slacker. With a mere 20 tweets, I think we can agree she's just not trying very hard. No tweets addressed to anyone, no responses to her critics. Come on, Teacher Angela. Step up your game.
Now, I said I'd get back to the ladies' critics, because I think there's important information to be gleaned there.
See, these four accounts are being promoted, as is the initiative and the ads that go with it. If like me you visit some of these materials, you'll start seeing links for LMGF fill your browser ad spaces, and the four ladies will be appearing regularly as promoted twitter feeds. Online marketing allows very carefully directed marketing-- so can we guess at whom FEE and HSSP are aiming themselves?
There are two types of criticism aimed at the ladies. One is from teachers; in many cases, specifically BATS. I suspect that has something to do with some posting I did on the BATs facebook page. But listen to some of the other posts:
"You are communist dupes" (seriously-- I'm not making this up)
"Fell [sic] free to be interviewed by someone like @GerriWillisFBN from @FoxBusiness otherwise this is just propaganda."
"#CommonCore is more engaging & focuses on the Gov. Master. That's why progressives and unions support it."
So, boys and girls, using our context clues, which audience seems to have been the recipient of LMGF's media attention? If you're guessing "conservatives," I'm with you. The freshly scrubbed friendly (mostly) white ladies (who are US teachers!) and an American flag-quoting logo are beginning to suggest to me that Learn More. Go Further is not really concerned with selling CCSS to everybody, but is mostly about trying, again, to get conservatives on board with the Core. After a close reading of the four twitter accounts, I'm concluding two things:
1) The folks behind this think that once you set up a twitter account and pay to promote it, buzz just sport of magically appears, even if you don't really do anything with it or engage anybody.
2) Jeb Bush is really worried that hard right conservatives will kneecap his White House dreams if he doesn't somehow get them to drink the CCSS Koolaid.
Judging from much of what the conservative press are writing (like this recent Michelle Malkin piece), these four ladies and the massive well-funded media machine they are stapled to the front of-- well, they've all got their work cut out for them.
[Update: The folks at Integrity in Education directed my attention to the fact that the women have EIGHT accounts-- each has one as a USTeacher and one as FLTeacher. Not a surprise as many aspects of the initiative still have FL pieces stuck from when this Florida specific program was scaled up to national level.
The FLTeacher accounts are pretty much the same story-- same time frame, same style of tweets, though a bit more chatty tone. Oddest difference-- the FL accounts give the ladies last names.
So my apologies for missing that part of the story. I'll do better faux journalism in the future.]