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As Scholastic was preparing to celebrate their 100th anniversary, Director of Social Media and Special Projects Bridget Benjamin said their social media team wanted to launch a special campaign that would encapsulate the brand’s mission to provide stories and information that help children understand current events and contemporary issues.

“We’ve always taken this fearless approach to our content,” said Bridget. “We started thinking about how parents need to talk about worrisome topics with their kids, especially right now.”

They decided to develop an Instagram channel specifically dedicated to helping parents and teachers have these tough conversations: Scholastic Bookshelf.

“We found that 61 percent of parents and teachers often use stories, books, and articles to navigate tough conversations, and roughly three in four millennial parents turn to social media for parenting advice,” said Bridget. “We thought something like the Scholastic Bookshelf channel would help us meet our audience where they are and would be a great opportunity to display beautiful artwork and enriching stories.”

The channel itself is designed to look like a bookshelf, with each post representing a book dealing with a specific topic — like friendship, anxiety, the first day of school, fake news, bullying, civil rights, and the environment. Each post includes an excerpt from a book or Scholastic classroom magazine that would address how parents or teachers can talk to their children about this issue.

According to Bridget, developing and executing this campaign required a lot of research.

From 2019 to the end of the summer 2020 when the campaign officially launched, Bridget said they were working through their research process and planning out what their owned, earned, and paid social media strategy would look like.

They identified the topics they wanted to include through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, including consumer insights, focus groups across multiple Scholastic sectors, a survey of parents and teachers, social listening, and insights from their book clubs, book fairs, classroom magazine, and trade departments. Then they went through their story archive to make sure they had a good range of stories and articles to pair with those topics.

“Those steps helped us hone in on the topics that were top of mind with our audiences,” said Bridget. “Then, the insights we got on social especially helped us contextualize and dig into the emotions, interests, and experiences with each.”

Bridget and her team worked closely with several internal teams at Scholastic, as well as their external agency, to bring this campaign to life.

“My corporate communications team worked closely to create a high-level strategy and what the channel would look like in partnership with our external agency,” she said. “We worked closely with every department across the organization to focus our efforts on the topics and the stories we had to pair with them. It was a One Scholastic effort.”

When it came time to launch the channel, Bridget said they leveraged all of Scholastic’s social and digital channels to get the word out.

“Across Scholastic, we have multiple handles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn that helped drive our 10-million followers to the Scholastic Bookshelf channel,” she said. “At any given time, our channels are sharing topics from the Scholastic Bookshelf that are timely and relevant and always driving back to the Scholastic Bookshelf Instagram account.”

They also spread the word across their blogs, newsletters, and email campaigns. They received coverage in key millennial and parenting media that reached their target audience in national outlets like Essence and Romper and via local outlets like News 12 Brooklyn and WBTV.

Another instrumental component in their rollout strategy was their 18 influencers, who shared the channel with their own followers.

According to Bridget, those influencers put out a total of 75 pieces of content sharing their stories and the topics they’re speaking about with their own children — driving their audiences to the Scholastic Bookshelf channel in the process. Together, they earned 14-million impressions and more than 80K engagements, with an average engagement rate of 6.74 percent.

“People sometimes have different philosophies on the power of influencers,” said Bridget. “But this has definitely shown us the value they can bring. They have been excellent partners in helping to get this channel into the hands of those parents and teachers that really need access to them.”

By the end of the two-month campaign launch, Bridget said the channel gained over 11,000 followers and received a lot of positive feedback from their key audiences.

Bridget emphasized that community management and getting real-time feedback was important for her team when they were looking to track the success of this campaign — and the feedback they’ve received has emphasized that Scholastic Bookshelf is a helpful and much-needed resource.

She also said their topic posts continue to be “saved” by their followers — indicating parents and teachers intend to continue using the channel as a resource. Bridget and her team also plan to continue sharing timely topics and providing digestible resources and conversation starters that help children understand the world around them.

So far, the channel has 11.4K followers — 78 percent of whom are between the ages of 24 and 44.

The posts have also received 5K engagements, with their most popular topics being diversity, abuse, first day of school, addiction, anxiety, adoption, civil rights, reading, allergies, and anger.

Because the topics covered in Scholastic Bookshelf are evergreen issues that parents can constantly share with their children, Bridget and her team plan to continue promoting them in the months and years to come.

According to Bridget, this channel emphasizes the importance of building something around the power of stories and storytelling.

“Since 1920, we’ve tried to understand what matters most in a child’s life and provide them with powerful stories and information that supports that learning journey,” she said. “We’ve evolved as our world evolved, and now we’re finding more avenues to meet parents and teachers where they are, which in this case is Instagram.”

For other social media leaders who might be interested in launching a similar campaign, Bridget advised knowing exactly who your audience is and what your objectives are before you get started.

“We knew we wanted to reach parents and teachers, we knew that audience was on social media, and we knew we wanted to provide stories that might be able to engage kids during this challenging time,” she said.

“So, I would tell any social media manager to have your goals, your audience, and your objectives in mind. Then, figure out who the stakeholders are that can help make the decisions and how you can work across your company to achieve something really phenomenal. When you have a clear plan and you have the right stakeholders in the room, you can accomplish a powerful campaign.”