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The power of social: Blugold grad takes social media to education

| Denise Olson

Resiliency is one of the attributes that helps Blugold graduates chart a path for success, and one never knows when the ability to shift gears is going to come in handy.

For Andrea Gribble, 2013 was the year her life — and career — faced a crossroads. Gribble, a University Honors alumna in chemistry with a business emphasis, returned to UW-Eau Claire in 2001 to complete her MBA. Life was good for Gribble, who enjoyed a 13-year career in the corporate world, and all her hard work seemed to be paying off. Everything changed, however, in 2013 when the divorced mother of two learned her position had been eliminated. Gribble was caught on the outside looking in following a corporate downsizing.

“I had to provide for my family, and I had always dreamed of having my own business," Gribble said, describing her mindset following the abrupt change. "Seeing a need in my community, I started a consulting business with the goal of helping small business owners with social media. Once that was underway, after a conversation at church with the superintendent of my high school alma mater, I was asked to help the local schools launch social media.”

This pilot launch in the New Auburn School District opened doors to a completely new market, which Gribble chose as the new focus of her business.

“I launched a trial program with New Auburn in April of 2014. My kids attended there, my mother worked there — it was fun. I soon found out that many other schools needed help with social media, so within a year I stopped working with businesses and just focused on schools and districts,” she explained.

The resulting business, which Gribble named #SocialSchool4EDU, helps schools celebrate their students and connect with their community using social media. Not all school districts have a full-time public relations staffer, especially in rural areas, and those schools that have dedicated PR staff often find that job to be bigger than anticipated.

“Sometimes, that full-time PR person doesn’t have the time to do social media justice. That is where our team comes in. We manage social media for more than 40 schools across the country, leveraging the power of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to get the stories from inside the schools out to the world,” Gribble said.


Andrea Gribble, left, frequently conducts training sessions with new clients, like Amy Caldwell of the Chippewa Falls Area School District.

Gribble’s team of 14 remote account managers, designers and marketing specialists (including two Blugold alumni) oversee multiple client accounts while working from home. #SocialSchool4EDU receives photos and videos from an entire school staff and consistently posts them to social media sites, averaging three posts per day per client. Their service includes monitoring and managing comments 365 days a year, a consistency that gives schools peace of mind knowing experts are keeping a watchful eye on their social media platforms.

Account manager and fellow Blugold graduate Amanda Taylor is excited to be part of this growing business.

“The unique model that Andrea has created has truly been an uplifting journey. It is a wonderful thing to see communities coming together to support their schools. People get an inside look at the happenings within the district that they normally wouldn't see. We see that suddenly people start talking about their own memories from a school and amazing dialogues start happening,” Taylor said.

With the understanding that the use of social media in relation to youth and public education can be complicated, Gribble’s business maintains memberships in the state and regional education associations where their accounts are held, as well as the National School Public Relations Association.

“We currently manage 40 schools in four different states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Wyoming.  Those range from big schools like Chippewa Falls in Wisconsin and School District 622 in Minnesota (North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale) to small schools like Loyal in Wisconsin and Sheridan County District #1 in Wyoming,” Gribble said.

One of those school districts is the Hayward Community School District of northern Wisconsin, a district that had already begun to use social media before connecting with Gribble. Superintendent Craig Olson was hesitant at first to invest in a social media consultant, but soon realized the full potential of the online communication tools when they are coupled with real professional strategy and planning.

“I thought using social media would be a bonus on top of all that we are already doing. I never anticipated the difference that it was going to make,” Olson said.

“The biggest impact for us has been in the community. Parents love that we have upped our game and they are positive about the way we communicate with them. Community members who don’t have students in the school can also interact with the students in our school through social media.”

Gribble and her #SocialSchool4EDU team offer more than social media management. They provide website management services, technology training, staff coaching and outreach with the education community via speaking engagements and conferences. The business also offers many free resources — a weekly blog, a monthly free webinar, and many free guides and tools to help schools improve their social media and website traffic.

The ever-evolving landscape of social media can prove challenging, but Gribble knows that she and her team are up to the task, and prepared to grow with the industry. Gribble knows firsthand the value of resiliency, and she is committed to ensuring her company remains nimble into the future.

“My company will continue to learn, embrace, pivot, and grow so that we can continue to serve schools in a meaningful way," Gribble said. "Ultimately, social media for schools is about stories, about taking time to share those stories and interact with the community. The way we deliver our services will change, but our core mission will not. We want to help schools celebrate students and connect them with their community.”

To find out more about Gribble and #SocialSchool4EDU, see their website here.