Social media has become an essential way for AFS-USA to connect with partner countries, distribute information, recruit new AFSers, and celebrate our community on the national level - and Area Teams should be no different! In this article, you will find instructions, tips & tricks, support, and sample posts to get you started on social media platforms. Many of our Area Teams utilize social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook for a variety of reasons, such as:
1. Sharing photos and videos of the team's activities, such as arrivals, orientations, group outings, and accomplishments.
2. Highlighting AFS-USA community members such as hosted students, returnees, and volunteers
3. Recruiting new students, volunteers, and host families through promoting AFS and posting potential student bios
4. Providing an opportunity for alumni or returnees in the area to stay connected with their community.
We encourage all Area Teams with volunteer capacity to create social media profiles to stay connected with the AFS family and extend our reach to people in your community! Click here to find more information about other Area Teams, such as their websites and social media profiles, as well as a Workplace group for all marketing volunteers. Make sure to review the AFS-USA Social Media Guidelines section in this article prior to posting.
Social Media 101 Training
As a part of AFS-USA's monthly Marketing Webinar Series, we will be providing training specific to establishing, managing, and creating content for social media profiles, as well as tips and tricks that have worked for both national and local engagement. Please stay tuned to MyAFS News for information on when this webinar will be held, and check back here for the posted webinar recording and accompanying presentation.
Starting Your Team's Social Media Accounts
Please see the links below for detailed instructions on how to start your team's social media profiles:
How to create a group
How to optimize a post
How to share a post
How to create an event
Some Hosting Focused Tips:
- Photo posts with captions are generally more popular than plain-text posts. Similar to Instagram, people love authentic photos. AFS activity photos in your area work well for this purpose.
- A strong caption is personal and direct and relates to the photo. Sometimes putting a keyword in CAPS draws the reader’s eye. Here’s an example: “The Grover family LOVED hosting their Japanese student Hikaru. Want to become a global family? Meet the AFS students coming to our area by clicking here: afsusa.org/host-family/meet-students”
- Or, click on one or more of these links below, and press “Share” at the bottom of the image. Then copy and paste one of the messages listed below, and hit “post.” Your Facebook network will see your message on top, and the original post below it. Often, we try to highlight a benefit of hosting or something that makes AFS unique.
- https://www.facebook.com/AFSUSA/videos/1645408565512756/ (hosting)
- https://www.facebook.com/AFSUSA/posts/1745956582124620 (study abroad)
- “I’m a volunteer with AFS, and love working with exchange students and discovering new cultures. Want to learn more? We’re looking for great host families in our area this fall. Click here to see our students: www.afsusa.org/host-family/meet-students"
- “I’m a trained local volunteer. I support local AFS host families and their exchange students during the year. I see the positive difference hosting makes in my community, and that’s why I do it. Have you thought about hosting? Click here to see our students: www.afsusa.org/host-family/meet-students”
- "Broaden your horizons by hosting an exchange student for 6-12 weeks. To learn more, click the photo below or contact me at [email]."
How to Open an Account
How to Post
Some Hosting focused tips:
- In your Instagram account settings, there is a small line where you can write a short description or “bio” of yourself. If you want, put the link www.afsusa.org/host in it. That way, you can post an AFS photo and in the caption of the photo you can write “Link in Bio.” People usually know what that means. People do this because web-links do not work within a photo’s caption or a comment.
- A good practice is to post a photo of a local AFS activity, and describe what’s happening in the caption, and if you reference hosting an AFS exchange student, or meeting students, you can say “Link in Bio.” Post the photo, then use hashtags in a comment (not in the main caption).
- As mentioned above, the best way to use hashtags on Instagram is to post your photo and caption first, and then make a comment on your own photo. In that comment, you can use as many hashtags as you want. We recommend a combination of AFS hashtags and generic ones that relate to our work, such as #afseffect #afslife #travel #goabroad #study #intercultural #myafs #afsusa #exchangestudent #foreignstudent
- Lastly, you can download a free separate app called “Regram” (there are lots of others, too), which allows you to re-post other photos. If you follow the AFS-USA Instagram account (@afs_usa), you can then re-gram our photos from your own personal account.
How to Open an Account
How to Post
Twitter communication is short and direct. Here are some hosting focused sample messages that you can share:
- Have a life-changing experience in your own home. Host an AFS Exchange Student. Visit www.afsusa.org/host for more info.
- AFS welcomes exchange students from around the world in August/September; info about becoming a host family is available at www.afsusa.org/host
- Think global, host local. Become a global family with an AFS exchange student. For info: www.afsusa.org/host
To directly reach out to someone, you can tweet AT someone. Here’s an example: “@AFS-USA we can’t wait to meet our new students in Montana! #afseffect” You can also re-tweet someone else’s tweet, and add your own twist. Don’t use more than one hashtag per message.
How to create a Geofilter for an event:
- Access a website that is trusted to make Snapchat filters and Geotags. Click here for an example.
- Pick between a lens or a filter (a filter is a design for the entire image).
- If you choose filter: You will be taken to the design tab. On the left, you can pick from what type of pre-made filter you want based on category. You can also upload your own design. An example will be generated.
- Three sections will appear on the right: “color”, “text” and “elements”. Color changes the color of the filter itself. Text allows you to add text. You can change the color and font of the text in the "text" section. Elements allow you to put bitmojis on the filter (you must sign in to do this).
- Once you’re done designing your lens or filter you go to the dates section at the top. This is where you select what days your design will run for. You pay based on how long it will run. They have various plan options, so make sure you look around this page for the deal that best fits your needs.
- Next, visit the “location” section. This is where you decide where to put your filter, thus making it a Geofilter. You must select the geographical area you would like your filter to show up in.
- Lastly, you will click the checkout button and finalize your purchase.
Submit an Article to MyAFS News
Do you have a great story or announcement you would like to share with AFS volunteers and staff? Submit an Article to be published in MyAFS News!
AFS-USA Social Media Guidelines
The following are general guidelines for optimizing AFS-USA's social media efforts and ensuring that they accurately represent the organization:
Be Our Friend
Please engage with our official AFS-USA accounts on social media as much as possible. This means "liking" us, sharing posts, commenting on posts, etc.
Share Our Existing Content, Rather Than Creating Your Own
The official AFS-USA profiles should serve as the primary social media voices of the organization. All content posted from the official AFS-USA profiles has been carefully crafted to ensure brand consistency and compliance, so we encourage you to share this content as is. It's okay to append your own unique message, but the less our original posts are altered the better.
Connect With Other Area Teams on Social Media
Many of our Area Teams utilize social media to engage with their community, highlight students from their team, and promote AFS. If you manage social media profiles for your Area Team, we encourage you to follow other Area Team pages, share their content, and connect with them on collaborative projects and initiatives. The more our community connects, the more we can continue to spread our mission of fostering intercultural connections.
Share Your Area Team's Unique AFS experience
- Q: When is it good to create new posts about AFS?
- A: When you are sharing something specifically related to your own AFS experience, or that of your Area Team.
- E.g. "It's off to Montgomery Central HS for an AFS table during the lunch periods in search of students to go abroad and new host families for the fall. Wish us luck!"
- Q: What kind of content should we share on our Area Team pages?
- A: Your content can focus on:
1.) Highlighting your Area Team and its students, such as posting photos of volunteer events, student highlights, and active moments such as arrivals and orientation
2.) Promoting AFS by providing information about hosting, studying abroad, or volunteering
3.) Allowing a student from your area to "takeover" your social media profile to talk about their experience. This is a very popular method of engagement often utilized on the AFS-USA Instagram account - see example highlights on our official IG account at @afs_usa.
Make It Appropriate
General audiences tend to regard anyone promoting AFS-USA as a representative of our organization's character. Before you post anything related to AFS, or even just share our content, please consider whether your personal profiles, photos, and posts contradict AFS-USA's mission or values in any way.
Ensure the Privacy of Students and Host Families
Please help us ensure student's privacy by:
- Never using a student's last name in posts.
- Never making publicly available any photos of students whose parents have denied us the ability to do so.
- To find out which student's parents have denied, you can:
- View Form 6 in a student's application.
- Or, use the "Denied Media Consent" filter in Global Link to search for all students in your area whose parents have declined.
- To find out which student's parents have denied, you can:
- Ensuring that all host family or other community members have signed the media release form before posting photos or videos of them.
- Never tagging students in photos.
- Reading and following all compliance guidelines.
Create Facebook Groups, Rather than Pages
Social media efforts work best when an organization is able to carve out a niche for itself and become a recognized voice. For that reason, it is important that the official AFS-USA Facebook page be seen as "The" voice of AFS-USA to avoid confusion and solidify our online identity. If you feel you need a space on Facebook for your Area Team, please create a "closed group," as these compete less with pages and ensure privacy for your group.
Volunteer Social Media Policy
We believe in open communication, and we encourage volunteers to tell the world about their volunteer experience and passion. However, social media and online communication are changing the way that everyone interacts, including with host families, students, and communities.
Volunteers are representatives of AFS-USA, and we are committed to ensuring that volunteers engage with social media responsibly by demonstrating positive behavior that is not detrimental to themselves, other users, or to the organization’s reputation. Click here to view the guidelines and best practices for online engagement in the Volunteer Social Media Policy.