How to Nail Social Media for ECommerce

Your Guide to eCommerce Social Media Marketing

Having a presence on social media is essential to building and growing brand awareness, driving traffic to your website and increasing leads and sales.

But your accounts aren’t just platforms for sharing content and engaging with visitors to accomplish those goals. From Facebook to Instagram, social media can be a powerful way to market your products and services to your followers.

Canadians are big social media users. A 2019 report found that 75% of women and 62% of men use it daily. And according to PayPal’s Social Commerce Trend Study, 47% of Canadian users are shopping on social networks, spending an average of $77 per month.

But despite these statistics, many small business owners still don’t understand the value of using these popular platforms to sell. That’s why I created this guide: to not only help you understand how important eCommerce social media marketing is, but to give you actionable tips to drive traffic, leads and sales.

Organic Social Selling

First, it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between social selling, using paid ads and actually using a platform as a marketplace.

Social selling means you’re organically connecting with sales prospects and nurture relationships to hopefully convert them into customers. It’s about building relationships and credibility naturally by getting to know your potential customers.

You can do this by asking them engaging questions, answering their questions quickly and always responding to comments or complaints. The more trust and loyalty you build, the better your odds of converting a follower into a paying customer.

For example, one of our clients, Rose Marie Swanson, asks engaging questions to connect with her audience.

Selling on a Social Media Marketplace

Actually selling within a platform or marketplace, however, is a little different. It means utilizing the platform’s selling capabilities to actively market your products. Here are two examples.

Facebook Shops

If you have a Facebook business Page, you can use Facebook Shops. This new feature lets you add products, organize them into different categories, communicate with customers and see data around things like views and clicks.

And because Facebook owns Instagram, customers can also access your store on IG. People can find your Facebook Shops on your business Facebook Page or Instagram profile, or via Facebook ads or Stories.

READ: Selling on Social Media Without Driving People Away

Social media is one of the best marketing tools out there: you can grow and reach a large audience with content and ads, and people who like and/or follow you are your fans, so they’re already your target group.

However, people can be resistant to selling on these platforms. You really have to approach this the right way or you could alienate your audience, causing them to unfollow or unlike you because they expect a two-way conversation and engaging content, not to be marketed to.

Read more on our website.

Shoppable Instagram Posts

Canada got this cool functionality in 2018, which enables businesses to tag brands and products in their organic Instagram posts. Your audience can tap it to see more details, and then click to buy the product.

To take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to set up an Instagram Business account. And, your business profile must be connected to a Facebook catalog.

Using Paid Ads

In addition to social selling and selling on a marketplace, you can also utilize ads to drive traffic to your account page or website.

Depending on the type of small business you have, you may choose to run paid ads on:

• Facebook


• Twitter


• LinkedIn


• Instagram


• Google Ads/display ads on the Google Display Network


• YouTube (and in-video ad placements)


Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to static images when it comes to using these paid advertising options. When using social media marketing for eCommerce, you can integrate videos into your ads to make them more engaging.

Within each platform there may be multiple ad options. For example, on Facebook you can choose from carousel ads, slideshow ads, collection ads, Messenger ads…

One example is Canadian grocer SPUD.ca who combines social selling (offering valuable info) with product marketing in their Facebook ads.

It can be challenging to not only understand all the ad formats, but also to set up and manage accounts and budgets. That’s why it often makes sense to hire a professional marketing company for your small business.

No matter why you’re considering social media for eCommerce, it’s essential to put in the time and effort to ensure your communications are not only engaging, but empathetic. Learn more about using empathetic marketing on our website.

I hope my eCommerce social media marketing guide has given you some inspiration to effectively sell your products and services!

To your business success,

Susan

Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence.

As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.

A website like freebetsinfo will provide you with the highest quality in the industry.
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How to Keep People on Your Website Longer

7 Easy eCommerce & Business Site Marketing Strategies

It’s a simple equation: the more time people spend on your website, the more likely they are to convert into a lead or sale.

So… do your website visitors like what they see when they land on your site, or are they leaving after a few seconds?

Are they choosing to buy something from you, or abandoning their cart before making a purchase?

Stats show that an average web user spends only a few seconds on a website before they decide whether to stay or go. That means you don’t have much time to make a great first impression.

I know it can be a big challenge to figure out ways to increase online conversions and time spent on your site.

That’s why I’m sharing seven eCommerce and business website marketing strategies to help you keep people on your website longer.

1. Keep your promises.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but many small business owners are so eager to gain leads and sales that they overpromise.

Whether you’re guaranteeing life-changing results or telling your customers returns are a cinch when they’re not, you’re risking your reputation and your profits.

I know it is often taught to sensationalize your headlines and make big promises, but I argue this will backfire on you if you aren’t living up to the hype you’ve created.

Instead, stick to the truth. Share the benefits of your product or service openly and honestly.

Tell your customers how you can assist in solving their problems, but don’t make promises you can’t keep.

2. Utilize exit popups.

An exit popup is a website overlay that appears when someone tries to navigate away from a page.

You can customize the messaging of the popup depending on what you want the person to do, including:

Offer a discount on their next purchase if they provide their email address
Download an eBook or some other freebie to help build your newsletter list
Direct users to read a blog that’s relevant to their needs (hint: at the bottom of that blog post, have a strong CTA towards what you want to do next.)
Chat with a support agent or sales rep
While some online popups can be majorly annoying, exit intent popups are different.

Because they don’t spring up all over your site while people are trying to shop or read content, they’re attention-grabbing without being annoying or invasive.

This makes them one of the most effective eCommerce and business marketing strategies you have to keep people on your website longer.

3. Give people a discount.

Who doesn’t love a good discount! Give your customers an extra incentive to buy from you or give you their information.

You could very well increase online conversions and keep people on your website longer if you give visitors something like:

A percentage-based or dollar value discount
A dollar-value discount
Free shipping
A freebie (for example, a free eBook or a 30-minute consultation with you)
Our client Malary’s Fashion in Cloverdale BC promotes 15% off their next store purchase on their website. Visible on each page of their site as well as a popup form. Those signing up are also added to Malary’s newsletter, letting them know of upcoming events and specials.
4. Send abandoned cart emails.

According to statistics, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is about 70%. There are a variety of reasons that people decide not to buy at the last minute.

Maybe they’re just browsing or think your shipping costs are too high once their total amount is updated. Or, maybe they notice there’s no SSL certificate (the “s” in the “https” before your URL that shows people your site is secure) and decide to go to a more trusted brand.

Sending an abandoned cart email can be a great way to increase online conversions. How it works: if you have someone’s email address, you follow up with them after a shopping cart abandonment.

Many experts suggest sending the first follow-up email within an hour, reminding your visitor that they still have items in their cart.

If they don’t respond to the first email, you can send one or two more emails reminding them of the item and/or offering a discount or free shipping if they do buy your product or service.

5. Use copy and images wisely.

If you want to keep people on your website longer, you need to capture their attention.

Creating interesting, relevant content that shares the page with high-quality images will engage your visitors and help to tell your brand story.

Each page should have at least one good quality, relevant image to break up text. Keep in mind not to upload high resolution images that are very large in file size. Optimized images load faster on your page, which is better for your customers and your SEO.

Don’t be afraid to use multiple images in a blog post. In an analysis of over one million articles, BuzzSumo found that articles with an image once every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as articles with fewer images.

6. Use clear CTAs.

What do you want your visitors to do on a particular page? Each page on your site should have a call to action that encourages your potential customers to do something.

And you don’t just have to ask people to sign up for something or buy an item.

Your eCommerce and business marketing strategies around CTAs could include encouraging people to learn more about a service, contacting you for more info or reaching out to customer support.

This is where A/B testing can be a really valuable tool to increase online conversions. You can try out different button colours, different CTA text, and CTAs in various areas of the page to see what performs better.

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READ: How to Engage & Inspire with Interactive Content Marketing

According to a study by Microsoft, the average human has an attention span of eight seconds. Eight seconds! You need to attract your readers’ or followers’ attention and require their active engagement quickly.

That can easily be done with something called interactive content marketing. While pieces like blog articles and eBooks are considered passive content, interactive content requires the person to actively engage with the content, whether that’s by swiping, tapping, answering a question…

In this article, I’m providing 3 ideas you can use to attract your audience’s attention and stand out from your competitors.

Read more on our website.

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7. Get to know video marketing.

Ninety-two percent of marketers say video is an important part of their marketing strategy today. This has grown from 78% in 2015.

Video can be one of the most powerful eCommerce and business marketing strategies, helping you keep people on your website longer and increase online conversions.

By creating a video marketing strategy, you can build awareness around your brand, clearly explain what you’re selling, and give people an audio/visual CTA.

Although some small business owners find it daunting, it’s really not that hard to plan compelling video content, shoot it with a smartphone or laptop camera and tell the world all about your product or service!

I know it’s not always easy to increase online conversions and keep people on your website longer. I hope these eCommerce and business marketing strategies have cleared up some of the confusion!

To your business success,

Susan

Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence.

As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.

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How to Excel at Engagement-Based Email Marketing

8 Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaigns

I’m sure you’ve signed up for digital newsletters in the past. Thinking back, do you remember what made you engage with a company’s eNewsletter?

Chances are, it was one of these three reasons:

1. To get info on sales and discounts.

2. To be entertained.

3. To learn something valuable.

Engagement-based email marketing relates to how your subscribers interact with your eNewsletter. Once they’ve opened it up, you still need to wow them with your content.

So this week, I’m sharing 8 ways to improve email engagement, from subject lines to segmentation.

1. Grab them with a great subject line.

As someone scans their inbox, they’re likely to see a number of promotional subject lines. You don’t have much time or space to convince them to open yours.

You want to pique someone’s curiosity by offering them a short and sweet description of what they can expect. “Short and sweet” is key here, especially because around 42% of people are opening newsletters on mobile, which means a much smaller screen.

Whether it’s a massive clearance sale or must-have advice, create a sense of urgency and excitement around whatever you’re offering.

2. Always give people something of value.

Yes, you want to convert subscribers into paying customers, but you don’t do that by stuffing your newsletter full of random promotions or links to products.

Aim for a story, not a sales pitch. Start with a personal intro to help your readers get to know you, whether it’s your recent accomplishment or happiness around the holidays.

3. Be consistent.

If you usually send a newsletter on a Tuesday but get busy and forget until three months later and rush it out on a Friday, your followers won’t know what to expect and will probably have forgotten who you were by then.

And, you’ll be missing out on valuable opportunities to reach people, making it much more likely they’ll engage with your competitors instead.

Stick to a calendar so people can count on your content consistently each week or month.

4. Add some social proof.

Social proof is a term that was coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence. (An excellent book by the way!) Basically, it’s the tendency of humans to copy the actions of others in a certain situation.

Examples of social proof include celebrity endorsements, online reviews and social media shares. Did you know that 83% of people trust reviews over advertising?

So, create an area of your eNewsletter where you can share customer testimonials or positive reviews with your followers.

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READ: How to Create an Email Marketing Campaign Your Audience Will Love

Sending consistent newsletters to your followers gives you the ability to develop a “Know, Like and Trust” relationship with them that will dramatically increase your brand visibility and market reach.

Yet many business owners and entrepreneurs pass up this golden opportunity to build relationships and increase sales. Are you one of them?

In this article, I share some reasons why your small business should create an email marketing campaign and offer some tips to help you increase open rates.

Read more on our website.

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5. Share valuable content.

It’s important to give your readers a reason to keep opening your emails. If you’re constantly promoting your product without offering tips or advice, you’re not going to keep their attention or loyalty.

A blog article can be a great tool for engagement-based email marketing. You can either place the full article in the body of the newsletter or just have the first few paragraphs of the article in the newsletter, and then link back to your blog.

When people feel your advice or content is valuable, they might share it with their friends. Don’t forget to add a little note at the bottom of your article inviting your readers to share your content with their social media followers for even more exposure.

And keep in mind people are looking for reassurance around COVID-19 protocols now. Your followers will get value and peace of mind if you tell them things like stricter cleaning routines and employees wearing face masks.

6. Get people used to promos.

I did say you shouldn’t make your eNewsletter too salesy, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid sharing the benefits of your product or service.

One ideal way to do this is to have a dedicated promo section of your newsletter, so that people get used to the idea of seeing valuable content alongside promos. That way, they won’t be surprised or even offended if you suddenly promote something in your eNewsletter.

7. Segment your lists.

Your subscribers are not all the same. You can really improve open rates and engagement by dividing your list of subscribers into groups based on their demographics and behavior.

For example, focusing on a specific geographic area to share news about a local event, or targeting a group who spent over a certain amount with a higher-end product promo.

8. Make it easy to unsubscribe.

While you don’t want your followers to give up on you, it’s critical to adhere to Anti-Spam and CASL laws. While this isn’t necessarily a way to improve email engagement, it’s the law, and you can pay hefty fines if you don’t follow it.

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I know this might seem like a lot of information, but there are so many variables when it comes to engagement-based email marketing. But when done effectively, you can get so much value from it-leads, sales and social media followers.

It’s well worth the time and effort to create an engagement-based email marketing campaign.

As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate, so if you find that it’s too much to improve email marketing on your own, contact us for help.

To Your Business Success,

Susan

Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence.

As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.

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5 Top Advantages of Promotional Tents for Events

Business Can Be Taken To Different Locations

Most companies conduct business and engage with potential customers by means of showrooms. However, the problem is, traditional showrooms are rigid and inflexible. If they want to let more people from other places know about their brand, it is best to rent or purchase a marquee tent, which is available at local event companies.

All they need to do is set up the pop up tent at trade shows, community fairs, markets or wherever their customer base is located. They will have their own space and use customized branding so consumers will remember their business.

Boost Engagement Using a Standout Display

Companies can network and engage with prospects at trade events. However, it can be hard to get the people’s attention when there are lots of other businesses around. Therefore, they need to do something to let their company stand above the rest of the crowd.

They can customize their event tents with colored walls of their choice and canopies. They can also print their branding in full-color text complete with graphics. High quality tents can draw more customers and provide them with an opportunity to market their brand and products.

When businesses participate in trade events on a regular basis, a marquee event tent can help a lot.

Tents are versatile and User-Friendly

A number of the biggest companies join extravagant traveling road shows that feature modified trucks and campers. This can be cost prohibitive for a lot of businesses. On the other hand, a tent can be a versatile and cost-efficient solution that offers most of the several advantages given by a motorized showroom.

Modern tents are not only safe; they are also easy to assemble using uncomplicated tools. Basic marquee tents can be assembled by only a few skilled team members, reducing costs in the long run.

Marquee Tents are Effective for Sponsorship

One of the effective ways to develop a brand is by engaging with a community. When a business entails some sort of sponsorship, it would be a great idea to rent a marquee tent for a single event or invest in a customized one to use for a long time. This can be used in community functions, sports events and local farmer’s markets, to name a few. When businesses are active in their community, using a tent with clear, visible branding can provide people with a shaded area during events.

They can optimize their marketing by means of creative brand exposure at sponsored events.

Promotional Tents Are Cost Effective

To minimize costs while keeping their business lean and agile, companies can rent or buy a commercial/event tent from their local event tent company. A marquee tent allows them to set up wherever they are, when they are hosting an event on their property or heading out on the road.

The features of versatile marquee tents include interchangeable canopies and walls, mounting solutions for decorations and lighting plus connecting structures that can create a bigger complex of tents for projects like trade shows.

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Important Factors to Consider When Creating a Website

Purpose of Creating the Website

When a website is built with a purpose in mind, this will let businesses have clearer goals that will enable them to improve the whole planning process. Website projects have different goals including building traffic and improving communications between a brand and its target audience.

Prior to developing a website, it is crucial to know the exact purpose of the website. Businesses should also know the best way to set goals and create a website that meets this ultimate purpose. These important things to consider will help them create a focus and support the whole project.

Web Design and Layout

The way a website is designed, in terms of UI and UX, psychologically affects the way people respond. There is nothing better than a remarkable online user experience. When a website is being developed, one vital factor to keep in mind is creating an appealing design. Clean, quality designs allow viewers to focus on valuable content displayed and the brand’s essence.

Typography

It is very important to understand the typography fundamentals for a website. Texts that are extremely big or small can have an effect on the viewers’ response to them. Fonts should be given close attention, choosing one that directly draws the target audience without compromise to the brand’s purpose.

Security

A lot of websites fall prey to hackers either because of ignorance or poor maintenance. Any website can become a victim of several threats including malware and viruses, among others, particularly due to the latest advancements in technology and constant updates that make websites open to many, different risks.

Performance and Speed

Even if websites have great content, visitors can be discouraged when they are slow due to functionality errors. An optimized website that functions fast can benefit from the following: increase in returning visitors/customers, higher search result ranking (that has an effect on traffic) plus efficient mobile performance. These should always be considered before building a website to make sure of an overall effective performance.

Target Market

It is also important for businesses to know their target market and customers’ requirements to build a website that addresses their needs. For instance, a website designed for fashion enthusiasts is far more different than a site built for engineering professionals. A clear understanding of the market specifications will give a clearer picture of the web design, colors, style theme, layout, call to action and content strategy.

SEO and Important Plugins

SEO is among the most important aspects of a website. Even with great content and other smooth functionalities, everything will be pointless if SEO is not given importance. Creating a website that has a clean SEO code will make it easier to be visible to the target audience.

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6 Elements of Web Design That Are Crucial to Success

1.Call to Action (CTA)

Customers get encouraged to engage with a business when there are calls to action (CTAs) on its website. For instance, words like “Contact us today” shows that a business wants to build a relationship with its customers. However, businesses should make sure that CTAs are relevant to a visitor’s level of engagement with the company.

When visitors are only starting to learn more about a brand, the company can ask them to subscribe to its email newsletter. On the other hand, loyal customers will probably like to join a brand’s loyalty rewards program. No matter what companies want visitors to do at their site, they should add a call to action on all their web pages.

2.Short Loading Time

Whenever people search information on the web, they like the loading time to be as quick as possible. Otherwise, they will leave the website at once. Testing their website beforehand will allow them to determine loading time problems, which can be addressed in time for the site’s release.

Providing customers with a great user experience will increase customer retention so it is best to evaluate a site’s loading time the moment it has launched. With short loading times, customers get the information they need when they need it. When a website fails to deliver, it will be left behind by competition.

3.Active Blog

An active blog enables customers to remain updated on the company’s events, most recent products and other industry-related info. It is an effective way to stay connected with them, particularly if the things that companies post encourage viewers to engage with their brand.

Updating their blog on a regular basis lets customers know more about their brand’s values and willingness to encourage communication. When they deliver fresh, relevant, engaging content to users, their brand becomes recognized, which makes them an authority in the industry.

4.Clean, SEO-Friendly Code

It is crucial for companies to have a clean, SEO-friendly code when they are creating new web pages or optimizing those that already exist. Improving a site’s code can boost the overall ROI (return on investment).An SEO-friendly code give a clean picture of a site’s content to guide search engine spiders.

WordPress and other CMS services offer plug-ins that can make the process of boosting search engine rankings and cleaning up code easier. Since WordPress does not require much knowledge on coding, it is a viable solution for companies that struggle to drive traffic to their sites.

5.Compatibility with Different Browsers

With the progress of technology comes the steady growth of internet browsers. It can be challenging to keep up with Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox, to name a few. In designing a website, it is a must to make sure that a website can be reached from different browsers.

A site should register well on the major browsers as well as the older versions. Ignoring this important step may disregard a big percentage of a company’s customer base. It can bring about unnecessary expenses to a developing business.

6.Navigation

When customers find it hard to navigate a website, they will leave and move on to other sites. To make navigation more appealing and efficient, businesses should review their site and look at it in the eyes of a new visitor. They should only choose sensible navigation streams.

Including a site map is an effective way to allow visitors to navigate more easily and search engines to crawl a site. In addition, streamlining navigation by removing pages that are not needed or do not perform can reduce load time, which in turn improves the quality of a brand’s online presence.

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Should You Go for Mobile Sites or Responsive Sites

According to statistics, using mobile devices to conduct searches online has considerably grown in the last two years. As a matter of fact, about 95% of mobile device users depend on their gadgets to look for local products and/or services. For this reason, businesses have to make sure that their websites register well on all kinds of devices to reach this increasing number of mobile users.

It is but wise for large companies with web presence to create a mobile-friendly website that can be clearly viewed from any device. So, when businesses plan to launch a new website, it is best to choose a responsive web design that is able to adapt to any mobile device.

Incorporated with Social Media

Nowadays, websites are required to be integrated with social media. Due to the latest technology, sharing information is now more convenient therefore; businesses that do not incorporate social media fail to benefit from the so-called modern day word-of-mouth marketing.

Social media paves a way for customers to promote a business’ brand, give reviews and be updated about the latest news on the company. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest make it easy for businesses to distribute their written and visual content like product images and brand videos.

Captcha Tests

Businesses that do not have ready captcha tests receive nothing but spam in their contact forms, website forms and comment sections. Such tests that come in the form of random letters and numbers typed before submission of a web-based form, spell the difference between humans and robots.

Including these short captcha tests in their contact forms will make sure that humans alone are able to utilize their site’s resources, which let them save both time and costs.

Efficient Security

As technology evolves, the latest, more advanced security risks have greater chances of compromising a website’s reputation. These include malware, viruses, malicious apps as well as the dangers posed by hackers. Websites have to prevent security breaches on the front and back ends.

Ecommerce sites and other websites designed to conduct online transactions require extra security measures to secure customer personal details. To reduce the possibility of browser-based risks, businesses should include SSL certificates in their websites.

While this is being developed, it is crucial to go over the security features added to the website’s framework and design. It is important, as well, to conduct security checks on a regular basis or else, hire the services of a provider for the job.

Customer Testimonials

Customer testimonials, just like offsite reviews, can be used to promote businesses. Including customer testimonials on a site will reveal more about a company’s products, services and customer commitment.

When companies have an existing loyal customer base, they can solicit some online reviews. In case these customers provide their recorded testimonials, this is the right time to make branded videos. The more sincere and detailed testimonials provide more chances of drawing new customers.

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Better Academic Outcomes In Small Schools

Small schools have great variety. We learned that we don’t need standardized schools — that kills the soul! In Chicago we saw fabulous small schools that were Afro-centric, schools that focused on phonics, fabulous small schools about whole language, small schools that are using the city as a place to investigate. Why? Because they were small, they were focused and they beat the odds on academic outcomes. Small schools are the single most powerful intervention that we can imagine for young people. And the evidence at high schools was even more powerful, as you’ll see in our report.

Learning Lessons

There are now data from 25 years on big mistakes we make when we’re reforming high schools. The data reveal these myths:

• Myth One: You can reform schools incrementally. Forget it. You never get to where you thought you were going. Despite your anxiety, work the hard issues up front; you cannot work your way into them. You cut too many deals if you ease off and make everybody happy in the beginning. And I see a lot of people doing that. I’ve seen too many schools start out saying we’re going to break big schools into small schools. They keep almost everything the same. And within three years, they end up with a couple of interdisciplinary classes. The bottom of the school — where failure is more evident — is never touched.
• Myth Two: You can keep the same infrastructure. We’re still going to have the principal, the 16 vice principals, all those deans for discipline, the boys’ deans and the girls’ deans. And department heads and counselors that are organized by an alphabet, and then classroom teachers, who are doing the real work. And what we’re going to do now, maybe, is take the department heads and make them the heads of the small schools. Forget it. This is a time for serious conversation. Where I’ve seen it done well, like in New York City, labor unions have been fabulously supportive. Yet, I keep hearing from management how labor won’t go for it, so they’re not willing to push the limits. You can’t keep the same infrastructure.
• Myth Three: You need a separate ninth grade. One lesson is don’t do a ninth grade school – a kind of vertical, horizontal thing. You just create another threshold, and then the students drop out after ninth grade. If you’re going to build a community, it’s nine-12. And you know what, the seniors do not molest the ninth graders. They help them!
• Myth Four: Veteran teachers are cynical. “Old” teachers can’t and won’t do what’s necessary, and their experience equals burnout. We have seen the limit of treating experienced teachers like they are dead wood. A bunch of schools in New York decided to hire young, excited, amazing young people from Brown and Wesleyan. And they’re all really, really smart. But it would have been nice to have some teachers who know something.
• Myth Five: Standards and standardization are the same. Standards are not the same as standardization. Small schools, by their nature, are very interested in being held accountable — which is one of the remarkable things about small schools. The parking lots aren’t empty at 2:00 p.m. Teachers hold each other accountable; they hold the students accountable; parents hold the teachers accountable; and everybody holds the parents accountable. Kids hold themselves accountable. Standards are not the same as being the same.
• Myth Six: Professional development has to happen from the outside. Teachers have an incredible amount of knowledge, if given the space to say what 20 years inside dysfunctional institutions has done to them. A relation between inside and outside expertise is fragile — and powerful.
• Myth Seven: Tokenism will solve the problem. Two more black faces in an AP class just doesn’t do it for me. You can’t just play with the top and color-coat. You’ve got to take on the whole thing. Whole-school reform is the point.
• Myth Eight: One of my worst nightmares is when people turn small schools into tracks. There was a school somewhere in America, where administrators decided that they’d have five small schools inside one previous big-school building. So one school was going to be the Special Ed school; one was going to be the Chapter One school; one was going to be the pregnant and parenting school; and one was going to be the language school, for the Latino kids. And then, one school was going to be the humanities school, to attract the middle-class white kids back to the school. That’s not what anybody ever meant by small schools. That is a fundamental distortion. Small schools are heterogeneous, and commit to figuring out how to bring the genius out in everyone.
• Myth Nine: The illusion that accountability means rules and surveillance of teachers and students. That is not accountability, that is oppression. Accountability comes from relationships and responsibility. That’s what small schools produce. You can’t hide. It’s a group of committed folks.

Accountability requires autonomy. A big mistake is not giving small schools the autonomy that they need to do the work that they need to do. Small school teachers, and parents, and community members are willing to be held accountable. But the only way they can be held accountable is if you give them the autonomy to develop the curriculum, to organize their time, to figure out their assessment system and the ways that they would measure student progress. We could always close down small schools if they don’t work. However, we don’t close down big high schools when they don’t work. Close small schools down if they don’t work, but first, give them time. Let them grow. Don’t make autonomy a gift that some schools can earn. That’s a setup. Make autonomy a beginning condition. Then put people under the light of surveillance if they screw it up. What we do now is put everybody under the light of surveillance, and it chokes them.

What’s Needed Now?

First, I’m very taken by this “metropolitanization” analysis. It’s a good idea, and very useful to document the space of injustice between what’s happening in urban areas and what’s happening just on the other side of the border. In education, we could easily do that. We could track who’s in Special Ed; who’s getting college-eligible courses; who’s in AP classes; what are the post-graduate outcomes; how much teachers get paid; what are the drop-out rates across our cities; and where are the certified teachers. And we could document pretty easily the redlining of public education.

Second, we need a theory of change. I don’t think it’s hard to imagine where we need to go. That’s not the mystery. How to get there is not so clear; and how to get there systemically is less clear. I’m tired of hearing small schools is not a systemic strategy. It could be a systemic strategy if districts figured out how to learn from small schools rather than crush them. So we need a joint strategy of internal-to-districts work, and external advocacy. There are teachers who are quitting because they won’t teach English only. There are teachers who are refusing to place kids in a bottom track. There are parents who are creating freedom schools in the South, and some of that is getting called home schooling. And not all of those people are our enemies. They are asking for inside help and external push. We need the combination of pilots and protests. We need the melding of internal reform and sit-ins. We need to be working both sides. This is what I mean by the politics of urgency.

Third, we need to offer support for teachers and parents and places not yet engaged in reform. Too many of our friends are teaching and working and committed to schools that haven’t yet done the work. What we can’t do is only go to the places where there’s sufficient energy for change or we will lose some of our most dedicated buddies and friends. I know many of us have committed to staying in places that are not “there” yet, and you’re doing God’s work. Thank you all.

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