One of Orange County Public Schools' most groundbreaking initiatives is its forays into the use of social media to interact with its young customers. It is headed by Javier Vazquez, senior manager for information technology and area manager for the Food & Nutrition Services Department, but the key component is input and direction from two students well versed in both the technical and social aspects of social media: Daschel Miller and Vazquez's son, Javier Vazquez, Jr. Both were students in Orange County's math/science/engineering magnet program at University High School and helped develop the program.
“Social networking is such a common trend among our students that I figured, why not work with students who are both familiar with social media and are at a school where they work with technology?” Vazquez explains.
What the team came up with was a dedicated social media site at www.MyFoodFace.com where students can comment on the food offerings at the district, participate in polls, post and view photos and videos, chat and learn about events and future menu choices. Accessible through popular social media sites like Facebook, it uses the language and platform students are comfortable with.
A recent foray into mobile voting showed the power of the platform if harnessed correctly. The pilot asked students to vote on a series of queries ranging from “What did you think of today's lunch?” to “Which local university will have the best football team next fall?” Student were asked to text responses using their cell phones, and the results were tabulated and shown on digital signage displays in the cafeteria.
The initiative not only provided real and effective customer research in a way that engaged the students but it had other benefits as well.
“The principal came up to me and said, ‘What's happened? They're quiet!’” recalls Orange County Food & Nutrition Services Director Lora Gilbert. “They were so busy texting and seeing the votes on the digital boards that they stopped talking. So the benefit also included a quiet lunchroom.”