Twenty-first century school leaders need to become masters of social media leadership. Those who don't, or those who dismiss it as a fad, are failing in one of the major responsibilities of being a 21st century educational leader. What does being a social media leader look like? Here's some items to consider:
- Being a social media leader means you see the technology of social media as a way to invite stakeholders into conversations, not as an announcement system. By default, this one also means you have to act with courage. Using social media in this manner means greater transparency with what is happening in your school. It also means greater involvement in your school community. The courage comes in when others comment on how your doing or how your school is doing.
- Being a social media leader means you don't just use social media to tell your parents and community what you think they want to know: you tell them the kinds of information they want to have. The old communication model would be sitting at your desk, carefully deciding what you want your parents to know. The new communication model means you need to communicate out to your public the information a 21st century audience demands. That sometimes means communicating things you are a bit uncomfortable with.
- Being a social media leader means using it to provide 21st century connections with your parents and community. Twenty-first century connections are two-way, not one way connections. For example, newsletters or posting a video of your graduation on your web site is one way communication. Posting an announcement or video on Facebook with comments activated invites two-way. But make sure you have clear guidelines on what is acceptable comments and not acceptable.
- Being a social media leader means understanding social media in the manner suggest by authors Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes in their book Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age: Social media is a "process not a product." It isn't something you engage in on Fridays at 4 PM. It requires time and investment to be effective. Engaging in social media is ongoing, not a one-time event.
- Finally, being a social media leader means using it to create an environment of collaboration. It involves creating a place where all opinions are valued. In other words, using social media to create a sense of shared responsbility for the entire school or district. You can't always to expect to invite your parents to collaborate on your terms. They also have desires and aspirations for their schools. Social media is an opportunity to foster that kind of thinking more, and social media leaders do it well.
If you as a school leader or educator wonder why you are failing to engage others in your social media, it might be that you are not demonstrating 21st century social media leadership. To to that, you need to change your perspective of communicating with your parents and community. That perspective needs to now include the idea that one-way communication is 20th century. Social media is a multi-way media to engage others in a conversation, not just talk at them.