Tuesday, February 12, 2013

3 Principles to Guide Your Social Media Debut

"While principals and superintendents are rearranging their organizational charts and agonizing over budget proposals, important conversations about their schools are being held all around them. These conversations used to take place at the grocery store, around the swimming pool in the summer, and at community events; now they take place on the web---on the neighborhood digital bulletin boards, on Twitter, in blogs, and on YouTube."   Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes, Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age

I am amazed that in my conversations with other administrators and teachers, there are those who still refuse to engage in using social media. As Porterfield and Carnes point out, school leaders are working hard on their budgets, their policies, and meetings, and many of them are oblivious to the conversation that goes on Cyberspace about their schools and districts. According to Porterfield and Carnes,"It is more than foolish for school leaders to pretend that education is somehow untouched by this new media; it is negligent, and it reinforces the image that many Americans have of schools and school leaders---that leaders keep their eyes on the rear-view mirror as they run our schools, and that our schools are just not in step with the times." There are administrators who still refuse to engage in connecting through social media. They see it as a nuisance, and fight to keep it out of their schools, even though it is impossible to do so.

For those school administrators and teachers who are thinking about making their "Social Media Debut," here's three simple principles to get your started.

1.  Choose multiple tools for your "social media toolkit." You need to consider using tools like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and blogs. Multiple tools means being able to engage your constituents and other educators on multiple levels and in multiple ways.

  • Twitter gives you the ability to get information out quickly and concisely.
  • Facebook has the most users, so it gives you the largest audience. You can also share out photos and other media on your school or district Facebook page.
  • Blogs give you the ability to post a variety of content and engage others in a conversation about that content.
  • Google+ allows for the dissemination of a variety of content. Like Facebook, users can post photos and other media. It allows users to use "circles" to sort audiences.
  • LinkedIn allows users to connect professionally with others.

2. Make your home web site homebase for information. As Porterfield and Carnes point out, your web site "should focus on service and the product it provides is information." Use social media tools to direct constituents and others back to your web site. Monitor your web site for traffic to gauge the effectiveness of your promotional efforts. Your web site's purpose should not simply be to have a presence. It should function as information central about your school or district.

3. Use social media, not as a cyber-announcement system, but as a means to engage others in conversations. To use social media as simply a way to make announcements ignores one of its fundamental qualities: it allows for multi-way conversations. Use social media to engage others and get feedback.

Twenty-first century school leaders and educators who still resist social media and getting connected, seem to think they can ignore the conversation about their schools in cyberspace. Keeping social media out is impossible. Ignoring and hoping it will go away is looking backward. It is time for school leaders and educators who have yet to connect to make their social media debut!

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