Our school chose TO FACEBOOK and has never looked back. If you’ve read my post on Why We Chose to Write Our Own Narrative, then you know my perspective on sharing and celebrating all the amazing things occurring on a daily basis at schools. Writing your own narrative for your school site has many benefits and it can also come with its share of challenges, unknowns, and concerns.
I often receive phone calls or e-mails from administrators looking to build an online presence for their school and usually the questions/concerns are the same.
- What social media platform did your school start with (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)?
- Do you set your accounts to public or private?
- Do you allow comments to be made by visitors? And how do you monitor these?
- Who keeps your accounts up-to-date?
- How do you handle students that are not allowed to be published?
- What if your parent community isn’t ready for the online presence?
These are all excellent questions and I have a passion for this topic since I have seen so many benefits to taking our school online and creating our own narrative. Lets tackle these questions one at a time, shall we?
- watch What social media platform did your school start with (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)?
Our school, Woodbury Elementary, started with Facebook. Our reason? This was the platform I was most comfortable with. That’s it. No magical formula. I was willing to jump in with both feet, but only into waters I was familiar swimming in. I had used Facebook for my personal life, sharing my own children’s accomplishments and I knew other parents were on it, so it seemed like a natural place to start. I hadn’t used Instagram prior to starting our school’s social media accounts and once we started to establish a strong Facebook presence, Instagram seemed like a natural next step. Twitter is the platform we link to our Facebook and Instagram accounts so that whatever we post to these, can automatically be published to Twitter. I rarely post directly to Twitter from our school account. Professionally, I think it is important to have your own Twitter account (and I post to that account all the time) but we can save that for another discussion.
2. follow site Do you set your accounts to public or private?
Public. This word makes many people feel uncomfortable. In fact, during some phone calls, I can actually feel the other person tense up when I say PUBLIC, so just for kicks, I then use the word as frequently as possible during our conversation. The point of building your online presence is to have a PUBLIC presence. We want people to easily find us PUBLICly online and see all the amazing things our students are doing on a daily basis.
We want grandparents, aunts, and uncles, to feel connected to us, even if they live on another continent, which many of them do. We also have many companies, that provide us with software and other technologies, follow us on Facebook and they love seeing their products in action. They will often reach out to us for feedback on their products because they know we are using them.
3. http://coleadblog.com/phpmyadmin/index.php Do you allow comments to be made by visitors? And how do you monitor these?
I was nervous about this one too. I have seen how verbal people can be on their social media accounts and I was worried I was creating a platform for parents or other community stakeholders to post all their grievances. I would be mortified to start a Facebook page and have people start posting their unrelenting negative feedback about something at our school. I decided to allow comments posted by visitors and I haven’t been happier. I get a notification on my phone whenever someone leaves a comment, which isn’t too often, so it is very manageable. I also enjoy getting this notification so I can quickly reply, showing parents that we are listening and engaged. The majority of our comments are parents writing another parent’s name, in order to tag them in a photo they know the other parent would want to see. I never thought about this, but what an incredible benefit to allowing comments. Parents can make sure other parents don’t miss out on a post. Best of all, all comments have been very positive. I believe that since people’s comments are linked to their profile and are visible for everyone in our community to see, everyone minds their Ps and Qs.
4. Who keeps your accounts up-to-date?
I’ve seen this done differently at various sites and I do have an opinion about it. You are creating your online presence and with that, you are writing your own narrative. Just because someone is techy at your school, doesn’t necessarily make them the best candidate for managing your social media accounts. For instance, we make a concerted effort to show our fun, positive, and sometimes nutty culture. We love to have fun and we like to think of ourselves as funny. The kids often think we are funny and like all kids, they sometimes think we’re also a little nuts. You want someone who is plugged into your school culture.
We are a very large school, with nearly 1200 students (TK-6), which means we have A LOT going on on a daily basis. Even though teachers often send their photos and captions to me, there are still activities and events that can easily go missed if the person handling the accounts doesn’t have the ability to walk around and capture these moments. It depends on your school, but make sure the person you choose understands your school’s culture and has the ability to model it in person and online.
5. How do you handle students that are not allowed to be published?
We don’t publish these students. Seems like an easy answer, doesn’t it? It is, but it can also be tricky because you don’t want to leave these students out of class photos and such. I am a firm believer in open communication with the parents. Often parents will check the box that they do not want their child’s image published online, not completely understanding our intent of doing so on social media. We never publish a student’s photo with their name and this holds true for student work as well. We would never publish a student’s work with their name attached to it, unless it was a special circumstance and the parents provided prior permission.
I always recommend that teachers save a few minutes of their fall conference to talk a little about our social media and reasons for wanting to include them in class photos and such. Most often, the parent happily agrees. Out of nearly 1200 students, we only have approximately 12 students that are not allowed to be published. When we do have a class photo that the child is included in, teachers will often put an emoji happy face over them or lightly blur their face. It is an easy fix.
6. What if your parent community isn’t ready for the online presence?
I usually respond to this question with my own questions: “How do you know they are not ready?” and “What have you done to get them there?” Like all things, buy-in is important and in order to accomplish this, communication is key. Luckily, schools have many opportunities to communicate with their stakeholders (staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, Open House, Back-to-School Night, awards assemblies, PTA meetings, School Site Council, principal and teacher newsletters, etc.). We talked about our social media accounts well before we started publishing them and we started small. We invited people to our Facebook account at each of the above venues and only posted wide group shots. You might be surprised at how positively (and quickly) your community responds. They might be more ready than you think.
I would love to hear more about how your school handles some of the questions above. Have these questions created new ones for you? Comment below and I’ll get right back to you!