I hear it all the time. I really want to start using social media at our school, but I’m worried about ___________ (fill in the blank). I’ve heard it all:
- student privacy
- parent reaction
- getting staff buy-in
- not knowing what I’m doing
- not having enough time to maintain it
- and the list goes on and on
I have always been the kind of person that jumps in with both feet. If I’m going to do something then I’m really going to do it. I’m going to do it the right way. I enjoy pushing the envelope a little and venturing into unchartered waters. I find it exciting, motivating, and yes, even a little scary. Jumping in with both feet doesn’t mean that I venture into unchartered waters without doing some research about where I’m going, the tools I need to be successful, and the people I want in my boat for the journey.
It was 2013 and a large group of our staff just returned from CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference and I was incredibly inspired by some of the speakers. I speak about this experience in my post, Building Community With Class Instagram Accounts, as well as some best practices when starting a school Facebook Page in my post, To Facebook or Not to Facebook – Our School’s Choice, but today I would like to talk a little about taking the leap. If you are still hesitant (or just downright against) using social media for your school, then this post is for you.
The most frequent reason I hear for not starting social media is student privacy. Now, of course, I want to protect our students’ privacy and only post students that we have permission to do so. Our school is also very cognizant to always post students at their very best. When parents register their child online for school, they either provide or deny consent for their child’s image, work, or name to be published. Each of these consents are separate so a parent can consent to one and not the other. Each district is different in this area, so lets say you are facing the worst case scenario. You cannot publish ANY students on your social media accounts. No problem! Major bummer, but no problem. Still forge ahead I say!
You can highlight your school and write your own narrative without posting identifiable photos of your students. There are a million things you can highlight (well, nearly a million):
- Your teachers
- Office Staff
- New Construction at Your Site
- A New Program or Initiative
- Student Work (without names)
- A Special Event
- A Sporting Event
- Field Trip
- Science Lab Experiments
- Music Class
- And 989,000 other things
All of the ideas above can be used to share your school culture and write your own narrative. It is also a great way to get started. You can either never post a student on your social media or use the ideas above as your first step to create parent and staff buy-in. Once you get staff buy-in, you’ll also gain a social media support team (teachers) that will eventually be excited to help you maintain the social media posts or offer their own ideas. One idea, create a social media adjunct duty. Just make sure it is someone who fully understands your school’s culture and the narrative you want to write.
Your school’s social media is what you make of it and it is definitely true, that the more regularly you post, the higher your engagement, but in this day and age, it really isn’t that time consuming. It is more about a state of mind. As an administrator, there is never a moment that I do not have my phone on me. This is because: 1) I can easily call 911 if necessary and 2) our teachers always know I am just a text away if they need my support. The third reason, I never know when the impromptu photo opportunities will arise and I want to be ready! My principal and I love walking around the school in the morning, welcoming substitute teachers to our campus and saying good morning to the students and staff. This is also the time of day that I come across some of the best photos. Students are fresh, energized, smiling, and getting started in their morning routine. Most often, I take the photo(s) and post it right away because I know that once my day gets started I’ll easily forget to do so later.
After reading this post, as well as my other posts on social media, if you are still not sold on your school needing social media, then I have homework for you…look up your neighboring schools (elementary, middle, and high school), especially your feeder schools and see what (if any) social media they use. And I mean really look. Don’t do one quick search and when nothing shows up, you say, “see, no one else is doing it either!” If you find your feeder schools are using social media, try to look at it through the lens of a parent.
- Is there interaction between one of your feeder schools and their community through social media?
- What posts have the most engagement?
- What information is being communicated to the community via social media?
Now ask yourself:
- What kind of interaction do you have with your community that possibly looks similar to that of your feeder school’s social media? Do you provide a platform for your parents to see (and interact with) all the amazing things occurring at your site? Is it as effective, less effective, or more effective? And how do you know? Would your parent community agree?
- The posts that have the most engagement are generally the ones that include a fun photo or video (rarely are they academic) of students or staff having a blast at school. How do you share with your community that your school is a fun place to be? Is it effective? And again, would your parent community agree?
- How do you communicate quickly and regularly with your community? Email? School website? Now for the big question, how many people have read your e-mail or information on your site? Does your e-mail or website platform show you how many people have opened or clicked on your communique. If so, excellent! If not, major bummer! One of my favorite things about Facebook is the data it provides. I LOVE (call me a geek) seeing how many people have seen, liked, shared, etc. a post and then I like to really look at why a particular post was so popular. What is it about that post that pulled in our community? And then I try to replicate it. It’s like getting immediate feedback on our communication. Does your e-mail do that for you?
I have a passion for social media since I have seen first hand the positive impact it has had on our school. Parents, teachers, and students love it because it shows how much fun we have each and every day at school. Have I convinced you yet? If not, what is holding you back? Let me know and maybe there’s still a chance.