Social is Good
One of the best reasons to connect and engage your district community through social media messaging is that it creates an opportunity for two-way communication and conversation, unlike most traditional models of messaging. Authentic, two-way communication is increasingly important in today’s education environment. Parents, students, and teachers want to make their voices heard and become a part of the education conversation. When used effectively, social media provides a forum for that kind of collaboration.
By expanding communication lines, your district can form stronger partnerships with stakeholders and the surrounding community. This communication can be critical for engaging the public, students and parents in district initiatives such as passing a referendum, building a new field house, adding more advanced academic courses, or beginning a campaign against cyber-bullying. Social media as an avenue for conversation will become increasingly valuable for districts in the future.
Another key benefit of an active social media presence is that it’s real-time
communication. This is crucial in emergency or crisis situations, or when you need to announce a school closing due to inclement weather. The viral nature of social media makes it nearly ideal for distributing emergency or similar communications; however, its viral nature also means it is that much more critical for the information being distributed to be as correct, so misinformation is not spread. Social media should supplement the district's emergency notification system
, not replace it.
As social media continues to become more ubiquitous, some districts (especially larger ones) have assigned a public relations officer, communications specialist, or designated administrator to be “on call” in the event of an emergency or crisis situation. This individual should work closely with the district superintendent to ensure all communications are accurate and reflect well on the district, especially during such events.
Finally, an engaging social media presence serves as an extension of your district’s public face. Now more than ever, social media representation is crucial for districts looking to stay competitive for students and high-performing staff in the ever-changing K-12 environment. Social media plays a key role in your district’s brand recognition and credibility. The same holds true for the individual leaders of the district, who have a whole new way to increase their professional credibility as education thought leaders through social media platforms – all of which, in turn, reflects well on the districts they represent and communities they serve. To learn more about how effective public relations and social media use can improve your district’s relationships, read this Education World article
on the subject.
Three Quick Tips
Now that you have some background in the whats and whys of social media, it's time for the "how." These three recommendations should help you get started.
Find out how your audience wants to hear from you before you begin. Different social media platforms will reach different target audiences. Consider taking a survey at the beginning of the year to find out how parents would like to receive the district newsletter. A little research on your audience can make all the difference in increasing engagement.
Remember McLuhan’s famous phrase: The medium is the message.
Curating your communication specifically for the medium by which it will be distributed can help your messages to be received more positively. Also keep in mind that the different platforms your district utilizes may have slightly differing audiences. Do your best to ensure the message aligns with the platform used to deliver it and reaches your intended audience. To learn more about this best practice and to see examples of the differences between Facebook and Twitter, check out this blog post
Keep your posts positive. Not only is positive messaging good PR, it’s also more inviting to your audience. If you want to continually engage parents, students and the community through social media, distribute messaging in a positive tone and avoid negative language.