Twitter as a Social Media Starting Point

I’ve been quiet here on the Radical this week because I’m putting the final edits on my third book—a bit I’m coauthoring with Eric Sheninger and Jason Ramsden on how principals can use social media spaces to communicate with stakeholders and to provide customized professional development for themselves and their faculties. 

In the course of our chapter on using social media spaces to communicate, we make the argument that Twitter—despite being less popular with parents—is the right social media starting point for principals just dipping their toes into new digital waters. 

Here’s why:

Twitter is a more approachable tool than Facebook. 

Maintaining a professional presence in Facebook requires a ton more monitoring and management than maintaining a professional presence in Twitter simply because all that Twitter enables is simple, quick sharing. 

Facebook, on the other hand, enables shared calendaring, warehousing of interesting pictures, videos and documents, and the facilitation of ongoing, threaded discussions with audiences.

While all of those Facebook features are incredibly important because they create interactive and engaging digital homes for schools, they also require more time to develop and maintain. 

If you are a principal with a heaping cheeseton of extra time on your hands, tackle Facebook first.  But if you are completely swamped like the rest of us, Twitter is a more logical—and more approachable—first step. 


The expecations that users have for the kinds of content shared in Twitter streams versus Facebook pages is different. 

Not only does Facebook enable a whole range of content and conversation sharing that Twitter doesn’t, users have grown to expect that content and those conversations when they land on the Facebook pages of the organizations that serve them. 

Take the Edutopia Facebook page as an example. 

When I land there, I expect to see pictures and videos.  I expect to see ongoing moderated conversations.  I expect to see advertisements for upcoming events.  I expect to see links to contact information and other content that I can interact with and/or download.

In fact, I feel let down when I go to a Facebook page that’s not well developed and populated.  It makes me think the organization is slack.

There’s no way to make a Twitter page well developed and populated. 

That means Twitter requires less time and energy from a principal just experimenting with social media spaces.  While it may be a tool parents know less about, it’s also a tool that busy principals can manage and maintain.

Districts don’t trust Facebook

While Facebook may have MILLIONS more users than Twitter, it has also garnered its fair share of negative press in school circles.

Frequent stories about students using the site to engage in cyberbullying, continuing fears of chance interactions between teens and Internet predators, and repeated incidents of poor choices made by educators who forget that their responsibility as role models doesn’t end when they’re living online cause some districts to specifically ban employees from interacting with parents and students in Facebook.

If that’s the case in your district, using Facebook becomes even more difficult, doesn’t it? 

While I’d hope that you’d begin advocating for more a more progressive Facebook policy—ignoring the spaces that our parents and our students have embraced is not only arrogant, it’s ignorant—that kind of advocacy takes time that you probably don’t have!

So whaddya’ think?  Is a Twitter-first approach to social media spaces something that you’d recommend, too?  Can you think of any other advantages that I’ve missed?

Or am I missing the boat completely by arguing in favor of Twitter as a social media starting point? 

Looking forward to your feedback.

8 thoughts on “Twitter as a Social Media Starting Point

  1. Brette Lockyer

    As a classroom teacher, Twitter has been a useful tool. My class twitter is typed by me, but includes student input: @mslockyer
    We have used it for many purposes, including announcements of upcoming events, daily reflections from the students, posting of links to our other online tools such as Vimeo clips, feedback to our young writers, brainstorming and questioning during an inquiry. It’s quick and easy.
    One initial problem was getting parents to check out our Twitter stream. Most were reluctant to sign up for twitter. However, they were very comfortable with bookmarking http://www.twitter/mslockyer to access it that way.
    Why do I do it? To ensure my parents feel connected and involved in the learning partnerships. But it’s just one of the ways.

  2. Dave

    Twitter = getting started with social media, or accounts for individuals
    Facebook = will actually get results for schools/districts
    We went Twitter-first 2-3 years ago while watching to see what happened with schools and Facebook pages, but I’m really tempted at this point to urge schools and districts straight to Facebook.
    Regarding “disappointing” Facebook pages…if you don’t have a school or district Facebook page, then Facebook has probably automatically made one for you, based on your Wikipedia article, that you have no control over. Now THOSE are truly disappointing. You can’t fail if you don’t have a page, but you can’t succeed, either.

  3. Glennonpoirier

    @Gasstation : I think you’re being a little bit harsh there. Twitter takes zero time to “maintain”. If a principal is tweeting hundreds of times a day, I could see the complaint, but tweets are limited to 140 characters. Five tweets would be 700 characters. That comes out to about 30 words per tweet and 150 words per day (five tweets per day).
    If the principal of the school finds 150 words per day is a significant amount of writing then you’ve got bigger problems at that school than the usage of social media.
    I am an Activity Director at a comprehensive high school and use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with alumni and students. Twitter is far easier. I wish all my students had a twitter account links to their cell phones so I could send out information to all of them instantly. Our twitter account has nearly 200 followers which is about 10 percent of the school. It is a useful way to get info to the kids about stuff that’s going on. And, they can ask questions easily, too (like, where’s Prom?)

  4. Kevin Biles, Principal Pleasant Union Year-Round Elementary

    I agree with you 100%, Bill. In fact, when I did a recent presentation to our Norhtern Area Principal group about the use of PLNs via Twitter and Diigo I emphasized how they were an efficient use of time for the administrator wanting to keep up with 21st Century trends. Reading a 140 character tweet that is inclusive of cross categorical web links, can be differentiated to fit personal growth needs/interests, provides many free resources and allows you to meet some of the great minds in the world is a great use of time. I look forward to reading your book. Please keep me in the loop when it is released.

  5. EricTownsley

    I do think Twitter is probably the best place to start, however I do agree in part with the comment above. The district/school website is probably the best. It’s very universal for many stakeholders. In terms of getting a large variety of information, a good school website is a must!

  6. gasstationwithoutpumps

    As a parent, I have no time for Facebook or Twitter. I wish that the school had the time to keep their calendar and web pages at least minimally maintained (like correct email addresses for staff, staff schedules from this year, not 3 years ago, and mention of the time of PTA meetings somewhere in the monthly newsletter or daily bulletin).
    If the principal has time to maintain Twitter or Facebook, then they have too damn much time on their hands and one of the assistant principals should be laid off.
    Basically, your are talking about how to do a fancy presentation at a up-scale restaurant, while I’m worried about whether there is enough food.

  7. Rose Reid

    Can’t speak for schools but as a public library we use Facebook to interact with our members and Twitter to interact with other professionals.

  8. Kosta Dimeropoulos

    I agree with you, Bill, that Twitter is likely a better choice for administrators (but also resource staff) looking for online collaboration and resource-sharing that is simple, dynamic, and manageable. (While some people follow hundreds of people on Twitter, this doesn’t have to be the case!)
    I’d also add that admin and resource staff can regularly forward relevant, “best of the best” resources to the teachers that they support. Those teachers are likely already on Facebook, but even if they just access their e-mail, what is shared with them will be “in their face” very quickly. Thus, teachers can be engaged in a frequent trickle of what is essentially ongoing PD. (While conferences, courses, and in-services are great PD, they are typically infrequent…I truly believe that PD should never be allowed to get “cold”.)

Comments are closed.