Note to Principals: You Can’t Keep Ignoring Social Spaces

For the past several years, I’ve been pushing principals to build a presence for their schools in social spaces like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram simply because social spaces tend to be spaces where our primary customers — parents and students — spend a heck of a lot of time.  If you believe that communicating effectively with the people that you serve matters, then you simply CAN’T keep ignoring the tools that the people you serve are using for communication.

Need more proof that sharing in social spaces matters?  

Then consider the fact that 63 percent of the respondents to a recent Pew Research Center on Journalism and Media survey reported turning to Twitter and Facebook for news “outside the realm of friends and family” — a percentage that has grown significantly since 2013, that cuts across demographic and age groupings, and that will only continue to grow as both services develop new features that make it even easier for users to consume news from their sites.

Think about that for a minute, would you?  

Can we really rely on weekly automated phone calls, static homepages on the web, or monthly “From the Desk of the Principal” newsletters to communicate with our communities when our communities are growing increasingly comfortable finding news in the kinds of spaces that we have traditionally avoided?  Don’t we lose valuable opportunities to tell the story of our successes when we cede our messaging presence in social spaces to other news sources?

One of the easiest ways to tap into the messaging power of social spaces is to establish — and then encourage everyone in your community to start using — a school and/or district hashtag.

The beauty of using hashtags to organize your school/district presence in social spaces is that every stakeholder can add to the conversation without needing access to specific social media accounts.  That facilitates sharing.  School personnel can post traditional communications — calendar updates, school closing information, details on special programming or deadlines — just as easily as classroom teachers can post pictures of cool classroom happenings or community organizations can post links to resources that parents and students might find useful.

Need some examples of the role that hashtags can play in your school’s messaging efforts?

Then check out this handout — which encourages readers to reflect on the content being shared by four different schools and districts who are using hashtags as a communication tool.  Doing so will give you a better sense for how hashtags can be used to create a positive presence for your school in the kinds of spaces that our audiences have already embraced.

#hopethishelps

_____________________

Related Radical Reads:

Simple Truth: Hashtags Can Save You Time

Five Twitter Hashtags that Can Save School Leaders Time

Who Wants to Play Hashtag Bracketology

Communicating and Connecting with Social Media [Excerpt]

2 comments

  1. Tad Sherman

    Haven’t been using #hashtags, but have definitely stepped up our Twitter game! It has been wonderful to share the great stuff we’re doing here at our school! Once we have a larger parent following we hope to rely on it as a primary means of communicating important information. We already do that, but can’t rely on it as a primary method because we are still building our followers. At our meet the teacher we will have staff ready to help parents set up their Twitter account and they will provide a brief tutorial. I am also asking my staff to consider it as one of their PDP goals. I want to start with staff who are ready to take that leap, rather than forcing it on everyone, but I think it’s an easily attainable goal that will pay dividends with our parents and school community. Back to the #….I think that’s something to start, but I find myself with only 140 characters struggling to use a #. I’ve never been a big fan of Facebook, but I know our PTA is trying to run with that. I’ve never dabbled with Instagram personally or professionally, but perhaps that something to investigate for the coming year. Thanks for keeping me thinking about how we can reach our families!

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Pal,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      As for hashtags, what’s beautiful is that people don’t even need an account to follow them! You can just go to the search engine of every site and search for them. That’s what makes them valuable. You don’t need a huge following to get people to see your content. In fact, people don’t even need to follow you to see your content!

      What I would do is create a hashtag and share the crap out of it. Put it in your email autosignature. Post it in every parent newsletter. Have posters made and hang ’em in the hallways. Then, encourage people to use the hashtag in whatever social space THEY participate in. The PTA can blow up Facebook with the hashtag. You can blow up Twitter. Other teachers can blow up Instagram. Make it a common pattern of pariticipation and people will know that they can search for your tag regardless of what space they are in.

      Make sense?
      Bill

      (PS: Our school just started tinkering with our hashtag. #SalemProud)