The time has come for you to resurrect your Twitter account, update your Facebook profile, or dust off your Instagram feed. Social media is the most powerful tool that most principals are not using to its full potential. From communicating with the community to bragging about your students, there are so many reasons to stretch your thumbs and get ready to make these platforms work for your school this year. So here’s what you, as the leader of your school, should and should not do with social media.
Don’t see social media as your enemy.
If you are like most administrators I know, then you have a lot of feelings about social media. It’s no wonder social media gets a bad rap: It can be the frequent cause of disciplinary issues and hallway drama. The truth is that social media will not be going away any time soon. As a school leader, you can either pretend it doesn’t exist or use it to your advantage.
Do look at social media as your new best friend.
Got a smartphone? If so, in your hands you have the means to build community, step up your professional development, and powerfully connect to other principals and teachers around the world. Not tech savvy? Good news: The resources to make magic happen are well within your reach. Read on!
Don’t follow just anyone.
This might seem like common sense, but you should carefully select whom you follow on social media. When you follow others, your name can appear when their profile is searched. While you can’t be accountable for all the content that a person might post, use common sense while curating whom you follow. My personal rule of thumb is this: Imagine the New York Times published your follow list. Suddenly, curating your list seems crystal clear. Learn from cringe-worthy incidents of unfortunate social media gaffes by other principals so it doesn’t happen to you!
Do follow people you admire.
You’re a busy school professional. Following other teachers, principals, and edu superstars on Twitter is like a daily burst of vitamin PD. Not only does following other educators keep your finger on the pulse of what’s hot and relevant in education, but there is so much you can learn from the wide variety of people on social media.
Don’t post and run.
It takes practice to learn to build relationships on social media. If you want to increase the quality of your social media time, you have to connect with others. Take the time to cultivate relationships with people you follow and people who follow you. Read their posts and their captions. Comment on the things you like. Reach out with questions. The more you engage with your followers, the easier it is to know what they like. When you know what they like, you will produce better content and gain more followers.
Do find your people.
Social media is a universe made up of small groups of people with shared interests. But how do you find your tribe? For a better conversation that will challenge you and support your growth, Twitter is the place to be. Weekly chats by groups like #LeadUpChat, Moms as Principals, and Principals in Action are lifesavers. They can connect you with anyone who is on those chats. You can also use education hashtags to connect with people in specific areas of education. Here are some great ones to use.
Don’t use a platform that you can’t sustain.
Let’s face it. Most principals avoid committing to the professional use of social media because it’s completely overwhelming. Between Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, it can be hard to know what will yield the best results for you. It’s important to consider the best social media fit for your purposes. For learning and interacting, Twitter is the gold standard. For documenting and sharing the cool work happening in your school, Instagram and YouTube are the best and most popular tools. Just sharing pictures? Consider trying out Flickr. Facebook is great for calendar reminders and getting the word out quickly about calendar changes and events planning. Facebook is also where a lot of parents and community members reside on social media, so it is a great place to connect with them.
Do focus on perfecting one type of platform.
With all of the platforms out there, you need to know that you don’t have to use all of them! Stick to one and perfect your usage! You don’t have to do Twitter. You don’t have to do Instagram. However, it is in your best interest to think about the best way to promote your amazing faculty and your wonderful school community. If you are stumped, here’s a clue: Ask the millennials in your building about how to leverage social media to work for you and your school.
You’ve seen it before: An enthusiastic parent posts yet another picture of their drooling (but cute) baby. Unless you are that baby’s grandparent, you probably don’t want your social media flooded with yet another blurry close-up. Stay in the good graces of your followers by posting often (daily) but not in excess. My rule of thumb is two tweets per day. By being selective about what you post, you also ensure quality content and minimal annoyance.
Do be consistent.
Social media works when you post, comment, and reply consistently. Staying current is the key to producing content that is interesting to your followers. You don’t have to let managing your social media take your life over, but you do need a solid way to bring it into your everyday practice. Your daily routine offers you perfect moments to shout out the good work you see. Do you do a daily assembly? Tweet out education jokes! Are your faculty doing interesting PLC work? Instagram the cover of the book they are reading!
With just the phone in your pocket, you have the makings of a more positive school culture and excellent professional development. Creating great content and keeping your nose clean takes only a little creativity and common sense. Keep calm and post on!
Plus, check out this article about defining a school brand.