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4 steps to mastering social media

A superintendent shares how social media is essential for today’s schools

social-mediaMention the words social media in a room full of school leaders and you’ll be met with more than a few reservations: It’s too new. There are too many risks. I don’t know how to twit or tweet, or whatever. There’s got to be another way.

To the contrary, says Luvelle Brown, superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in upstate New York and a 2014 eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards winner, social media is the way. Brown took that message to nearly 80 colleagues during a recent annual meeting of Empire State superintendents.

“We have no excuses. We have to be active on these tools as instructional leaders, to give people a sense of what we are thinking and where we are,” said Brown during the New York Council of Superintendents fall meeting in Saratoga Springs.

His words are the foundation of a new online guide designed to help the nation’s school leaders harness the power of social media to improve community engagement.

K12 Insight’s Definitive School Leader’s Guide to Navigating Social Media recognizes that school leaders still struggle to balance the inherent risks of communicating on social media with the tremendous benefits that these ubiquitous tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, now provide.

In addition to highlighting many anecdotal ways in which Brown and other school leaders have successfully improved community engagement with the aid of technology, the guide outlines four strategies to help other school leaders harness—and master—the power of social media.

1. Develop a plan

Outline goals for your social media campaigns. Set expectations. And create a process—so that all of your employees know what is, and is not, acceptable social media engagement.

2. Tell your story

Don’t use social media to simply react to negative feedback. Create a bully pulpit. Be proactive. And use the online tools and resources at your disposal to paint a positive picture of the good work under way in your school or district.

3. Encourage dialogue

Schools are great at pushing out information. But these days, there is no such thing as a one-way conversation. Use social media to engage parents, students, teachers and others in meaningful dialogue and use the results of those conversations to improve the quality of education across your school or district.

4. Avoid pitfalls

No denying it: social media has risks. Starting a Facebook or Twitter page might open your school or district up to the possibility of negative comments or feedback. But social media has its benefits, too. Knowing about these threats early, while they are just starting to make the rounds on social media, means you can head off a controversy before it ignites into a full-on PR crisis.

Brown says his district has become so adept at using social media that many community members now default to the district’s Twitter and Facebook pages to fact-check education news in the local press.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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