The mere mention of Facebook makes some of us administrators cringe. Talk about Twitter and eyes roll. But I say to you, think again.
Facebook now has 511 million active users worldwide, 57% of whom are in the United States. Establish your school or district on Facebook and you have an instant public relations and communication opportunity.
You have options. You could start with an official community Facebook page for your school, accessible to anyone in the Facebook world. It’s easy to add photos, links, discussions, notes, events, and more. And it’s a multi-way communication tool because people can post messages on your “wall.” One challenge with a community page is that updates don’t show up in the News Feed. Also, community pages are limited to 5,000 “followers,” but isn’t garnering that much support a problem we’d all like to have?
A Facebook group is an alternative. What’s the difference? For one thing, their size is smaller. Intended to be places for people to get together and share information, groups are limited to 1,000 members. But a more important distinction is that groups can be closed. People who want to participate need your prior approval. With a closed group, you may feel more comfortable posting pictures or videos from events, working online with your PTA or School Site Council—or even Robotics or Dance Team parents. You might also like the feature that lets you quickly send messages to group members.
Facebook can be a powerful tool for pushing information out to parents and the larger community about your events, programs, themes, and more. For example, if you have recognize character traits each month, such as caring, respect, or resiliency, you can share and reinforce examples on Facebook. Its also a great way to publicly thank parents and other volunteers who support your events. After all, don’t we all love to see our name in lights?
Twitter is another social networking tool that may seem silly to some but can be a loyal ally in your communication campaign. Each day, some 190 million users send out more than 65 million 140-character “tweets.” Why not you? Again, this is not about letting your friends in on what you had for breakfast; this is about building community and connecting with those who you want to know about your programs in your school or district. Some schools even use it for fund raising. That’s right: Tweet for dollars!
For both tools, here are some tips. Think “down to earth.” Be personable. Add smiley faces on Facebook—and, yes, copious exclamation marks!!!!! These touches make people want to follow you and tune in. Don’t just communicate when something goes wrong or when you need people to act. Share the fun in school and the accomplishments. “Wow! 400 students joined me at flag salute today who had perfect attendance for the month of September! Next month we’re shooting for 500!” Then sit back and see how many people click, “Like it!”
Too busy to mess with both a Facebook page and a Twitter account? Not a problem. You can link your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that when you update Facebook, the information is immediately shared on Twitter, and vice versa. I prefer to post to Facebook because I don’t have to worry about Twitter’s 140 word limit. My Twitter followers get a truncated tweet, like a headline, that links to the full version on Facebook.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not just for the kids. These easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools can help you build more of a sense of community and share the message you want others to hear about the work you do. Learn more from these TICAL resources!