Why are you doing it?
This is the fundamental question a school needs to ask before launching into any new social media channel. Reasons could include any of the following: to feed the Head’s ego; to keep up with the Joneses down the road; it’s expected by younger tech-savvy parents; broadcasting information; starting online conversations and engaging with people outside of the school; sharing media from trips. The answer to the question will help to clarify whether a particular route is one the school should go down.
What are you going to post?
You have to decide what sort of information you are going to post online. Is it going to be primarily for sharing images from trips, or sports results, or links to school website news updates, or content produced by pupils, or latest updates on away matches returning late?
The list can be endless but unless you are trying to be all things to all people, a clear idea at the outset will help you target the right audience. You also then need to check to see which of your posts are the most popular and try and work out why.
Is anyone listening?
Spending hours and hours on producing great content which you then upload is ultimately fruitless if no-one is listening. It’s important to use the basic analytical tools that are built into the programs so that you have hard data upon which to make decisions. If you’re trying to engage with former pupils who have recently left the school but your followers are all grandparents of current pupils then it’s important to know this so it can inform the decision making process. It takes time to build up a tribe of followers but you also need to know when to cut your losses and move on to something else.
Or you may empower lots of different people to post online but with very clear brand ‘rules’ and etiquette – then all you have to do is ensure consistency! You may embrace the fact that each channel or user has their own personality and that this is conveyed in the way they produce and post content. There is no right or wrong way, but you do need to be very clear what you’re doing. Some schools will ensure that every department Twitter profile looks very similar, whilst others actively encourage individuality and one-upmanship between departments. Safeguarding is incredibly important and clear guidance to staff on the use of mobile devices to take photos and upload content is crucial.
Who has the time to do all this?
We’re all busy and posting online isn’t something you want to do quickly whilst running between meetings, as that’s how embarrassing mistakes are made. Some will say it’s the marketing department’s job to do it. Others will say it should be enthusiastic tech-savvy teachers, others will say let the pupils do it, whilst in many smaller schools it might be the Head. It’s important that whoever does it is given time and training to do it properly, and commits to doing it regularly – there’s little more off-putting than a Facebook page which hasn’t been updated for two years, with 20 likes and a profile photo of the old school frontage! Will they just be allowed to post content or will they also be responsible for responding to comments that others post? Do different people have responsibility for different channels or do you use automated software to post to multiple sites at one time?
Not engaging with social media as a school is no longer an option, the only question is which channels you decide to use and to what extent. There are plenty of companies and courses that can help you navigate this tricky online world, and an hour spent on Google will quickly show you which schools are doing it well and which aren’t. We are all educators and lifelong learners in schools and we need to model this to our pupils as we engage positively with new online technologies and media as they come along.
Andy Falconer has been Master of St Olave's School in York, part of the St Peter’s School 3-18 foundation, for 12 years and was Chairman of IAPS in 2010/11. St Olave’s is a day and boarding school with 350 pupils aged 8-13
Access free CPD on Twitter
Following high-quality education twitter accounts is a simple way to access amazing - and free - CPD at your convenience:
1. @DeputyMitchell Google Certified Teacher & Deputy Headteacher in Bolton. An IT guru who specialises in helping pupils get engaged and immersed in their learning.
2. @Joga5 Primary Head Teacher. Interested in children's writing, Multimodality, Kidlit and is a 'blogging evangelist'.
3. @TheHeadsOffice Retired head teacher, Julia Skinner, tweets about all aspects of education & leadership.
4. @EvidenceInEdu World-class training on assessment and research for teachers. Evidence-based school improvement from the Durham CEM centre and Cambridge Assessment.
5. @bravehead Retired headteacher, Dave Harris, author of 'Brave Heads', 'Are You Dropping The Baton?' & 'Leadership Dialogues'. Tweets that help to bring the fun and wonder back into education!