Superintendents aren’t just the academic leaders of their school districts anymore. With the rise in today’s social media use, superintendents can also act as brand managers who lead an on-going dialogue to connect with students, parents and community members in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
Twitter is a particularly good communication tool for superintendents to utilize because it is fast, easy and interactive. It gives district leaders an opportunity to personally interface with the school community in a modern and approachable way.
Another benefit? It shows that the way the district embraces technology starts at the highest level and works its way down to individual students in the classroom.
If you haven’t already, start by creating a free Twitter account and spend a little time listening to the current conversation.
A good place to start listening is with prearranged chats in which superintendents and other educational leaders discuss relevant issues. Here are a few suggested chats to get you going; you can find them via Twitter’s search tool:
- #suptchat — A chat specifically geared towards superintendents and their role in education.
- #edchat — A popular chat that covers a variety of educational topics. (Visit pbworks.com for topics and transcripts of previous chats.)
- #PBLChat — A chat focused on project-based learning topics. (Visit com/newtechnetwork for information and transcripts of previous chats.)
Next, search and follow other relevant Twitter accounts, including those of other superintendents or school districts in your area, government and community leaders and stakeholders, and partner organizations. Twitter’s platform allows for instant conversation, as well as direct messaging, which makes connecting and networking with others in the industry a breeze.
Twitter is also a valuable tool to help you get the most out of your favorite education conferences — whether you’re able to attend or not. Search and use the conference hashtags to follow along and add to a deeper conversation surrounding the biggest workshop topics.
When — and What — to Share
Before you start tweeting yourself, talk with your other administrators and school board members about the conversations you’re seeing on Twitter and how you might join in. Once you do start tweeting, tweet early and often. Break your own news. Keep your feed fresh with a variety of new and personalized content.
As a K-12 superintendent you can use Twitter to:
- Provide timely announcements to the community, such as school closings, event details, meeting cancellations, or the final score of the big football game.
- Recognize and praise the accomplishments of your students, teachers and staff.
- Connect and network with other government or education leaders. Brainstorm ideas or see how others manage the kinds of issues that affect your district.
- Tell your own story. You no longer have to wait for traditional media coverage to get the word out about what your students and teachers are accomplishing, the progress your students have made or how your district’s mission and vision are coming to life every day.
The “Do’s and Don’t’s” of Superintendent Tweets
Learn from others’ successes — and from their mistakes. Here are a few suggestions on what works and what probably won’t.
Do: Use hashtags
Hashtags can create a deeper dialogue about important topics or issues in your district or community. You can utilize hashtags already in use for bigger educational issues or create your own hashtag for a more specific, local issue.
How one district did it: When tight budgets in the Ithaca City School District in New York led to increased property taxes in its small town, district leaders took to Twitter to chat about the issue and answer community questions. The district utilized the hashtag #ICSDBOE in order to track the conversation and ensure a two-way dialogue.
Do: Use humor
It’s ok to show some personality on Twitter and interact informally with your school community in a lighthearted way. When humor is used appropriately, it increases engagement and often leads to more shares and followers.
How one district does it: The spokesman for the Roanoke City Public Schools in Virginia pretends his tweets are written by his cat who not only posts the occasional selfie but is also in charge of deciding whether the district will close for extreme weather. Before the district is ready to make a school closure announcement, the cat might tease students who ask for an update by saying he’s waiting until he reaches a certain number of followers or that he will delay his decision by 30 minutes for every additional person who asks.
Don’t: Take the humor too far
A superintendent should never post anything that appears too snarky, flippant or intolerant. Educational leaders should strive to set a good example for students by keeping social media interactions positive, helpful and informative.
Do: Share the good news. And lots of it.
While Twitter can be useful for disseminating information and creating dialogue, it’s also the perfect place to promote school pride. Post photos and videos of students, teachers and alumni in the classroom, interacting out in the community, playing hard on the field, or dancing at the senior prom.
How one district does it: Superintendent Joseph Roy of the Bethlehem Area School District in Pennsylvania uses his Twitter account to not only talk about the educational issues important to him, but also to boast about his district’s schools, teachers and students. He tweets about school plays, contest winners, student fundraisers, special events, milestones and student achievements with the hashtag #BASDProud. He follows the Twitter accounts of community leaders, district employees, and individual schools, athletic teams or clubs, all of which can be a gold mine of “good news” that he then retweets.
Don’t: Only share the good stuff
Try to also create a reasonable balance of posts that are informative and responsive to district or educational issues. Ask for feedback or input when needed, and use Twitter as another way to listen to your community.
Also, be careful not to post photos or video of students who have not submitted a signed media release form. When it doubt, simply use photos of the backs of students’ heads.
Do: Admit when you’ve made a mistake.
Because Twitter is so immediate — and public — it is possible to occasionally say something that may come off as inappropriate or offensive. If that happens, own your mistake, apologize for it and learn from the experience.
What other tips and tricks have you learned for using Twitter as an educational leader? Share in the comments. And don’t forget to follow us! @sungardK12