Social media is here to stay. Making a statement like that makes social media sound like something that arrived at some stage of our lives, much like the radio, television or cellphone. Is social media really something that has arrived or could social media have been with us since we starting communicating? If we put too much emphasis on the word media then that could be the case, but if we view social media as a broader form of communication, then it has been with us long before we even had formal languages. This form of social media can even be found in paintings done by cavemen. In essence, social media could well be a story that has relevance to more than just a few people; it could be an incomplete story that develops into a complete story and eventually becomes a legend.
The title of this article is ‘Social Media in the Classroom‘ and I think the classroom is the place where many stories start. Thinking back to my school days, I often heard someone say something and then the lesson began. I had very little information about what was said but during the lesson I would be thinking about the possibilities of what I had heard and the scenarios that could play out, often I would never even speak to the person who originally said that particular something. We often hear things and then get distracted, only to have these stories completed at a later stage.
I picture a classroom with a teacher and 30 pupils, each having their own thoughts and perceptions of what is going on around them. The lesson could be a catalyst for the next great story or big scandal – something we think we have no control over. Control is debatable, but how we use the information we gather could be the key to success or total disaster.
The saying goes ‘what you think of me is your business, it has nothing to do with me’ and that is a guideline which informs us that we should not react, but rather just observe.
Social interactions can be good when we try and understand the viewpoints of others. They become bad when we try to change the viewpoints of others. They become extremely ugly when we are in conflict with others, because we are not prepared to listen to them as we see their opinions as irrelevant.
On social media platforms people often express their opinions openly and sometimes even name those who they feel have wronged them. Remember it is not what people say about you that causes the damage, more often than not it is the way people respond to people who have said things about them that causes the real damage. You are judged by others on how you respond to what was said about you, they seldom judge on the opinion of others only.
Most importantly you should know how to secure your social media platforms like FaceBook, Twitter and other platforms. Start by blocking those whom you find offensive, and most importantly don’t allow just anyone to post on your timeline or tag you in posts or photos. Remember that once you have applied your settings they will not always stay like that, so do check them every two to three months at least.
When last did you Google yourself? Search more than just the first few pages and then also check what photos of you are online. Hopefully everything you find is good, otherwise you will need to contact the platform concerned and request that the content be removed.
What is the guideline for social media or communication in general? This is a simple answer which is not as simple to follow, but it is something we should always remember when communicating. The guideline is as follows: you need to be a ‘Social person who is professional at all times’.
The words “All times” also speak to the need to be consistent. This is contrary to traditional marketing which believes that you only say something when it is worth saying, and you definitely say nothing in a crisis. This traditional marketing approach is unlike relationships where consistent communication is important, and in a crisis you need to communicate even more. Social is about relationships and our thinking should always be in the context of relationships, leaving the marketing type communication to the ‘spin doctors’.
Our Social Community : Building communities of people is the way social media functions; give people what they want and they will always see you as valuable. You should always ask yourself why people would want to read your social media posts and what they would want to see? In general we are all vain and fickle, we love to read about what is important to us, and if we can see pictures of ourselves, our children and our families we have fulfilled the basic human need of recognition.
What should a school be posting on Social Media? Stories told using photos and only a bit of text are the most powerful. Text heavy posts are quickly overlooked when there are interesting photos. Don’t over-promote what the school does (social media should not be used for advertising), rather promote the learners and sportspeople who make up the school. In terms of sport make sure that you don’t forget your lesser sports.
How often should a school post on Social Media? The biggest pitfall is to post only when a big sports or other event happens at the school. You should avoid becoming predictable, rather decide on how often you would like to post and stick to that plan. Consistency builds communities quicker than events and also conveys a message to prospective learners and parents that they will be able to find a place in your school’s community. If you only focus on the big events, you may just exclude the people who are unable to achieve the best results.
Social Media Policy and Guidelines
Does your school have a social media policy or guidelines? Policies are often too strict and not that easy to enforce. I suggest starting off with guidelines that would help everyone understand what some of the Do’s and Don’ts of social media are.
A social media guideline is really just a communication guideline, after all social media is the way we do the majority of our communication these days. A small team should put the guidelines together and then circulate the document for comments and finally approval by the school management and governing body. Getting legal opinion is also a good idea so that you avoid lawsuits.
Guidelines should cover some of the following topics : Cyberbullying, Sexting, Depression, Brand damage and Crisis Communication to name a few.
The most important aspects of guidelines are to focus on who communicates, what is communicated and how quickly things are communicated.
Whilst formulating these guidelines it is a good idea to work through various scenarios that could arise. Here are a few examples: Our sports team wins the league; We have the top academic student in the country; Our school had a great tour to the Far East; Our principal has been embezzling funds from the school for the past 10 years and it is estimated that more than 10 Million is missing; Our deputy head master is having an affair with the Head Boy; A major drug bust just occurred at our school. Scenarios need to be worked through and plans need to be made before the time. Good or bad, the news or topics that people will talk about need to be addressed, carefully and efficiently.