Note to Principals: You Can’t Keep Ignoring Social Spaces

For the past several years, I’ve been pushing principals to build a presence for their schools in social spaces like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram simply because social spaces tend to be spaces where our primary customers — parents and students — spend a heck of a lot of time.  If you believe that communicating effectively with the people that you serve matters, then you simply CAN’T keep ignoring the tools that the people you serve are using for communication.

Need more proof that sharing in social spaces matters?  

Then consider the fact that 63 percent of the respondents to a recent Pew Research Center on Journalism and Media survey reported turning to Twitter and Facebook for news “outside the realm of friends and family” — a percentage that has grown significantly since 2013, that cuts across demographic and age groupings, and that will only continue to grow as both services develop new features that make it even easier for users to consume news from their sites.

Think about that for a minute, would you?  

Can we really rely on weekly automated phone calls, static homepages on the web, or monthly “From the Desk of the Principal” newsletters to communicate with our communities when our communities are growing increasingly comfortable finding news in the kinds of spaces that we have traditionally avoided?  Don’t we lose valuable opportunities to tell the story of our successes when we cede our messaging presence in social spaces to other news sources?

One of the easiest ways to tap into the messaging power of social spaces is to establish — and then encourage everyone in your community to start using — a school and/or district hashtag.

The beauty of using hashtags to organize your school/district presence in social spaces is that every stakeholder can add to the conversation without needing access to specific social media accounts.  That facilitates sharing.  School personnel can post traditional communications — calendar updates, school closing information, details on special programming or deadlines — just as easily as classroom teachers can post pictures of cool classroom happenings or community organizations can post links to resources that parents and students might find useful.

Need some examples of the role that hashtags can play in your school’s messaging efforts?

Then check out this handout — which encourages readers to reflect on the content being shared by four different schools and districts who are using hashtags as a communication tool.  Doing so will give you a better sense for how hashtags can be used to create a positive presence for your school in the kinds of spaces that our audiences have already embraced.



Related Radical Reads:

Simple Truth: Hashtags Can Save You Time

Five Twitter Hashtags that Can Save School Leaders Time

Who Wants to Play Hashtag Bracketology

Communicating and Connecting with Social Media [Excerpt]


  • Jason Evans

    Twitter Opens the School to Everyone
    Our school does an awesome job with Twitter. We always know what is going on in the school. The principal is a twitter fanatic, which is great for the community.

  • BillIvey

    My school…

    … is in a state of transition in regards to communications. Our previous director, who was phenomenal, decided not to return after her maternity leave and took a job at another school which her young daughter can attend. Our interim director is covering until August 7, by which point in time we’ll hopefully have a new person in place.

    Anyway, we’ve been using a not-so-static-any-more webpage, flickr galleries, Facebook postings, Twitter, Instagram, and a blog, as well as MailChimp newsletters (weekly for all families and biweekly for middle school families, with periodic special topic mailings) for mass communication. The purpose varies by medium. We use the webpage for regular news items, calendar updates, alumnae appeals, plus the more static information about the school. Flickr galleries highlight special occasions. Facebook (which I manage) is daily or near-daily communication, generally through photos and short notices, of goings on in the school. Twitter (which I manage) is thought leadership on education, feminism, and social justice as well as occasional duplications of Facebook notices. We try to update the blog at least weekly; I probably write about 90% of the posts, usually on the same themes as seen on the Twitter account. Instagram, run by the kids, is a slightly more informal look into what’s going on on campus. MailChimp newsletters include a mix of links to blog postings, standard announcements, reports from classes, and other news of special and/or generally cool things happening.

    It’s a pretty comprehensive, but somewhat compartimentalized approach that attempts to use each medium in a way that exploits its strengths. As I say, we’re getting a new Director of Marketing and Communications within a month or so, so we’ll see if we keep the current directions. But that’s how it’s been for the past several years.

  • Michael Maser

    Social Media Policy for Schools?!

    Hi Bill, I appreciate the focus of your column, though if I could zoom out I'd appreciate seeing some examples of school-based social media policy guidelines for administrators, educators, students, parents and anyone else wishing to connect into a school or with a student via social media. I am currently exploring this WRT the online school I helped to co-found and help run in BC Canada. We're a large school (2500+ learners), serving kids and families provincewide, and challenged to keep up with IT and social media developments, let alone enact a SM policy that we know will continue to evolve. I'd value your insights.   

    Thanks, Michael Maser 

    SelfDesign Learning Community (