Steps for school districts to develop a positive relationship with social media
While social media platforms can be fraught and complicated, they have become a necessary part of a school’s online presence. They allow administrators and staff to tell the story of their school – news and announcements, student achievements, local events – directly. They can even engage students, parents, and community members through comments and messages.
So, where does the school district enter the conversation? That’s up to the district itself. Some manage their official pages while proactively helping individual schools with their pages and accounts, and some monitor district schools’ activity and only intervene when necessary.
If your school district is interested in getting involved on social media, in a big or small way, read on to learn the key steps to ensure a positive relationship with these platforms.
Step One: Decide whether you want to start small or think big.
The first thing to do is decide the role you want your school district to play on social media right now. There isn’t one right decision, only what’s right for your district right now.
If you want to start small, you can create accounts and pages for the school district itself. Through these, you can share district-wide announcements and news and recognize individual schools for achievements and milestones.
If schools in your district are already on social media and your district wants to create more formalized policies and procedures for them, you’ll need to start by taking an inventory of school accounts in the district that you want to help manage. Even if you’re going to “think big,” all may be too daunting – teachers, clubs, and sports teams might all have their own pages and accounts. Inventorying official school pages and accounts is a good place to start; find out what they are and who has access to them. Learn how Sherrie Johnson, Stafford County’s Director of Strategic Communication & Community Engagement, worked to wrangle and consolidate her district’s social media presence.
Step Two: Protect your pages.
Whether starting from scratch or wrangling existing pages and accounts, it’s important to control who has access to them. Utilize each channel’s built-in features to assign the correct roles and access levels to the right people. For Facebook and Instagram, go to Facebook’s Business Center to manage users. Twitter Teams helps teams collaborate on an account. This way, when there is staff turnover, you can easily remove team members from the school district’s account without disrupting other members’ access. It also protects the district from the possibility of a disgruntled former employee posting from the account.
You’ll also want to protect your page from the outside. Unfortunately, imposter pages sometimes crop up on Facebook, pretending to be or parodying a school account. To defend against this, make sure to get your Facebook page verified. Your followers will always know which page is the real one, and you’ll have increased visibility from Facebook’s algorithm.
Step Three: Lead with policy.
Whether it applies to just the school district’s social media or every school in the district, it’s important to establish policies and guidelines for social media use. Review your existing policies first, including Responsible Use policies, Digital Citizen guidelines, and staff and student handbooks. The fundamentals of what you need may already be in place for you.
If you’d like a template to work from, check out ArchiveSocial’s social media policy templates.
Step Four: Develop an approval process for content, or train staff before making them page admins or editors.
It’s tempting to have school leadership approve all content before it goes out, but busy schedules make that difficult to accomplish. And if you need to get news out quickly, it becomes even more challenging. The best approval processes balance the importance of leadership’s involvement and the speed at which news moves online.
You may also want to consider establishing a training program in lieu of an approval process. A training program for school page admins and users before giving them access to school pages is more work upfront but will save time in the end.
Training should go over content guidelines, intended audience (parents, students, community), and communication goals. This way, staff posting for individual schools earns trust with the district and doesn’t need approval for every post before publication. Learn more about creating great content from social media experts in education here.
Step Five: Train admins on page moderation.
As a public school district, comment moderation can be tricky. You want your page to represent your values, but even negative comments can be considered protected speech and are subject to public records requests. In a poll during our recent webinar for school districts, 50% of attendees said they had been asked to delete a critical comment. Your page admins must know in advance what comments they can delete or hide and what must be left alone and just ignored.
Because social media content is subject to records requests, it’s important to invest in a social media archiving solution so that all posts and comments are stored and accessible in the case of a records request. Trying to capture everything that happens on your pages through screenshots is difficult and often does not provide complete information.
ArchiveSocial provides easy archiving and then some. It automatically stores content (even if it’s been deleted/hidden/edited) in near-real-time and saves it to our servers, where you can access it when you need it. ArchiveSocial also offers a risk management application that alerts you when specific keywords or images appear on your page. This way, you’ll be alerted to comments (or posts from individual schools) with content you need to respond to.
Step Six: Pool your resources.
If you’re taking the “think big” approach, pooling social media content resources can be a big help to you and your schools. It reduces the burden on individual schools to think of and create new content while helping to ensure schools stay on message.
Create a district social media calendar that includes observances, events, and activities so your schools know to post about them and tailor the messaging to their audiences. You can also create a shared folder with pre-approved content that schools can post. This can be especially useful for district-wide announcements and policy changes where wording and selected images should not change between schools.
With Social Media, Compliance is Key
Now that you’re ready to start posting, you’ll need to archive all of your content, including comments, images, video, etc. ArchiveSocial provides a digital archiving solution that helps government agencies and school districts remain compliant with public records laws. Set up is easy – it usually takes less than five minutes to become compliant and start storing your records in near-real-time.
Optimere Digital Solutions
If you’re receiving more records requests than in the past, check out Optimere’s request management product, NextRequest. NextRequest is a leading automation and workflow technology provider that simplifies how government agencies manage and reduce the risk associated with public records requests.
We also know that compliance goes beyond recordkeeping. Optimere’s web governance product Monsido offers tools for web accessibility, website quality assurance, brand and content compliance, user consent management, social and web content archiving, and more.