10 ways to effectively manage social media

Learning is the result of personal relationships. I learned this in college from my basketball coach. Years later, I had a chance to work for him and was amazed at how well he could structure a lesson and, more impressive still, get his athletes to perform at levels they didn’t even know possible—both academically and athletically. As I entered the classroom, I kept that philosophy with me. Everything I did every day—from greeting kids at the door, to learning names, to attending school events—was to build that relationship and let the students know I was invested. With social media, I saw a new opportunity to build relationships beyond the classroom. It is an amazing tool for us—both as teachers and as advisers—to give students and teachers recognition, promote events, and celebrate the school.

Managing Social Media

After a few years of managing social media in my classroom, in my school, and at the local and national level for education, I have learned several things that make time on social media fun and effective.

  1. Model the behavior. The sooner we can get educators online modeling appropriate use of social media, the better students will be on social media. Too many times we hand kids a phone and send them off to figure it out. If kids can be on social media and see how professionals are using the different apps, we can help guide their behavior.
  2. Make it interactive. Create challenges like scavenger hunts and extra-credit questions, or host chats using social media. I used to take photos of spirit items I hid on campus and send out a photo to get kids to locate the items. Or, I’d tweet out in the morning, “The first 20 kids to show up at room 20 tomorrow get a spirit shirt!” Social media is not something to just be consumed; make it interactive.
  3. Choose your times wisely. You’ll want to schedule some of your social media posts because no one has time to be on social media constantly. Apps like Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) are great for managing your social media networks and scheduling content. For example, schedule your posts to show up first thing in the morning (6:30 a.m.) to remind students about spirit days. That’s when they are waking up and first looking at their phones. Similarly, when students are heading to lunch or getting out of school, they are looking at devices to see what everyone is doing or texting a friend for a ride. Evenings are good, too—anything around 8:00 p.m.—as that is a high-traffic time on social media.
  4. Involve your students. I would often have students help me develop our social media calendar and create visual content like GIFs or videos to help spread the word. I didn’t need to do it all.
  5. Coordinate your social media marketing. As a leadership class, we would all plan out what was going to be posted at night. Then, at 7:30 p.m., I would send out a text via a group text platform like Remind (www.remind.com) and my students would then send out the same post on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or anywhere else they were posting. We would then go around and mark the posts as favorites, share them, or comment on them. Imagine, 30 students posting the same thing at the same time and then resharing the posts. That’s a lot of messages saying the same thing in front of an exponential number of students at school. It’s hard not to know what is going on for students that are connected. In addition, I would ask students who were willing to text their friends to share the message. Our goal is to get the information out; individual communication is still one of the best ways of doing that.
  6. Make it relevant. Survey your kids, find out what platforms they are using, and decide which social media platform you want to use to engage your students. Twitter seems to be the favorite for a lot of schools. In my experience, kids tend to be on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Parents are more likely to be on Facebook and the school website. A survey is a great way to find out how parents and students want to get their information.
  7. Learn how to use hashtags. Fulton Middle School in Fulton, MO, does an awesome job of promoting its academics and achievements through hashtags. Principal Beth Houf does Twitter challenges with her staff and celebrates teaching and learning daily. Check out #fmsteach on Twitter for more examples. One way to help foster a positive school culture is to share the positive stuff happening on your campus every single day.

  8. Change how you think.
    Most schools are doing schoolwide daily video announcements (and at the very least have printed announcements). Chunk out your announcements into 10- to 15-second videos and share them on Snapchat.
  9. Take advantage of texting. For students not involved in social media groups, texting is a great tool. I used apps like Remind to send out messages to students all over campus. At freshman orientation, I had students hold up a sign and encouraged them to register for the text service to get reminders out about what was going to be happening at school. I would do the same at another event, a few days later, for seniors. After two years, I had more than half the school signed up for the text reminders. The great thing is, by signing them up by class, I can send a text to just the freshmen class or I can send a text to all four classes.
  10. Get familiar with the technology. If you are new to the social media landscape, pick one platform and give yourself a chance to play. Too many times we go all in with something new and get overwhelmed. Give yourself permission to play, make mistakes, and learn. Just like teaching, you don’t need to be the expert, you just need to know which way to lead your students so learning will happen.

Once you learn the technology, generating interest and student involvement on social media takes a little time. Within two years of engaging students via social media, sending reminders, and utilizing online promotions along with posters and announcements, we saw a huge upturn in school spirit. The easiest measurable goal for us to see was a huge increase in participation on spirit days, especially on school color days. We spent so much time building and planning activities that fostered relationships on our campus, why wouldn’t we do that online as well? We connect with kids where they are, and in the process, help them develop their digital footprint through online interaction.

—Matt Soeth is an adjunct professor at the Teachers College of San Joaquin in Stockton, CA, where he instructs teachers in technology and mobile applications.