During the recent Campus Suite Academy How to Use Twitter to Improve School Communication, (see webinar video here), we didn't have time to get to all the questions live. Following are the balance of the questions and answers during the Twitter for schools webinar. We’re finding that many school administrators have some pretty compelling concerns to consider before using Twitter. Check out some of the questions and answers swirling around using Twitter for schools.
Q: Are there ways to back up our school Twitter account for public records?
A: Backing up your school’s Tweets is an excellent idea. Your school may already have an established records management system that your Twitter account can plug into. Hootsuite and Buffer, which were covered in our webinar, offer archiving as an option, but there are many tools for capturing social media records. Archive-It and ArchiveSocial are popular ones as well. You can also always just screen capture them yourself.
Q: Is it better to make a separate athletics Twitter, or feed it through the main school twitter?
A: As a former sports reporter and a school PR manager, I would definitely recommend creating a dedicated athletics account. Scores, schedules, rosters and sports news are still among the most popular content parents and the community are seeking, so serve it up to everyone easily – and have some fun in so doing. Have your AD find an eager student to create and schedule your Tweets.
Q: How do you restrict or prevent negativity and negative comments/tweets?
A: Because we all don’t share the same sense of decency and respect for individuals and institutions, it’s a great idea to have a social media policy in place and promoted. This will justify those rare occasions when you’re going to have to address a negative comment. The extreme, offensive ones need to be removed, and Twitter will work with you in helping you do that. For help in drafting your a school social media policy, go here.
Q: What is the best way to keep our content within school safeguarding policy?
A: First of all, as with the social media policy, you have to make certain your school’s safeguarding policy is made quite public. (Safeguarding is a largely British term that assures children get safe and effective care, protecting them, and preventing anything damaging happening.)
Q: At what frequency of tweets is too much? On average what frequency causes users to unfollow.
A: As a rule of thumb, 2-5 Tweets daily is a good target for schools, depending, really on what all you’ve got going on. Keep in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ content guidelines, which prescribes balancing balance news/info, facts and stats, and human interest content that relate to your school.
Q: I work in a very diverse school with stakeholders of many different levels of IT/social media knowledge. What is the best way to engage them?
A: Your school is not alone. Just about every school I know has stakeholders with varying levels of social media knowledge. Start with your website, this is ground floor of your digital connection to your parents. Next to their email accounts, even your biggest non-techies will check out your school website (and come back to it if it looks good and your content is fresh). Next, focus on keeping your Facebook page up to date, then focus on Twitter, this is where your more savvy social media stakeholders are getting most of their news and info.
Q: Because Tweets move so fast and people who follow a ton of people on Twitter, don't you often feel like you are just throwing wasted time into the void?
A: Great question. It does take time to create Tweets, and their shelf life can be pretty limited. There are some tools, however, that can take the same content you might already be creating for other channels – website, Facebook, blogs, etc. – and automatically format it into Tweets. Plus, you can schedule them in bulk, so you can save a lot of time.
Q: What is the age that a student can sign up for a Twitter account? Can there be parent permission if underage?
A: There is no hard and fast age minimum for using Twitter. In the Twitter ‘Safety Center’ there are guidelines for both educators and parents for encouraging Twitter literacy and keeping things safe for both educators and young users. Check out this Twitter link for educators, and refer your parents to these Twitter tips for families.
Q: Is there a way to control who will be your followers?
A: You are notified via email whenever someone starts following you. You cannot request others to follow your school. Steer clear of third-party apps that guarantee they’ll boost your following: Twitter may void your account. The best way to gain followers is to engage and follow others.
Q: What's the best way to have multiple teachers and/or students all post to the same account? Does Twitter allow for multiple logins all tied to the same stream? We thought if we hand-picked a few students and have them use our hashtag or mention us it would appear in our feed, but it doesn't.
A: First off, each school account (e.g., district-level, superintendent, school-level, athletics department) has to have its own unique email address. One email address per each Twitter account. You can share those credentials with anyone you’d like, but the username and password will be one login. Using (approved) students and staff to feed content is a great idea to keep content flowing. Just hashtagging tweets won’t feed them to your account, but it will group together all similarly tagged Tweets.
Q: Would Twitter be a good tool to use to notify parents should California have “the big" one?”
A: Not exactly sure what your mean by “the big one,” but Twitter is becoming an increasingly popular tool in times of crisis. While school emergency notification systems are much more immediate and effective, your school’s Twitter account can certainly supplement your notifications about emergencies, delays and closings, and other messages.
Q: Too often the job is given to young inexperienced people who are required to represent a school and its policies on Twitter. It is too important for an inexperienced person.
A: Not sure there’s a question in there, but I’ll comment anyway. If you do give this important responsibility to a someone, make sure he or she is supervised regardless age. Other than maybe the superintendent, principal and communications lead, everyone’s Twitter account should be supervised.
Q: Do you know the age demographic that Twitter serves?
A: Short answer, under 50, college educated. Twitter is gathering momentum with the plus-50 crowd in the last two years. All told, 23 percent of online adults use it. Check out Pew Research for a breakdown of Twitter and other social media demographic.
Q: We've been reading that students are using Twitter less and less and using SnapChat and Instagram more. If you had limited resources, which social media channel is the best use of our time and energy?
A: Yes, those photo-centric channels are big with students, but Twitter is still key in terms of reaching parents. Between Snapchat and Instagram, I’d spend time building your school’s Instagram following, because the photos don’t vanish, it’s got some improvements in the works, and it’s also tied in to Facebook.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.