In This Post:
- The importance of having guidelines for safe, effective use of social media in your school district.
- 7 tips for writing school social media guidelines for your district.
I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it: Social media is not going anywhere anytime soon. You can love it or hate it, but it’s going to be around for a long time. Sure, the platforms will change, but the culture of being social across a wide array of mediums will continue to be a thing. You can fight it, or you can use it to your advantage.You can fight using social media in your school district, or you can use it to your advantage. Click To Tweet
This is not an article arguing the pros and cons of using social media in your school district. This is for anyone who has already decided to utilize social media. Whether you’ve started using it, or are strongly considering how you can, there’s one piece that absolutely must be put in place first: Your school district’s social media policy and guidelines.
You cannot safely begin to utilize the power of social media if your students, staff, and stakeholders do not understand what is expected of them when engaging on any platform. Your school’s social media guidelines provide everyone guidance on what is and is not acceptable use of social media in your school community.
But where do we start? What should we include? What is the best method for deciding what is “good use” and what is not?
The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There is no simple template to copy. Your guidelines need to be custom tailored to you and your community. However, there are some steps you can take to make the process efficient and effective.
Here are 7 steps to get started creating your school district’s social media guidelines.
1. Assess your school and community culture.
The first step is to figure out where your community stands on social media. Understanding whether parents and stakeholders feel the utilization of a specific platform is a good idea or a horrible one should drastically affect what you lay out as acceptable use. If your staff has had continuously negative experiences on a specific social site, or your community has expressed an avid distrust in a particular site, you may want to exclude it from acceptable platforms to be used in your district.
Have conversations with your students, stakeholders, staff members, and community members. Learn has much as you can about how people use social media, how they view it, and how they feel about it being used in your district.
Some questions to try and answer through conversations are:
- How is social media currently being used by students, teachers, administrators, parents, and other community members?
- Is there any fear of social media in your school community?
- What are some of the negative feelings people have about social media?
- How can social media platforms be leveraged for better communication?
- Are there any areas where social media is already being used that you can highlight as good practice?
2. Build a team.
Your team needs to include a diverse group of educators and community members. Don’t just gather people who already use social media. Find staff members that aren’t as familiar or comfortable with certain platforms. Their concerns can create some valuable conversation and lead to carefully planned guidelines that make everyone feel safer.
I would strongly suggest including at least one staff member from every building in your district and each grade level, if possible. Your school’s attorney, at least one member of the school board, and a couple community members outside of school staff are also valuable voices to bring in.
The key here is to create a diverse team who can effectively talk through everything that should be addressed in your guidelines.
Keys to a strong team:
- A shared goal for creating social media guidelines that are fair but also provide safety.
- A diverse group with varying levels of experience with social media.
Research and evaluate policies already in place that may cover typical “best practices” when it comes to communication. Because social media platforms change so much, having general “common sense” guidelines in place is important. You probably already have a lot of it in the form of media communication guidelines, parent communication guidelines, etc.
The next step is to research the social media policies and guidelines other school districts, universities, organizations, and even businesses have in place. You can find countless pdf versions of these with a simple Google search.
Lastly, dig into the platforms you are already using or may begin to use. Get familiar with their safety and security settings, user agreements, and privacy options.
The key here: Do your homework.[scroll down to keep reading]
4. Make sure your legal team reviews it.
I’m not sure I have to say too much here. Have your lawyers look it over. Make sure they agree that your guidelines are clear and concrete, and if they don’t, fix them.
5. Communicate with everyone and get feedback.
Just like anything you do in your school district that affects the entire staff, you need to communicate your social media guidelines with everybody. Explain your process of creation, why certain things were put in place, and have conversations to clarify any confusion.
And then listen to feedback.
I can’t stress this enough; you’ve got to listen. Go out and get as much feedback as possible. Make sure everyone is crystal clear on what is and is not okay. Because when someone violates social media protocol, the fact that they claim they didn’t know something could be the least of your worries.
6. Communicate with your community.
Once you feel good about your social media guidelines, be sure to share them with your community. Using social media in your school district has the potential to make some folks nervous. Sharing the time and effort you put into making sure it is used safely and for good reasons, as well as explaining how you will manage it can help to set some minds at ease.
7. Be ready to adjust.
Like with any plan you put in place, be ready to adjust. Continue to talk with your community and staff, and adjust as new concerns arise, new platforms emerge, and as you continue to learn and grow as a district.
The fact is, creating your school district’s social media guidelines is no easy project, but it’s an important one. And one you do not want to cut corners on. Take your time, research like crazy, communicate constantly, and continue to be on the lookout for necessary changes.
About Jeff Gargas
Jeff Gargas is the COO and co-founder of the Teach Better Team. Prior to co-founding Teach Better Team, Jeff was the owner of ENI Multimedia, an online marketing firm, where he worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses, assisting them with web design, social media, content marketing, and brand awareness.
Prior to all of this, Jeff was an adjunctive professor at Kent State University and spent 10+ years in the music industry. He has spoken at conferences around the country, and has successfully promoted more than 500 events and launched 7 businesses in a variety of industries.
Jeff is passionate about music, and enjoys spending time with his family as often as possible.