Using social media successfully in 2018 means more than checking your Facebook page or scrolling through Twitter occasionally.
It is possible, with intention, to create a social media presence that is effective—for both you and your audience—whether that’s friends, colleagues or peers around the globe. You can develop a social media presence that informs your educational practices, provides you with a supportive network of fellow educators and moves education forward
Audrey O’Clair and I have developed a framework of developing a brand, exploring content, reaching audience, creating strategy and celebrating potential for designing your social media presence. Here’s how educators can get started creating an intentional social media presence, making the best use of the many tools and platforms out there today.
Developing Your Brand
Whether you’re an individual teacher, a school, a district or a business, we all have a brand. Our brand is the impression we make in the virtual world. With the prevalence and reach of social media, it’s what we project across the world.
It is important to think about what your own brand looks like. Your name or handle on social media should be professional, intuitive and evergreen—meaning nothing that will one day sound dated. You may consider maintaining separate professional and personal social media accounts with different names and identities.
ProTip: Use Camel Case, beginning each word in a handle or hashtag with a capital letter, to make your name, as well as hashtags and handles, more understandable and accessible.
In addition to a name, you should have a complete and up-to-date profile. There should be a consistency for your brand across the different platforms you engage in.
Most importantly, your brand should be consistent with your values. DJ Khaled is a disc jockey, a radio personality, a record label producer and executive and an author. He is also a Snapchat superstar. He has used his fame on social media to propel his career. Throughout this, he has maintained a clear of sense of purpose as revealed his book, “The Keys.”
The question only you can answer is what do you want to use social media for?
The content being shared on social media takes many forms. It includes your original work as well as news, information, humor and inspiration from others.
More and more of the information being shared on social media is visual. In addition to images and videos, this includes memes, GIFs and infographics, which are visual representations of data that are intended to convey information quickly and clearly. Educators are sharing lots of infographics to make sense of the considerable data they have access to, and even creating their own using tools such as Piktochart.
As you design your presence on social media, think about both what content interests you and what unique contributions you can make. Social media can be used in ways beyond posting and reading posts, participating in chats and direct messaging.
Knowing and understanding your audience is key to a successful social media presence.
Social media platforms with an educator audience include Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat. Each platform has its own features and corresponding audience profile.
Twitter is widely used by educators. Hashtags are used to develop virtual communities around specific topics and twitter chats provide a real-time interaction (check out this comprehensive list of weekly chats on education-related topics). Twitter also includes features that are not always used by educators to their full advantage. For example, when you share an image, you can tag up to 10 people on the image. Every tagged person receive a notification which increases the likelihood that your post will receive likes and retweets. You can also add a poll to any tweet and gather opinions from your Twitter community.
Facebook can be equally valuable for educators—especially its video capabilities, which have been shown to have high engagement levels. In 2016, Facebook introduced a Live feature. You can turn on the camera, record and share what is happening in your classroom, what you are learning at a conference or how you feel about trends in education. While posting live, you can respond to user feedback. The live video is posted to your feed so that it is accessible later. Last November, Facebook also introduced a poll feature.
Pinterest allows educators to create, share, and access collections of resources. Educator Lisa Johnson started using Pinterest when it was in Beta and people were using it for home hacks and cake ball recipes. Nearly a decade later she’s still using it. More recently, she’s used it to help organize her book, “Cultivating Communication in the Classroom.” Lisa says, “I created a board for each chapter of my book because I knew that I would continually discover updated resources and research on each of those topics and wanted to make that whether people bought the book or not … that they would have access to those resources.”
Perhaps even more so than Pinterest, Instagram is a platform that is all about visuals. Educators use Instagram to show off learning spaces, post student work, and share inspiration. You can also use it to create private classroom accounts, which are only visible to approved users, such as parents.
Snapchat is increasingly being used by educators to engage students and families. Educator Tara Martin has her students use Snapchat to annotate and share excerpts of books they’re reading. The students read, snap, reflect, add stickers, and share on Twitter with the hashtag #BookSnaps.
There are other platforms, including LinkedIn and YouTube, being used by educators and more platforms are being developed all the time. What is important is that you are using the same platforms as your desired audience.
Creating a Strategy
Once you have identified your brand, content and audience, you need to create a strategy that reflects your priorities.
As busy educators, time is always a factor. Figure out how much time you spend on social media (per day or per week). Compare this to how much time you want to spend.
Do you need to be more efficient? Or do you need to think about how to make the best use of the limited time you have available?
Focusing on social media during specific blocked out periods of time, rather than accessing it throughout the day, can result in a more intentional interaction with social media and more productive work the rest of the time.
Think about when is the best time for you to be on social media—is it early mornings before your school day starts? in the evening as your day winds down? On weekends when you are reflecting on the past week and preparing for the next week?
Thankfully, the choice is yours, and there’s no need to feel tethered to your smartphone or laptop at all times. Platforms such as Hootsuite, which works with Twitter, let you pre-post content that you want to share so that it reaches people at more convenient times. This is especially important when your education community is located in different time zones. Another tool, Buffer, allows you to work across multiple platforms.
Reflection should be a big part of your social media strategy. Are you projecting the brand you want? Is the content you are engaging with meaningful? Are you developing a audience that supports and guides you? Does your strategy meet your needs? After reflection, you can adjust your social media presence. You can maintain a presence that evolves and reflects your experience and current interests. Part of the value of social media is its dynamic nature. There are always new tools and platforms to try out.
With social media, you can share with and learn from many more educators than is possible in your real world. And with some planning and thoughtfulness, you can do it in a way that suits you best.