Book Face, the popular social networking site (thanks, Jim Halpert)

I started a new job this week, making last week and this week a flurry of activity which did not include blogging. So, I’m back, at least infrequently, until I’m settled in a few weeks.

So, are we tired of talking about social networking yet? Perhaps we should be, but I wonder how long it took for people to get tired of talking about the Gutenberg printing press. Years? Maybe. Get prepared to talk/write/think about social media for years, until it is overtaken by the Next Big Thing.

I came across a blog post by Richie Escovedo, a “school communications guy.”

http://nextcommunications.blogspot.com/2009/10/facebook-fan-page-rules-for-school.html

The post is just a repost of the Facebook fan page rules for the school system he works with. Nothing earth-shattering, except for the fact he has social media, an established following, defined rules, and significant engagement with the fans of the page…for a public school system.

Usually, I’m impressed when a school system has just a less-than-static web site. (See http://www.fwcs.k12.in.us/Home/Home.php or http://www.ips.k12.in.us/ for examples of “needs help” and http://dcps.dc.gov/portal/site/DCPS/ as “getting better.”) So to have a public school system actively engaging across various social media platforms is progressive and practical, and great for the school system to improve or maintain its reputation among its public.

In this example, the Mansfield page successfully pairs information and engagement from multiple sources to create an online community that is just an extension of the bricks and mortar community of the school buildings. But an important and meaningful extension. Here, Mansfield ISD brings in news articles from local media about the schools in the school system, the high school marching bands, and the board meetings.

The board meetings are streamed with online video, the facebook page links to the school system’s blog–where the communications team can go into more detail about news stories or issues–and the school system can post information about events like Red Ribbon Week.

And then there is the engagement–so important, and so evident here. People are giving thumbs up to news stories, asking for information about obtaining yearbooks, and proposing events like “school of the week” to be posted to the page. With 735 fans, these people are able to reach out to more of their community than ever before, creating a space to interact and build a following among the school system.

Public school systems are in trouble. Many are losing students, even with population increases, because parents are choosing to send their children to charter schools. Imagine if a school system were to implement a social media campaign, draw those parents into the community, get them informed and connected–and then retain them as school system “customers.”

It can’t be said that parents will keep kids in a troubled school just because it has a facebook page or a twitter feed. But if the opportunity for growing and maintaining a community exists, it should be used to its full potential. While social media is the buzz word, it is the effect of social media that is so important. It is another tool to engage and affect, to draw in and create a feeling of belonging. What better organization to do this than a school? A place where friends are made, mentors are created, lessons are learned, and people come together as a ready made community. Extend the community further, and the bonds become deeper.

Public schools need successful social media interaction to improve their reputations and maintain their communities.

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~ by monifree on November 1, 2009.

One Response to “Book Face, the popular social networking site (thanks, Jim Halpert)”

  1. Monica, thanks for your thoughtful post regarding effective communication in the age of the social web as well as one some of the work we are doing in the MISD communications department. You are correct in characterizing parents and students as a school district’s customers. Customer service and community should be a BIG deal for education, unfortunately those thoughts sometimes get lost in the machine. It has been an interesting ride from an administrative perspective. Thankfully, we have great leadership in place that trusts us. We are seeing similar results on a micro-level at the schools where we are piloting Facebook, Twitter, plus blogs and video-sharing as a way to engage and inform.

    – @vedo

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