Twitter, much like Facebook, has the ability to set most people on opposite, potentially warring paths – you either absolutely LOVE IT, or absolutely HATE IT. To top it all, with the great debate surrounding the use of social media in schools, it must seem callous of me to recommend that schools start Tweeting and yet, here I am, to tell you that Every School should have a Twitter account and here are 5 reasons why.
1. Communication, Communication, Communication
We all know that schools need to communicate with Parents, newsletters, notes, countless way in which information and knowledge needs to be shared and transferred.
What has also been quite clear is that, while schools need to disseminate information, they don’t necessarily require constant feedback, and because it is often helpful to send out announcements and last minute reminders (especially to forgetful parents like me!) what better way to do it than via Twitter.
Remember when the snow forced school closures, if you were a Head teacher, wouldn’t you have loved to be able to Tweet at 5 am in the morning, possibly from the comfort of your bed to the school website to inform all Parents that school was closed for the day?
More amazingly, the power of Twitter on school trips is amazing, the interest that lies in the constant, (OK, perhaps every few hours is more accurate), updates that teachers or other responsible adults could send out, help parents to feel connected when their precious little Johnny is off on his very first school trip. Better still, if the bus is late, making its way back to school, an update via Twitter immediately makes that announcement.
To ensure that the communication remains a one-to-many, the school Twitter account could have followers, without actually following anybody. This ensures that all the tweets posted by the school, feed directly and is not lost in background chatter.
Now the point to make here is that, your audience need NOT necessarily sign up to Twitter but
2. Hey…Everybody’s on there already! If not…
It’s fairly straightforward to embed a Twitter feed in to a web page, ideally on the School Home page, to allow non-Twitterers (is there such a word?) to keep up to date outside of the ‘Twitter’ing crowd, simply by visiting the school website.
Seriously though, with 175 million registered users and more users signing up every day, chances are there will be at least one member of the Parent community already on there, if not more.
What’s more the advent of smart phones brings us straight to our next point.
You don’t even need a computer to tweet, really. It can be done from any phone, smart or otherwise. One mobile phone (regardless of whether it’s a funky new smart phone or not) can be set up to tweet simply by sending a text message.
Some of our amazing clients have already put this to good use. The example I mentioned earlier, of the School Trip tweeting, was actually done via a standard school mobile phone, by a teacher who was just fascinated with the idea. And what an amazing response! We didn’t quite get to ‘trending’ level, but parents were encouraging and responsive and judging from their hashtags (#), very excited.
Now, accessibility works both ways, not only is it actually pretty straightforward for the school to update their Twitter account, either conventionally on a computer or by a mobile phone, or several smart phones with Twitter apps.
Equally, parents aka followers could read these updates on a computer, either the school website (if Twitter was embedded) or on their Twitter profiles or other third party twitter software.
This pretty high level of independent users makes Tweeting…
4. Easy to manage
From a school admin point of view, the use of Twitter is actually really easy to manage. That is, there are no user groups to manage. I suppose to be more accurate, there need not be user groups to manage (user groups can be created if required), but the average ‘large school’ enrolment would probably have at most 1-2 K parents, and that is fairly easy to handle without the use of groups.
The tweets work as a ‘free for all’ PA system, sharing short bursts of information (in the 140 character limit) and if the information does not pertain to a certain group of users, it is easy enough to be ignored.
A bit different from email announcements, Twitter announcements work more on an opt-in basis. In essence, the interested Parent can choose when or how often they would like to access this information.
I think the most important point to make here of course is that, it is entirely up to the school completely, how often they wish to update their twitter accounts, and with the use of free third party software it is even possible to advance-schedule tweets so that the responsible party does not have to sit at the computer all day updating tweets (as you may well do!).
Oh and …did you know, if your school uses Google Calendars as an Administrative tool, you can actually get the Google Calendar tweeting too! (Learn how in my next post)
However, most important of all is that Twitter is
In this day and age of budget cuts and belt tightening, it’s a great bonus to find a service that is cheap, yet here it is, Twitter is completely free.
And while its functions perhaps do not quite match the capabilities of e-mail deliveries, say, via ParentMail. There are definitely ways to almost come close. The ability to link photos (instagrams) or shortened links to webpages (bit.ly or equivalents), mean that related information such as complete newsletters or digital photo albums can be shared in much the same way as email is able to.
So there you are, if you’re using Twitter in your school, fantastic! Leave us a link in the comments and we’ll visit. If not, what are you waiting for?
Author: Li-ling Ooi, also tweets as @DrOoi
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