5 reasons your school or college should be on social media

Social media experts, Jonny Ross Consultancy, advise on the benefits of social media for schools

E-safety Social MediaBefore we delve into a debate on the opportunities and risks of social media in education, let me share with you an example of how just one tweet paid for a school’s entire annual marketing budget.

John Buskell is a social media expert who manages a Twitter account for a senior high school in Sweden. The school uses social media to engage with kids from nearby junior highs before they move up to seniors. Buskell set up Twitter alerts for mentions about the local junior highs, so he was notified when a girl tweeted “I hate Engelska Skolan junior high”. He replied to the tweet on behalf of the high school with a “Hang in there.” The girl tweeted back, “Wow, you’re on Twitter?” and she started checking out the school. She came along to the open house and he talked to her, as part of the marketing he was doing for the school. The girl ended up choosing the school for her three-year A-level program. As each student brings from the local government around £9000 (equivalent) per year, that one tweet effectively paid for the school’s marketing budget that year.

When I spoke at the AMDIS conference on the use of social media in schools, I asked delegates to tell me about their concerns. Negative comments, legal compliance, hacking and cyber bullying all came up as potential risks that people were concerned about. But, like school trips, social media offers hugely valuable learning opportunities and experiences.

Avoidance doesn’t remove the risks (kids will try things out anyway), it just means young people don’t learn to manage risks online, and you don’t get chance to influence the outcomes. Like school trips, risks can be mitigated to either reduce the chance of them happening or to reduce their impact. Read more about managing online risks in schools here.

I strongly believe (and this is supported by the many success stories) that there are huge potential benefits to schools in engaging with social media, and these far outweigh any risks.

What are the benefits of using social media in schools?

(1) Increase students’ employability

Over half of employers now screen candidates on social media [research by CareerBuilder], and many young people are missing out on jobs because of inappropriate content about themselves online. By educating students on the appropriate use of social media, you can increase their employment prospects. This includes explaining privacy settings for different platforms, what they should never share on social media, and what they can do to show their suitability for a role, e.g. writing a blog on their chosen topic.

(2) Parent/student engagement and reaching new audiences

Without interest from parents and students within the catchment area, schools would cease to exist. Local community engagement is vital. Students often make decisions about college or sixth form themselves, and social media can be the perfect way to reach them – and potential new students. For example, if you send out a tweet that is then favourited by one of your followers, you will then automatically become visible to all of their followers, and so on. Social media engagement therefore increases your visibility (locally and nationally) and exposes you new audiences.

(3) Improved communication with stakeholders

Social media allows news, information and updates to be quickly and cost effectively broadcast to both parents and students. For example: “the school is closed due to bad weather” can be sent out as one message to thousands of people, saving the time and the expense of letters and phone calls.

Social media allows schools to communicate in a much more efficient, effective and time sensitive manner. By having a profile on different social media platforms, stakeholders can communicate with your school whenever, wherever and however best suits them.

(4) Ability to monitor and manage your school's reputation

Many schools cite fear of negative comments and reputation damage as a reason to avoid social media. But people will always talk about you online whether you’re there or not. So by being “in the room”, you can influence the outcome of those conversations positively. You can set up alerts on social media so you are notified when people talk about you online, giving you the opportunity to correct misinformation and “nip in the bud” any negative discussions.

The only way to manage your online reputation is to have an online presence. Having an online profile that parents, teachers and students can communicate with gives you the opportunity to improve relations and show that you can deal with issues quickly and proactively.

(5) Effective targeting on different social media platforms

Which social media platform should we be on? This is a common question we are asked when working with schools on their social media presence. Choosing the right platform(s) and sharing the right kind of content can help you effectively target different stakeholder groups for better results.

The platforms you decide to use should depend on who you want to engage with, and where those people are. For example, you could use Facebook to engage with parents (and share information about school news and successes) and for business engagement (and share information about venue hire and sponsorship opportunities).

As a general rule of thumb, it is much better to create a profile on one or two platforms and ensure that communication and engagement is regular and constant than to create four or five platforms and quickly realise that you do not have the capacity to maintain such platforms.

If this blog post has interested you, then make sure you keep your eyes peeled for our FREE 'Top 10 tips on how to use social media for schools' e-guide.

Whether you are a headmaster, a governor, a teacher or even a parent, this downloadable PDF document will provide you with 10 simple ways to use social media in order to improve your school's visibility and credibility.

Written by Jonny Ross Consultancy on November 05, 2015 12:09

Protecting and safeguarding your school from Extremism

Extremism has suddenly arisen within the compounds of schools across the UK, and pupils are in danger if schools do not provide a channel to report such behaviour or activities.

E-safety grooming extreemismSafeguarding and protecting pupils should be a schools number one priority according to 86% of parents asked in a recent questionnaire. John Hayes, Security Minister and the Department for Education has recently outlined that all schools and staff have a duty to report incidents of extremism, radicalisation and safeguarding.

Yet what measures are schools putting in place to protect pupils and staff against the latest safeguarding threat. Ofsted are focussing heavily on a schools ability to recognise, understand and report incidents of extremism and radicalisation. However services that support the school network are failing to provide adequate answers, resources and training to help schools deal with this new and ever growing threat. SLT teams are being expected to quickly become experts on this new safeguarding issue, yet without a guided support network, how can any school or member of staff be expected to provide the evidence and information required if they don’t know what this is.

Pupils of the 21st Century are at much greater risk than they have ever been. The introduction of technology and social media, and the interaction between cultures has brought pupils closer together than ever before. In order for a school to protect their students is to engage and educate their students around the signs and dangers of radicalisation and extremism particularly when using technology and social media.

One recent method that schools have been adopting to help protect their school pupils is to provide a communication channel to allow pupils to report any incidents of extremism that they themselves may be susceptible to. However a number of schools that have used a communication method have found that it has been most powerful allowing pupils to report and raise concerns for their friends or family members directly to their school. Proactive schools have found that tackling these new issues head on by engaging the wider community to educate have also proven to be an excellent starting point.

This new safeguarding issue within schools is unfortunately one that is going to increase if schools do not put the relevant communication, reporting and action policies in place.

Michael is the founder of Tootoot, the safeguarding application which allows pupils to report incidents such as extremism as well as bullying, racism etc. Find out more.

Written by Michael Brennan on August 06, 2015 08:52

Creepshots : Can the law keep up with new and emerging websites ?

It's safe to say that if you caught a stranger taking a picture of you or a part of your body you would be unhappy to say the least. You'd not be wrong to assume it was illegal or at best you would be able to have rights over the usage of any images. Well, it’s sadly not a clear issue.

Therefore, I was shocked to read this week of the increasing popularity of websites that go under the title of 'creepshots'. They operate like social networking media sites where members are encouraged to post photos that have been taken possibly without consent or knowledge of the person in them, even worse, the pictures are nearly always of parts of the body such as legs, breasts or bottoms.

According to the news this week complaints of men taking pictures of women and young girls in public have increased dramatically and it's very difficult to control or even remove the pictures from the internet once uploaded.

On researching such websites this week, firstly I had no problem finding such sites by simply searching under creepshots. Once into the hompage, I was initially faced with a set of rules and regulations that professed that uploaded pictures will be removed if taken 'up skirts' and also photos of 'obvious minors'...but when clicking on a hyperlink horribly named 'jailbait' (there was another dubious link named 'teen' ) I saw a stream of images of some young girls who I would class as under or around the age of 16 in very suggestive photos, unfortunately there were more of a concerning nature further through the slide show. Scary stuff indeed. It also appeared that the particular site I visited, even though a small registration process was necessary to upload images, anyone can view photos, which, in my opinion can fuel a user's preferences. I have read that creepshot websites are not closely monitored and have few rules, whatever the current situation it's obvious that loopholes in the law are being exploited.

Interestingly, when reading complaints about these sites, creepshot users replied with 'we're no different from the paparazzi'. So are we now living with the same threat as celebrities in the way that they fear photographers' lenses whenever they leave the house? And as we know, Heat and magazines alike have a huge following and are lucrative...the more telling or grotesque the photo the more it is likely to be on the front cover. Did we feel sorry for Hugh Grant when he was very outspoken in his views regarding press intrusion? Can we now be a little more sympathetic to celebrities calls for increased privacy laws in this country when now we are in danger of being 'papped' ourselves by a group of self titled Paparazzi?

So, where does this leave young people with these emerging threats to privacy and innocence? It all lies in educating them to be aware of the dangers and steer clear of websites that can encourage users to get hooked into viewing images which are inappropriate and potentially damaging. Does it just boil down to teaching girls and boys about the continual and ever changing dangers of social networking and incorporate into this the law, and what is legal and illegal. It isn't an easy job, and as identified above, the law seems to be one step behind the internet. This week the PSHE association have announced parliamentary inquiry into schools PSHE provision, and whether it is 'fit for purpose' in an ever changing world. Hopefully the findings will be that it should be compulsory in schools to teach about e-safety for the continual well being of our young people.

We spoke to our Digital Leaders group who discussed this trend in class and with their parents - here are their comments:

Eight Digital Leader students looked at this matter and some involved their parents to give views also. All of the students and parents commented that they thought that there was no one, particularly the Police, who would really deal with any creepy photography incident that seriously. The thought was that they may only be bothered about matters like this when a real problem has occurred and someone is hurt or wronged after the fact. When I asked if this was through experience it turned out not to be so; we concluded that this was just a perception through lack of any high profile outcomes in the media. They thought that as the media were often both blatant and sometimes covertly trying to obtain images to get a sensational story, that they were very blasé about this issue and would probably not highlight this type of story as fingers might point at their own methods.

Students commented that if someone were taking pictures near a kid’s playground then they would find it more worrisome if it was a man. I asked what their reaction would be in this instance and they said that there would be nothing they could do, they knew it would be dangerous to approach that person and that they would have to tell a responsible adult, but the pictures are by this time already taken and the photographer would be gone. Parents mostly said that they would politely challenge a person taking photographs and would be suspicious of the person’s intent. They commented that even if they were upset what could practically be done.

Parents and children asked about legislation, but could not find anything that would necessarily work when we discussed it. No one could see where there is any defining line, never-mind when that line is crossed between what is publicly decent and what is creepy or perverse …and that almost any incident could reasonably easily and very plausibly be explained away as an usual circumstance. The police would only have recourse to stake out the location and hope for a repeat incident by the same individual and then only act if the person was on the sex offenders register. If there was a reasonable excuse then what can they do? The only definite line we could see was if someone set out to covertly ‘spy’ on someone else. Placing hidden cameras and maybe even operating them remotely was a definite area that should trigger an investigation and where a line of tolerability had definitely been crossed.

While the group were unable to come to a conclusion on this matter, it does demonstrate the lack of clear legalities around this issue and the feeling that nothing can be done when it happens.

If you would like to add your comments on this topic, please do so below.

Written by Vicki Dan on May 27, 2014 14:27

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