Thursday, May 5, 2011

The end of the school district social media honeymoon

There was a disturbance in the force on Monday.

The Texas school district that has been leading the way in online communication and social media closed all of their Facebook pages. They were the role model for many districts' online presence, and their Facebook page "Rules of Engagement" were copied far and wide. They were among the first and probably the best.

Having an official school district or school Facebook page has always been a strategy with a little extra handful of risk. Anyone can post any comment they want, and the most you can do is check frequently, delete inappropriate comments, and ban users. In this case, it sounds like a persistent few ruined the benefits for everyone. I didn't see the problem posts myself, but I certainly believe it could happen.

But then, I still can't wrap my mind around it. It feels so abrupt. I don't want to believe that my social media superheroes encountered a problem that they couldn't solve, because that forces me to admit that it could happen on the Facebook pages I work on.


I haven't seen anyone say it yet, but I'm just going to go for it: Facebook is the best way for school districts to communicate with the community en masse. You have an attentive, targeted audience who are addicted to sharing your announcements with everyone they know (most of whom live in your attendance zones). Even better, they are simultaneously giving you detailed feedback that you can use to improve your communication strategy. If you communicate well, you get more fans and interaction, which then trains you on how to communicate well. Everything about Facebook encourages you to be a better communicator. (And it's free!)

We're only taking our first steps, and I can't imagine taking it away. I know in my head that Facebook isn't the center of our communications strategy; it's not even a tent pole or a chair leg. In my gut, though, I feel like if it went away there isn't something else that can take its place.

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