“And that’s the grand dilemma of social networking: it’s intended to allow participation, to let companies and individuals all engage and interact, but all too many are one way channels, broadcast media where responses or engagement is ignored completely.” — Dave Taylor
Many organizations or schools are starting to get on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagon and seeing the importance of having a presence on the largest social networks. Yet, there is much more to Twitter than having an account, and unless you are Justin Bieber, you have to change your mindset to make meaningful use of social media.
The old-school philosophy of communication lent itself to making a fancy website so that you had a nice Web presence. Not only could you look flashy on the Internet, but there also was great opportunity to share key messages, events and happenings from your school. This was a step up from what many had done previously, and it was great for a prospective student or parent to look up information on a school before committing to be part of that community.
As we have progressed, not only in our use of technology but also our understanding of effective leadership, we know that communication includes effective talking but, more importantly, listening. Being able to hear what is being said from those we serve is extremely important to how we develop our schools, and the conversation is extremely valuable. Yet, many schools and organizations use social media in the old fashion: sharing information but not having a conversation. In reality, just because you have ears doesn’t mean you are listening.
Many businesses have a 1.0 mindset. They have a Twitter account to share sales, events or whatever with customers, and because of that type of information, they do have many followers. Yet, having followers does not mean that you have people who “buy” what you do or whom you are; they use your service because they have to, not because they are loyal. Schools should think about that as well. Would a parent or child want to stay in your school if there was another choice?
Recently, I wrote about United Airlines and its lack of response when dealing with my concerns about service. Its Twitter account seemingly is only about sharing information, not connecting with customers. The more savvy someone is with social media, the more frustrated the person will become with this approach, and if he or she has another option, the person will take it. Yet, someone such as Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi learned how to not only use Twitter but also to use it effectively to build his brand and win an election.
Ultimately, this is not about having a Twitter or Facebook account but about how we use it and about rethinking the work we do and how we connect to those we serve in our schools. Having a website on which YOU communicate while watching parents use a Twitter account through which THEY communicate doesn’t make sense anymore. We need to not only get into the same room but also talk when we are all there.
George Couros (@gcouros) is the division principal of innovative teaching and learning for the Parkland School Division. He is a leader in innovation and focuses on development of leadership and people to do what is best for kids. His mix of research, personal stories and practical ways to implement learning helps others feel comfortable in taking risks in their learning. You can learn more about Couros on his website.