School districts could Twitter too

twitterI believe there are useful applications of Twitter (and other microblogging sites) for school districts.

I recently started using Twitter after listening to Geoff Livingston at a Ft. Worth PRSA luncheon earlier in the year. He was helping us understand how to integrate social media into communications plans (and sell a few copies of his book, Now is Gone, which is really an excellent read.)

I became hooked on this online tool. I started noticing many organizations using it as well for various uses (DFW Airport, CNN, Red Cross, etc.) and I began to think that school districts could (and probably should) use this microblogging tool for updates. As more and more people become aware and use social media tools like Twitter, it is imperative that school districts go where the people are to get stories out.

We setup the Mansfield ISD Twitter account and began with a few posts. We were met with mild success so far without much in the way of publicity. The only thing done at first was a soft-launch in the district’s blog. This received a mention in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Education Blog. We even received a nice tweet from a follower.

Our communities are quickly coming around to using new media tools. It is our job as communication professionals to move forward (or in some cases keep up) with the conversation.

So how do you get some Twitter love for your district? Try some of these resources:

I suggest using Twitter to post general (read: useful) happenings, articles, pages, etc. from a district’s Web site. Plus, consider using a “tweet” (yes, that’s really what they are called) to give updates in the event of problems that tend to arise. I’d like to see if others are considering or are currently using Twitter in this way.

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4 Responses

  1. Richie, glad Now Is Gone was worth your time. And good to see you on Twitter, too!

  2. So far, I think Twitter for PR/marketing is a step backwards from a blog with comments, read through an aggregator. Twitter doesn’t foster two-way communication – it’s basically just broadcasting. (The whole “@username” system for replies seems like a bandaid. Why, with usability in mind, would twitter not also display the message being replied to? It’s only 140 characters + username, after all.)

    So what benefits does Twitter have over blogs + aggregators? Speed, but for most communications with stakeholders, a few hours is not an issue. Simplicity, but setting up a blog with an RSS feed really isn’t a challenge. Length limitation, but as communication professionals, we shouldn’t have problems with writing appropriate length messages in existing mediums. A unique culture & style and possibly access to a new portion of stakeholders? It will be interesting to see if Twitter is able to produce real-world results, like increasing parental involvement and mobilizing voters.

    Additionally, the fact that we have to use obfuscated tinyURL addresses with Twitter is really bothering my usability side, when allowing each message to have an unlimited-length accompanying URL would be so simple to implement.

    (I’m marginally more interested in Twitter for non-PR purposes. Maybe inter- and intra-department communication? Personal communications, maybe, but for that purpose it’s like a crippled Facebook mini-feed.)

  3. Dave, you make some good points. However, I would argue that a school district could use Twitter in addition to (not excluding) other social media applications.For example, in Mansfield ISD we started with integrating social media tools in press releases and establishing news RSS feed as well as implementing a district blog. Twitter use is a recent phenomenon for our Communications Department, we see it sort of along the same lines as a blast phone messaging service: broadcasting with little opportunity for feedback.

  4. […] School districts could Twitter too […]

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