Using Social Tools to Combat Bullying


October is National Bullying Prevention Month, although the topic is never far from our thoughts throughout the year.

While social media are offering children more tools for bullying each other, they are also providing more tools to stop the abuse.

Facebook, the hub of most social activity, recently came out with tools directly targeting the problem. The site encourages users to report bullying and allows them to track the reports they submit.

Many schools use services that allow students to send the school text messages with reports of bullying. Some schools are even moving to mobile apps like iCare, which not only makes anonymous reporting simple, it lets schools track their bullying reports and it aligns with whichever bullying prevention programs the schools use.

Social Media Portals: Herding Those Social Media Sites Into the Same Corral

At Southern Westchester BOCES, we’re trying out a new product that, since its launch in September, has already received interest from other school districts in our region. It’s called Smashup, and the product places all your social media feeds onto one page where readers can easily follow you and see your posts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and now even Pinterest.

In addition, at the bottom of the page, you can see a cool iris tool that permits the user to scan through your videos and choose one to watch.

The company that created the tool, AllofE Solutions of Lawrence, Kan., worked with us over the summer to design our Smashup page and combined RSS feeds from our social media sites to build the page. We worked closely with the company on the design to ensure that it would look like our website pages, even though it’s not really a part of our website at all.

I was also trained on how to use the Smashup back-end tool, which permits me to make changes to individual modules, change font styles and even change the feeds themselves. I’m also able to rotate our featured social media feed, giving our member school districts a chance to be featured regularly. Currently, the White Plains City School District’s Facebook page is in the featured spot.

Having access to the tool is your choice, and some of you may prefer to simply permit the company to maintain and monitor the site. If you’re lucky enough to have a webmaster with html coding experience, then you might consider building your own social media portal page.

Blended social media portals are growing in popularity among K-12 school districts, but are particularly being used now by colleges and universities, many of which have grown their social media stable to dozens and even hundreds sites that can be corralled onto one page for easier access. Here are a few you can check out:

All Harvard Social Media

Kent State University Social Media Portal

Connect with The New School

Connect with Stevens-Henager College

Cincinnati Public Schools’ I Am CPS Page

Northfield Mount Hermon Independent School’s NMH Book

Why content matters on your social channels

According to Seth Godin, “Content marketing is the only marketing that’s left.” Why? Well, times have changed and audiences are fragmented. That means that for schools it is less important to send out traditional press releases, rely on the news media to report stories on the district, pay for expensive advertising, and on and on.

Here are some facts about the way your audiences are consuming information:

  • According to eMarketer.com, mobile and internet consumption continues to rise among consumers, while traditional media usage continues to fall, especially with print media.
  • According to eMarketer.com, the top two reasons social users follow brands on social media is because they want to keep up with the latest content and share that content with family and friends.

Content matters, then, because people want to see relevant, interesting, local and specific information directly from your district. In effect, you are now your own publisher of content. The model should look like this: owned media (original content you create as the most important), earned media (local news media coverage), paid media (advertising). By owning your media, you become a good storyteller rather than a good story (and by “good,” I mean sensationalized or controversial most of the time in the media). Also, your content never expires the way paid advertising does.

Since owning your own media is so important, and creating original, engaging content matters, here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you begin to shape your own stories:

  • Your content strategy is just as important as the content you create or curate. What are your goals? What are your platforms? How will you distribute original content? How will people know about it? Part of the process is planning ahead and re-educating your constituents about how the district is going to be communicating.
  • To own your own media and to make a content strategy effective, you must communicate internally and train administrators and staff. Try to invest in mini-campaigns on Facebook (feature a different school or program in your district weekly or monthly on your page) and use the power of hashtags on Twitter to aggregate conversations. Also, involve the voices of your students and your staff in your content.
  • Always be in a storytelling mindset. Showcase your school’s culture. Introduce your school’s characters. Educate your community. Keep your audience’s attention.