Creating useful guidelines for social media use

Social media is becoming more widely used in schools – even if your district hasn’t fully embraced it. Parents and community are sharing accomplishments, students are communicating with teachers and media are using much of this for content.

If your district is considering, or has even already started using social media tools – Facebook, Twitter and the like – it is important to have appropriate guidelines in place. Guidelines should address a number of items: directions for set-up, content recommendations and rules for use.

In Hutto ISD, our guidelines reflect our transparent communication style and help staff to set up social media. The guidelines are relaxed and informal, and even read in a light-hearted, playful way.

Consider some of these tips when creating social media guidelines:

  1. Make it a group effort. Cast a wide net when organizing a team to create guidelines for your district. You should consider including those who use social media and those that don’t as well as educators and external stakeholders. It will give you a good perspective of what your users and followers expect. And be sure your attorneys and school board see the effort.
  2. Consider your district’s culture. What do your administrators, board members teachers and students believe concerning social media? What are concerns and praises of social media? Do you communicate formally or informally on expectations? Is your district strict or relaxed in your communication guidelines? These will help shape your guidelines to ensure they are used properly and respectfully.
  3. Find resources and use them. We are all aware of the four-step communication process. Use it. Focusing on research and evaluation will help ensure that your district puts guidelines in place that fit your students, staff and community the best.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Share your guidelines. Make them visible and easily accessible to parents, community, students and staff. This will ensure the best use of the tools and save you headaches later down the road.
  5. Evolve when necessary. Be sure your guidelines are designed to incorporate change. Your action plan should be a living document that allows for periodic review and adaptation to the quickly evolving landscape of social media. This should be done at least annually, if not more often depending on resources.
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5 Replies to “Creating useful guidelines for social media use”

  1. Emily, did you include the district attorney(s) and/or HR in the effort? I know you suggest that they “see” the effort, but were they part of the team that wrote the policies? I’d be concerned as to how much restriction they’d want to include. Did you come across that issue?

  2. Hi all. Here are some of our guidelines…we are updating the others to reflect some changes in Facebook, so I don’t have them all up right now: http://goo.gl/ZOQBP. Check back periodically.

    We had our attorneys and HR look at our guidelines and yes, we did run into them wanting to restrict it heavily. Fortunately, I had already had many conversations with our board and superintendent and they supported fewer restrictions so we bypassed that. I encourage you all as communication pros to have that conversation early about the importance of using SM the way everyone else does. If it is restricted and folks can’t post, comment or share, it doesn’t do much good. We did a lot of research in 2011 and it showed other school districts were SM as a one-way form of communication. I discussed with our stakeholders the importance of approaching it as a two-way avenue – not only getting information to parents and student, but to receive ideas and feedback as well.

    Hope that helps!

  3. My spouse and I stumbled over here coming from a different web page and thought I might as well check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking over your web page for a second time.

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