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Social Media-Savvy Superintendents Provide Tips and Cautions by Drawing on Their Significant Use

The Social Media Lounge, located in the 3rd floor exhibit hall, hosted a reception on "What Not to Do on Social Media."

Navigating the murky waters of social media has become a priority for superintendents, and a panel of six Twitter-savvy superintendents assured audience members at an AASA conference session Thursday that taking the plunge will ultimately result in positive outcomes for public education. 

A standing-room only crowd gathered in the AASA Social Media Lounge in Nashville to learn tips on how panelists use different platforms during the session “What Not To Do on Social Media.” The event was sponsored by Vecna and Paradigm Shift Education.

Using the right tools for connecting means superintendent Heidi Sipes of Umatilla, Ore., uses Twitter to connect with colleagues and Facebook to reach families. Matt Montgomery, superintendent of Lake Forest Schools, a suburban district outside of Chicago, seconded the practice to tailoring the platform to the audience.

To find out what audiences want and where they want to engage with school information, Montgomery suggests conducting a communications audit. He finds the experience of real-time story-telling and interactions with community members on social media is a key insight “into what is most valuable to stakeholders.”

One caution about social media: Keep social media posts on-message with district brand standards and away from political conjecture suggests Katrise Perera, superintendent of Lancaster Independent School District in Texas.  “In today’s climate, you run the risk of alienating half or more of the people in your district,” Cox said. 

In her early days on Twitter, Perera found out that social media “is not rocket science, it’s political science, but that’s not the political science you want to get involved in,” she joked with the crowd.

With a combined following of more than 30K Twitter followers, panelists’ advice was to get into social media.  “The one mistake you can make is to avoid (social media),” said Marlon Styles, superintendent in Middletown, Ohio.

“If you have the courage to do the work,” Styles said, “if you have the courage to talk about the work, have the courage to talk about it on social media.”

“You have to tell your story, and it is no longer optional,” Montgomery shared.  One reason why it’s more is if you aren’t telling your story, someone else is. And superintendents today have an open invitation to write that story. 

(Kate Crowder is a reporter for Conference Daily Online and communications director in Germantown Municipal School District, Germantown, Tenn. She is also president of Tennessee School Public Relations Association.)

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