This month’s high school newsletter contained an item that caught my eye. The first of the 16 pages urged us to “tweet tweet”.
Fantastic. As a fan of social media in general, and Twitter in particular, I was delighted to see that the school was embracing this excellent platform. After all, internet communication will be an increasing part of the pupils’ lives.
So I found the Twitter account – set up to report the progress of the school’s young sports men and women – and joined the small handful of followers. I tweeted a welcome to the account.
A month or so on and the account has a grand total of 26 followers who will have seen 20 tweets all about pupils’ sporting achievements.
Now that’s all well and good, but my messages haven’t been replied to, nor my retweets mentioned. Clearly this is not a shining example of how to use Twitter, so I’ve compiled some tips for schools poised to dive into the twitterstream.
Twitter is a fast flowing river of tweets. To have any impact it’s important to come back to it regularly. Send the same information a few times over a day or so.
Understand it’s about engagement. The strength of Twitter is in the conversations it fosters. So use it to talk. Much like in real life, no one will be terribly interested in you someone standing in a quiet corner talking to themselves.
Reply and respond as much as possible. Talk to everyone you can. If someone follows your account, say hello. If someone retweets a message, thank them. If they talk, listen and reply.
Don’t hide behind a badge. I know it’s the school’s Twitter stream, but let followers know who’s tweeting at the moment. We all prefer to communicate with a person than an institution.
Be curious. See what your followers are up to and keep an eye on other people talking about your subject. For example, if our sporting twitter team are on the ball they will notice that other people (the opposition perhaps) are talking about the same events. Talk to them and share their tweets.
Understand it’s not the classroom. While engaging with people talking about, in this case, sporting events, is a great way to link up, it’s also important to be clear that on Twitter a teacher has no authority. That’s not to say that they must put up with anything unacceptable to them, such as abuse or bad language among followers, it’s just that is where their control must end.
Remember it’s a public space. It’s not the classroom, but it is public. You may find pupils would benefit from a reminder of this too. They may not be accountable to their teachers, but everything they do can be seen by anyone.
Get the message across quickly. Twitter is an ideal way of communicating fast. If, for example, a sports game has been cancelled at the last minute, use Twitter to let everyone know. Explain that’s what you are doing and urge followers to pass the message on.
Relax. Twitter is the least stuffy online platform. Most people are there to enjoy themselves while the chat and learn. Adopt a similar tone to be more approachable and you might even surprise yourself by having fun.