I love using social media in my role as an assistant principal. It can be such an important tool for a number of reasons.
However, there are a few things you should think through before you start firing off tweets.
If you’re new to using social media as an assistant principal, this article should get you off to a great start.
If you’re a veteran of the social media game as an AP, there are still some tips here that will help you use social media more effectively and more efficiently in your role.
Now let’s get started.
Why Should I Use Social Media as an Assistant Principal?
Here’s the short answer. Messaging Matters.
In his book, Messaging Matters, William D. Parker emphasizes the importance of being the “chief communicators” on our campuses. You may have heard this adage before: “Tell your story, or someone else will tell it for you.” Well, it’s true, and the worst part is that you might not like the story that other people tell.
Look at what is going on in the United States today. K-12 education is under attack, and overwhelmingly, we are losing the messaging war. OTHER people are telling OUR stories, and the stories they tell are not even close to accurate. People claim that we are saying this thing or teaching that thing, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not (IT’S NOT!). People are listening to it because you can’t turn on the TV or scroll through your Twitter feed without being inundated with more false claims about schools.
We have to be relentless about sharing the amazing things that are happening on our campuses and recognizing our teachers for the incredible work they are doing. Otherwise, those “other” stories get told, and they get listened to.
Where do I Start?
I’m a Twitter guy. I have other social media accounts, but Twitter is my go-to in the “edu” space. The other educators I follow are there, and many people in my community are there. This is where I share the things that are happening on our campus and in our classrooms. If you’re looking for advice, I’d tell you to start with a Twitter account.
How do I Start?
Celebrate everything. That’s the easiest way to start. Every time I go into a classroom, I’m taking pictures of what is going on, and I’m sharing them on Twitter. I’ll include a little blurb about what the students are learning or about the great connection the teacher made. Teachers and students love to see themselves on someone else’s Twitter feed, and this is an easy win. It also shows parents what their kids are actually learning in school.
When do I post on Twitter?
Sometimes I do it right when I walk out of that classroom, but I usually wait until I sit back down in my office at the end of the day. This allows me to do all of my Tweeting at once without taking time away from going to visit other classrooms.
I don’t just share what’s going on in classrooms. When I’m at sporting events, I’ll Tweet about our teams, our students, and our coaches. Regardless of the score, I can always find something to Tweet about that can make our community proud.
When student artwork gets posted in the hallways or at competitions, share it on social media. People need to see how crazy talented our students are.
When you attend fine arts performances, share short video clips or pictures of the performances. Tag the directors, and let them know how much you enjoyed the performance. Not only are you telling the story of your campus, but you are also showing your teachers how much you value the work that they do as well. Win-win.
How do I Create a Consistent Social Media Presence as an Assistant Principal?
If I am going to tell our story the way it needs to be told, I need to have a consistent presence on Twitter. That can be challenging. Somedays I just don’t have time to post, and other days I just don’t get any good pics to post because some craziness kept me out of classrooms for whatever reason. There is a way to stay consistent in these circumstances.
When I sit down at my desk to post things to Twitter at the end of the day, I sometimes schedule out Tweets for the next several days. If I took 15-20 pictures that day, there’s no reason to dump them all on Twitter in a 10-minute window. Schedule them to go out at different times over the next week. This will get your story in front of more people.
You can do this in a couple of different ways. If you are using Twitter on your desktop, you can schedule Tweets in advance using Twitter.com. It’s easy, and I’ve done it quite a bit. If you like to create different graphics using Canva, upgrade your Canva account (for free!) to a “Canva for Education” account. If you have a Canva for Education account, you can schedule your graphics to be Tweeted out right from your Canva account. Canva for Education has a “Content Planner” that allows you to see what you’ve created and when you have it scheduled to post. It’s my favorite Canva feature, and I have used it SO MUCH.
Lately, I have been using Publer.io a lot, especially with our New School Leader accounts. Publer is a great way to schedule out social media posts, especially if you are managing the social media platforms for your campus.
In my previous district, I was in charge of managing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for our high school campus. I wish I would have known about Publer back then because Publer allows me to schedule and publish the same message on all 3 platforms at the same time. When I first found out about Publer, I started using the free version for the New School Leader. I eventually upgraded to a paid plan because of the number of posts I was making, and I also wanted to unlock some other features such as scheduling follow-up comments, posting to more accounts, and posting an unlimited number of video posts. You probably don’t need those things. The free version lets you post on 3 accounts and schedule up to 10 posts at a time.
If you are managing your campus’s social media accounts, you need to look into Publer. It’s a game-changer. I promise.
Do I Need Separate Personal and Professional Social Media Accounts as an Assistant Principal?
That’s really up to you. I know several people who like to keep their personal lives completely separate from their work lives, so they have separate accounts that they use for different things. They use their personal accounts to tweet about their favorite college football team or to share pictures of their meals, vacations, dogs, kids, etc…, and they have another account that is used only for school-related posts.
There is nothing wrong with that approach at all. If that’s what you are comfortable with, get after it.
Although some people choose to do things this way, that is not how I do it. I have one Twitter account, one Instagram account, and one Facebook page. That’s it. I do not feel like I need anything more than that.
To be fair, although I do not double up on accounts, I also do not use those 3 social media platforms for the same purposes. I do not use Facebook or Instagram for school-related posts. I’m not opposed to it. It’s just not how I do it. Like I said earlier, I find that most of the “edu” world is on Twitter, so that’s where I have chosen to engage in education-related topics. Facebook is where I connect with the rest of my “old people” friends. If and when I post anything about family, vacations, or awesome meals, that usually takes place on Instagram. I didn’t intentionally set out to use my social media platforms differently. That’s just what felt natural and what it has evolved to over the last 12 years or so.
Because I do not have separate social media accounts, I am very careful about what I post. Once you start posting school-related things on your personal accounts, you have told the rest of the world that they are, in fact, professional accounts, and with that declaration comes a need for a heightened level of discretion.
I want parents, teachers, students, and other community members to see the things in my Twitter feed, and I am very intentional about sharing things that they will enjoy seeing or things that they will find value in. Does that mean I am not going to share a tweet about SMU’s big win over TCU on a Saturday night? Absolutely not. You better believe I will share highlights from our Saturdays as a family at Ford Stadium on my Twitter account.
It’s okay to share things like that. I think it brings authenticity to your social media presence, and it helps people get to know me better. However, you will not find anything political or inappropriate on my social media feeds. Ever. You can argue all you want about your right to say whatever you want on your social media. I’m just not inviting that drama into my life (or into my office).
You need a social media presence. I know a lot of school leaders that say, “I don’t do social media.” I hear them, and I understand why. However, I believe that we have a responsibility, as school leaders, to tell our campus and district stories. If you don’t want to get “sucked in” to social media, that’s fine. You don’t have to. Don’t follow anyone, and you won’t have that problem. However, we HAVE TO take advantage of the opportunity to let people know what’s actually happening in the classrooms on your campus.
Start small. Celebrate your teachers and your students on Twitter. Don’t feel like you have to master all of the social media bells and whistles. Take a picture. Say something about it, and hit that “Tweet” button. You’ll get more comfortable the more often you do it.
If you want to beef up your Twitter game, use Canva for Education. It’s incredible, and it will allow you to put together some great-looking posts that you can schedule out for exactly when you want them to be sent.
If you’ve been given the responsibility of managing your school’s social media accounts, you absolutely need to look into using a free Publer account for that work. It will save you SO. MUCH. TIME.
There is no way to say everything that needs to be said about messaging in this article. I highly recommend reading Messaging Matters: How School Leaders Can Inspire Teachers, Motivate Students, and Reach Communities by William D. Parker. It’s an easy read, and it’s well worth your time.
Finally, if you don’t like the narrative being told about our schools, do your part. Tell the real story about the great things your school is doing for kids. If not, someone else is going to tell their version, and you might not like it.
Finally, if you are interested in tips and strategies to help you take the next step in your leadership journey, you can subscribe to the New School Leader Newsletter right here: