Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership

Tip: Want to connect to parents? Prioritize Facebook over Twitter

I’ve been trying to share practical tips from my study about school administrators’ experiences in using Twitter. Previously, I posted about how “fast follows” are a low-impact way to better connect to parents by having tweets (of direct info or blog links) sent directly to their cell phones, without actually having to learn how to use Twitter. In this post, I suggest that schools who want to reach parents may need to prioritize their use of Facebook over Twitter.

Social media repertoire. A preliminary trend I’m also finding is that when it comes to the “social media repertoire” a school or district might employ in trying to better connect with its community, Twitter is only a partial answer. The administrators I’ve spoken to who use both Twitter and Facebook to connect to parents describe how Facebook has been giving them a bigger “bang for the buck.”

Why? Part of the reason for this seems be that the parents don’t know how to use Twitter yet (or if they do, they aren’t applying Twitter toward these sorts of uses). At face value, this makes sense: Twitter affords a fire hose of information, the relationships on Twitter are typically not with people one knows personally or well, and the relationships can often be uni-directional (non-reciprocated). On the other hand, Facebook applies algorithms to shape what we see and is designed around the strengths of ties among users. It’s less about the universe of information and more about “stuff going on” with friends, family, their kids, and evidently, one’s own kids.

This finding doesn’t take away from the importance of administrators learning about Twitter (and of continuing to educate parents about what’s out there). Although my study doesn’t address what technologies students are using, there’s anecdotal evidence from my study participants (and graduate students who work in schools) that “the kids” are on Twitter while their parents aren’t.

Nor does this finding take away from the overall enthusiasm of administrators in using Twitter for personal (and professional) learning. Although I’ve suggested some potential caveats to assuming that Twitter ideal for all kinds of learning, I’m confident that administrators are feeling enriched by what they’re seeing and doing because of Twitter.

Update: I should probably add that getting quick info out to people is different than sharing school athletics event photos or testing schedule updates. It’s also different than sharing headlines with local news sources to generate publicity. Some are more Facebook friendly while others are more Twitter appropriate. The aims of what one is trying to do (and how the two media organize these things) also matters! I’d love to hear more about your schools’ uses of Web 2.0 to reach families and communities!


3 comments on “Tip: Want to connect to parents? Prioritize Facebook over Twitter

  1. Becca
    December 13, 2012

    As a parent, I definitely appreciate the facebook communications. Part of my daily stroll through the newsreel of my friends now includes the life of the institution my girls spend their time in. I love that I get a window into the school without having to separately seek it.

  2. vinnycho
    December 13, 2012

    What an elegant description! Thanks!

  3. Pingback: My FAQ on Twitter for Educators | Datapulted

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2012 by and tagged , , .