Social media is here, like it or not

We have a bet around the office as to when social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, et al) will become as important a source of school district news as the district’s own website.

You see, five years ago, somewhere between 2% and 5% of typical patrons told us that they “frequently” consulted the district’s website for news and information. That number is now routinely above 10%, and often as high as 25%.

That’s where social media stands right now – about 2-5% utilization for school district news. We expect it won’t take five years to get to where district websites are right now.

There is a significant, strategic difference between your website and social media. You control your website, but you don’t control what patrons are saying on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. And, of course, you can’t control who might start up a niche Facebook page to either champion a cause or raise a ruckus.

So, if you can’t control what others are saying via their social media channels, what’s a district to do? Fight fire with fire. Create a robust Facebook page that provides you another outlet to channel news and information. Start a Twitter feed, but for goodness sake make certain that you put meaningful information on there. (Current estimates are that upwards of 70% of Twitter messages are akin to “I hate it when it rains” and “Great ham sandwich at lunch today.”)

And don’t worry if your “fan” and “follower” numbers are modest for a while. Your community may not be an early adopter of such channels but, as our experience with website traffic suggests, they’ll eventually get there. It’s up to you to be there with something meaningful once they arrive.