I get that question quite a bit — ok, maybe not worded exactly that way, but the idea is the same no matter how it’s delivered. Students in 2012 would like a social presence for their staff (and they need it), however, many schools have policies that make it difficult. Here are three ways schools make it difficult and what you can do to make the situation work.
1) We can’t access social media sites at school. – While getting social access opened during the school day is a fight you should try to have at some point, it’s not a deal breaker on a staff having social presence. While we know students access social sites throughout the day on their phones, the bulk of time spent socially by students is outside of school. Therefore, staffs should be posting to their social accounts when students are most active, either in the morning or evening. Photographers have to photograph outside of school, writers need to interview outside of school. Social media posting should be seen no differently.
2) The school is scared something bad will be said on social media. – Bad things will get said on social media. Bad things are being said right now on social media (of course, there’s a lot of good — much more good than bad actually). You can’t control what other people say, however, you can help control the conversation by being an active participant. If you are on social media, you can have some say over what is being said, if you’re not there, you’re leaving it up to others to have sole control over the message. Convince your administration (or adviser) you are smart enough and responsible enough to use social media for good (because you are).
3) No matter what I tried, the school says we can’t have a social presence. – Well, that’s ridiculous for a couple reasons. 1) Someone, anyone could start an account with your staff’s name. This person could not even be associated with the journalism program and start spewing out Tweets or information like it was coming from you. They could do the same with the school. 2) The school should work to be teaching social responsibility instead of closing it off and pretending like it doesn’t exist. Even with that information, some schools still are hesitant. That doesn’t mean you should just give up the ability to use social media to promote your program or report the news. There is no stopping you from creating a personal Twitter account or Facebook page that you use to report, push links and engage your school audience in a conversation. It would be just like a staff page, but with your personal touch. This would go a long way to help your program and it could go a long way to help you develop a strong personal brand online. You creating this personal, professional account could actually go a long ways to show administrators that students can be responsible and use social media for good (which most students do already).
What other hurdles are you running into at your school? Feel free to add the arguments in the comments below and I’ll work to help you combat them.