William M. Ferriter
Using Social Media to Reach Your Community
To the dismay of television producers who count on viewers spending free time on the couch passively consuming content,
citizens of most developed nations are spending
more free time connecting with one another
through social media.
n 61 percent of adults who regularly go
online—and 73 percent of online teens—interact
with one another on social networking websites
(Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr,
2010; Madden, 2010).
n People spend 500 billion
minutes per month on Facebook.
The average Facebook user spends
55 minutes per day on the site
(Facebook, 2010; Hepburn, 2010a).
n 50 million messages daily
(or 600 messages per second) are
posted on Twitter, a microblogging
site with 145 million users (Alexa,
2010; Compete, 2010; Hepburn,
2010b; Weil, 2010).
n You Tube has 24 hours of new
video uploaded every minute and
receives 2 billion daily page views (Hepburn,
Mirroring these trends, educators are now
increasingly taking advantage of social media
services and tools. A recent survey showed
that 61 percent of teachers, principals, and
librarians are active in at least one social media
space. Many use those spaces for professional
development—attending webinars, watching
You Tube videos, listening to podcasts, or participating on blogs (ed Web.net, 2010).
What’s frustrating—particularly to many
younger teachers—is that the same social media
spaces widely embraced outside schools are
routinely blocked within schools by district
firewalls. Fears—driven by concerns about
cyberbullying or inappropriate postings—cause
school leaders to think twice about whether
the advantages of social media outweigh the
potential consequences of misuse.
For schools who’ve embraced social media
Fears cause school leaders
spaces as tools for reaching out, however, the
rewards are real. As Eric Sheninger, principal
of New Milford High School in New Jersey, a
school with an active Twitter account (http://
twitter.com/newmilfordhs) and Facebook page
Unlike traditional forms of communication such as
snail mail and press releases, I can provide updates
in real time as events happen, on Twitter and in
Facebook. Since society as a whole is actively using
social media, it only makes sense to connect with
my community through these means. (E. Shen-
inger, personal communication, September 30,
to think twice about
whether the advantages
of social media
outweigh the potential
consequences of misuse.
Connecting is exactly what Sheninger does
through Facebook and Twitter. Explore his posts
in both places and you’ll see messages that celebrate the school’s athletic victories, spotlight
student work, and promote functions like parent
nights and performances. You’ll also see parents
and other community members interacting with
teachers and with one another—lending congratulations, asking questions, sharing opinions.
Finally, you’ll see Sheninger eagerly sharing
photographs from school events and links to
local newspaper articles, videos, and resources
connected to student learning. New Milford
High stakeholders can receive information on