Education doesn’t get social media. It’s part of why you’re here at this site reading this article — we wouldn’t need an edSocialMedia if we all knew what needed to be done and just did it. OK, maybe that’s not fair, but I do think it’s a pretty fair statement to say that education tends to lag behind other industries when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. There’s a reason that most of our classrooms look the way they did a long time ago…
That being said, I found it interesting that two very different articles came across my Twitter feed this week. In the first, we find out that the New York Times eliminated its social media editor position, only a little more than year after the position was created. At the time the position was created, an internal memo said that Jen Preston, who was going to fill that role, would “work closely with editors, reporters, bloggers and others to use social tools to find sources, track trends, and break news as well as to gather it. She will help us get comfortable with the techniques, share best practices and guide us on how to more effectively engage a larger share of the audience on sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, and beyond.”
Hmmm… that sounds a lot like what we want to see more of in all our schools. But we don’t want just one person responsible for that firehose of information; it’s something that we’d like everyone in our school to have a handle on. And I think the New York Times has the same idea. As Ms. Preston said, “Social media can’t belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone’s job. It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process. I’m convinced that’s the only way we’re going to crack the engagement nut.”
This makes perfect sense, and I think schools need to take notice and adjust their nascent social media strategies accordingly. Because of this, I found the article Online Community Manager: A New Position in Education so interesting. It’s spot on and makes perfect sense. I don’t think that any of the tenets of the position are debatable: community advocate; brand evangelist; savvy communication skills, shapes editorial; gathers community input for future product and services. I just don’t think it has to be that way.
Part of what makes social media such a powerful tool is the potential democratization of information-sharing. Everyone in our schools has a story to tell, so why let those stories be controlled by one manager, or even a team of specialists. How many slickly produced websites, videos, or viewbooks can you look at before you want a more “unfiltered” view of an institution? We need to give everyone a voice and a platform, which is what we can pretty easily do with the available tools that we’re all already familiar with or still getting to know: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Voicethread, Glogster, etc. If there’s a story to tell, there’s a tool to help tell it, spread it, and get people to engage with it.
I’m not against online community managers. In fact, I think it’s a great thing that organizations are willing to engage in a greater conversation at all. I just worry that it’s all in the interest of sanitizing the discussion instead of giving every voice the right microphone.