Social media is a powerful tool for individuals to join together, share content and ideas, and engage in open conversation. In order for social media to be successful, PTAs must be committed to supporting honest, transparent and knowledgeable dialogue. Social media can be used for a variety of reasons over a multitude of channels. For PTAs, social media is well-suited to:
- Share information that is relevant to your members’ needs and interest.
- Raise awareness of education and child-related issues and support advocacy efforts and partner initiatives.
- Generate interest in and participation in your PTA events, programs and initiatives.
If your PTA is not already on a social media channel but wants to be, the first step is simple: sign up! Be sure that you give plenty of thought to the username and/or URL of your page or account, because once you open the account, you will not be able to change it without losing your fans or followers. You also want to be strategic about creating an account on certain platforms. You do not have to be on every social media channel. For instance, creating a Facebook account is probably more effective to begin with than a Pinterest or Instagram account.
Once you are on a social media channel, do not feel compelled to immediately start posting content. Do research and understand what content best fits your audience. If you are unsure of how things work or what sort of content is appropriate for you to post, monitor comparable social media channels, publish content at different times of the day to understand when you get the most engagement and create quarterly benchmarks like tracking your "likes" or follower count to see audience growth.
If you are confused by a technical function on a social media site, you can always refer to each site’s “Help” section to help you familiarize yourself with the tools, capabilities and standard practices. The help section is often located in the website footer.
Access social media policy to help establish your PTA’s online boundaries.
Associations use “pages” on Facebook, rather than personal profiles. You can create a page from your personal Facebook account, grant other PTA leaders editorial access to the page and post on behalf of your PTA. On a page, you can post content on a central wall, including photos, questions and surveys, news bulletins, tips and videos, all while interacting directly with commenters. Facebook users have the option to “like” your page, which means that the content you post on your page wall can show up in their news feeds. If you do not already have a page for your unit, here is how you can get started.
Access Facebook’s Getting Started Checklist
The frequency of your posts is a delicate balancing act. Post too little and your posts are unlikely to end up in your fans’ news feeds, but post too much and your fans are likely to “unlike” you. Once your page is up, try to post once or twice a day if possible. It is often beneficial to create a content line-up and slot them in advance using the “Schedule Post” function.
National PTA on Facebook:
Check out and “like” National PTA’s Facebook Page to receive content ideas that you can share and repost for your unit.
Twitter allows users to share short messages up to 140 characters in length. Due to the brevity of its messages, Twitter is an ideal channel to share straightforward information, including news coverage, advocacy efforts, event promotion, statistics and member recognition. Users can post video footage, images and links to refer Twitter followers to external sites. Twitter is also the preferred channel for sharing live information, for example, participants can tweet throughout a PTA function to give followers updates and quick tidbits of information about the event.
Follow National PTA on Twitter
- Tweet – a 140-character message sent via Twitter
- Follower – any Twitter user that subscribes to another user’s tweets
- Handle – the username
- Hashtag – characterized by a “#” symbol, the hashtag is a way to assign a topic/keyword/phrase to your tweet (i,e,. #HealthAndSafety, #TodaysPTA)
- Mentions – characterized by the inclusion of “@handle” symbol, a mention is a way to refer to another user and have your tweet show up in their timeline (i.e., @NationalPTA just released its new report)
- RT – standing for “retweet,” RT at the start of a tweet indicates that the user is sending another user’s content.
Other Social Media Channels
While Facebook and Twitter are considered the two dominant social media channels, many other channels exist that serve various functions:
- Blogs – short for web log, a blog is a website where the author(s) shares experiences, observations, images and other multimedia in an open forum. A wide variety of companies offer free blogs including WordPress and Blogger
- YouTube – video-sharing website. Currently, the third most visited website in the world
- Flickr – photo-sharing website that allows users to upload images, share and download others’ pictures
- Pinterest – a virtual pin board where users are able to find images and links across the Internet, categorize the subject materials and “pin” to a collection of bulletin boards
- Instagram – photo and video-sharing website that enables users to take pictures and videos and share them on other social media platforms
- LinkedIn – a professional networking site that allows users to create professional profiles and connect with other users and companies to create a professional network of contacts
Dealing with Negative Comments
Negative comments are an inevitable part of social media. To be successful on social media, you have to be willing to take the good with the bad and recognize that you cannot control what other users say—you can only control how you react and what you post. In many cases, a post that you find disagreeable or contrary to your own opinion may not provide grounds for deletion. If you delete every post that you find objectionable, you may escalate the problem or alienate users on your page. Grounds for deleting a post include: use of profanity or derogatory language, personal insults or disrespectful language against another user, or spam or overly solicitous content.
For most other comments, especially those that are of a “customer-service” nature, the best solution is to guide the conversation away from your page by having the user contact you directly via Facebook message or email. For other negative comments, it is best to respond in a respectful way and provide accurate information to support your position. Remain calm and judicious, and refrain from sharp, heated posts.
Please note that you cannot delete negative comments on Twitter, but you can report or block serious offenders.