BR&U Social Media and School Reputation (Part One)

Brand? Reputation? Footprint? Klout? As online social spaces accelerate almost exponentially across a whole range of environments, the concept of “brand” could very well be the driving force that shapes online culture as 2014 unfolds.

Almost exclusively the territory of commerce and advertising in previous years, and very often linked to commodity and corporate identity, personal and organisational brand is becoming increasingly relevant in the virtual public spaces that schools, children, families and governments occupy. The impression it leaves; the judgements it engenders; how it compares and competes with others in online arenas?

Privacy and reputation online are morphing into things that we manage through positive contribution rather than focusing on limiting the negative. It’s great when people say cool things about you and difficult when they don’t. But it is equally as important to be managing that information on behalf of yourself or your organisation. It allows control; it can increase engagement; it can challenge the negative through positive reinforcement and it can provide a unique metric for qualifying the impact you have on others.

 Focusing on the personal



Personal brand and it’s impact changes as children progress and their social engagement become increasingly broader and more complex. Brand might not be important when you are 5 years old but if you are the one of the “nasty penguins” in the “club” then it is going to affect how other “penguins” consider you or indeed play with you.

There is a shift in locus from the personal when young through to peers and group to organisation and society as a whole when older. How might we contribute to shaping that?

Managing privacy. Being private in public spaces is not impossible; in fact recent research by danah boyd “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens” provides evidence that teens have a whole range of strategies to achieve this. Whilst “setting privacy settings” may be well-meaning esafety advice, it seldom resonates. Much more important to build “privacy-on-the-fly” attitudes into online behaviour that is always aware of where and to whom content is heading as the technology is being used. This could be something as simple as segregating contacts and privileges within  a social network structure that emulates real life interactions. To do this in Facebook SWGfL produce free booklets here.

Positive content. Running a blog or set of online posts that accentuate the positive aspects of yourself may sound narcissistic but adds to the information returned by search engines. If posted regularly enough it can move older and potentially negative content further down the search results making it less likely to be read. Posting positive commentaries on other sites and forums not only links that content to you but also raises your online social standing and establishes additional platforms for your profile. Building a positive profile which can be easily shared eg LinkedIn or Gravatar also builds on personal content.

Positive behaviour. Whilst hanging round with your mates, having a giggle and pushing the boundaries are fab and groovy, it’s not necessarily going to inform an eventual CV. Positive feedback from social networks of which you are part is an increasingly valuable testimonial to your social capability and employment value. Being associated with influential social groups both generically but also in relation to your particular discipline and developing a reputation for ethical and reliable responses within those spheres can contribute to a positive testimony.

Technology. Understanding how the technology you are using works is essential in being able to gauge how you challenge , remove or shape negative content about you. How reporting routines operate within the social network platform you use? How search engines return results to apply simple SEO? Where in a virtual environment content can sit? How to be aware of it?

Reporting. How to use mechanisms to challenge content? Understanding what content has a better chance of being removed by understanding a site’s terms and conditions? Third parties, services and helplines who can assist? How to mobilise social reporting to have content or detractors challenged?

Know. What is there about you out there ? Setting up simple alerts to track when you are mentioned in open conversation? Using social contacts to gain intelligence about a detractor or group?

Under the hood. Occasionally check app permissions to understand how information can bleed away from you without your knowledge or control. Delete apps you no longer use? Go through a timeline to remove or limit content that you have unintentionally made public by default?

School brand and reputation

A school’s brand is embedded in it’s own philosophy and culture; the things it celebrates about itself and traditionally have been shared through the frontispiece of a prospectus.

It is vital that those values are not only shared in the spaces where young people, families and other schools are, but they can be upheld and propagated as part of the school’s wider mission statement. This means that schools often miss the opportunity if they are not engaging with these spaces in a way that allows them both to contribute or to intervene when necessary It is a more attractive proposition for a school to be writing it’s own valediction than somebody with an axe to grind doing it for them.


Why bother?

There could be a whole raft of pressures for schools to give the right message about themselves that are dependent on geography and circumstance. But there is a line of evidence that schools who employ the right strategy for managing reputation including online reputation enjoy a set of advantages that only serve to raise the school’s profile and popularity. A positive context at inspection is half the battle.

So where to begin?

Part two of this blog explores:

  • Engaging with social media
  • Tackling resistance
  • Making a business case based on clear rationale
  • Identifying and mapping risk
  • Policy and sanctions
  • Advice and guidance on education social networks
  • Reporting mechanisms
  • Gathering and acting on intelligence

Continued …

(First presented at the E2BN Conference 2013)

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