Social Media – Friend or Foe

Practical tips on how educators, especially school management, can embrace social media and navigate it strategically

Singaporeans love being on Facebook. We were named the “most facebooked nation in the world” in 2011*. The total number of Facebook users stand at 2,891,940, or 80 per cent** of our online population.

What started out as a simple “private” tool to share our lives with our network has morphed also into a crisis management platform, feedback channel and branding tool. We love Facebook to connect, but we have also seen the devastation it can amplify.

In light of education trends such as online learning through the rise of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC)*** like Khan Academy and Coursera, and the incidents of Amy Cheong (who posted racist remarks on Facebook) and Alvin Lim (the sex-blogger from the National University of Singapore), we organised a meet-up for educators with a social media strategist, Belinda Ang.

Belinda, labelled as the world’s top #100 social media strategist, brought her vast experience from consulting with top Multi-National Companies to local firms like MediaCorp Holdings, and as an educator at the Singapore Media Academy. She raised five pertinent questions:

  1. How should schools manage a social media crisis?
  2. How do you prevent a crisis through social media listening?
  3. Should teachers engage students on the social media platform?
  4. How do we motivate students to use social media wisely?
  5. How should educators deal with their personal “brand”?

The essence of the discussion revealed the fundamentals of leadership communications—listening to signals, early intervention, leveraging information, influencing outlook, and maintaining integrity.

Key Things for School Management to Consider

For school management such as principals and vice-principals, Belinda highlighted some key things to consider.

Firstly, if a crisis were to strike, is your school ready? Is there a plan in place? Escalating to the Ministry of Education is the standard procedure, but would it be sufficient in light of the speed and viral potential of social technologies? Here are some recommended actions:

  • Create a crisis management plan and assemble a team
  • Train key personnel to know how to handle media (e.g. how to handle press, what to post and what not to post on Facebook)
  • Understand the role of media distribution channels such as social media and the press, and have these on standby. Know how and when to activate them in times of crisis

Secondly, are you listening to your students and educators? Do you have a social media policy for educators or a social media “police” team? How can you harness the leadership potential of social media, yet put in place structure and boundaries? You could start by doing this:

  • Create a social media policy—provide guidelines and boundaries without demotivating people to use it wisely
  • Form a social media police team to monitor and enforce rules
  • Select a social media listening tool to assist in uncovering conversations and sentiment
  • Regularly educate and raise awareness among staff and students
  • Establish social media relationships and engagement with students

On a more personal level, as educators, how can you engage your students while retaining some level of personal privacy? How can educators leverage social media for social good? Should educators “brand” themselves? You can:

  • Choose to maintain privacy by creating privacy lists
  • Follow conversations but do so at an arm’s length
  • Speak at the appropriate times but do not preach or nag
  • Instead of saying what students cannot do, motivate them by explaining how doing right can benefit them
  • There is no longer a divide between your “offline” and your “online” person. Say what you mean, and mean what you say

 As Erik Qualman, author of Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence puts it, “If you truly want a life that inspires, you need to change your leadership habits today to adapt to the new digitally open world”.

Social technologies will only become more ubiquitous, pervasive and powerful. Here at Halogen, we see the increasing urgent need for digital leadership. Whether we enjoy social media for its benefits or detest it for its destructive abilities, it is here to stay. We can face it head-on and use it for ours and our community’s benefit. How will we embrace social media and navigate it strategically?

“If you truly want a life that inspires, you need to change your leadership habits today to adapt to the new digitally open world.” – Erik Qualman

Article by Jael Chng
**Social Bakers, January 16, 2013
*** Massive Online Open Courses were featured in the Davos Forum, an international World Economic Forum which discusses economic and social issues. Read more in “Davos Forum Considers Learning’s Next Wave” at
The digitial arena has changed the way people relate and communicate with one another. Anonymity and freedom of speech has become synonymous with today’s social media and networking natives. This anonymity and freedom has given them much power to express themselves in ways that previous generations could not and would not. With that power, also comes the need for great responsibility in using social media.
Working in partnership with social media professionals, Halogen has put together a Digital Leadership module that seeks to equip young people with the principles of responsible social media use, encouraging them to be digital citizens with a positive digital footprint. We want young people to know that they are highly influential in the digital world, and that they can be a positive influence in that sphere of their lives as well.
For more information on this workshop for youths, contact Kenneth at [email protected]


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