By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — As a high school educator I have spent the last several years of my career lamenting the distraction that is social media in the classroom. When I started teaching twenty-two years ago I didn’t own a cell phone. Not many of my students did either and at that time I taught in a school with a fairly affluent student body.
Things have changed.
Schools have struggled with the rapid advancement of this technology, too. Initially, the devices were banned from school, then banned from the classroom, then banned from being visible (“we know you have a phone, just keep it in your purse or backpack so it’s not a distraction”), and eventually we’ve ended up where classrooms are embracing cell phone technology.
There are many ways the phones can be used in the classroom and thousands of educational apps that kids can use either independently or as a class activity.
There is always some district policy on phones, then it filters to the school level, then to the classroom and at that point there is a wide diversity of how teachers deal with them. Some have very strict “no phones!” rules, some have “cell phone jail” systems, and some just don’t care, defeated, and will turn a blind eye to it.
Social media is a big deal: there are 800 million monthly users on Instagram as of September 2017 and half of these users are between 19 and 29 years of age. For marketing your brand, Instagram is huge, and getting bigger:
Due to the apps visual nature and high user engagement rate, Instagram is also a valuable social media marketing tool. As of March 2016, 98 percent of fashion brands had an Instagram profile. As of December 2016, average number of image brand posts on Instagram was 27.9 posts per month.
This is not your Snapchat teenager group. As of January 2017, there were 300 million Snapchat users. Forty-five percent of Snapchat users are between 18-24 years old.
As for Facebook, research shows that people use Facebook primarily for keeping up with family and friends. With two billion monthly active users, Facebook is still alive and well.
Twitter is still huge with over 300 million active monthly users, but Twitter’s growth has stalled. Twitter is still very popular for news sharing and for celebrity stalking. With American presidents using Twitter to broadcast policy these days, it’s impossible to deny Twitter’s viability, but there are some troubling signs:
Despite a steady revenue growth – the company’s 2016 revenue amounted to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, up from 2.2 billion in the preceding fiscal year – Twitter has yet to report a positive net income. In 2016, it’s annual net loss amounted to almost 457 million U.S. dollars.
These are all very big numbers and it’s clear that social media is the new frontier for pushing your brand. I’ve spent some time researching Instagram over the past few days and experimenting with my own feed. I started an Instagram account several years ago only to keep up with photos of my new grandson who lives in another state. I never posted to it and had about thirty followers. I just enjoyed looking at everyone else’s photos. Now I’m engaging with the platform more and the followers are coming fast. (In the Instagram world I’m barely a blip on the radar when it comes to followers.)
It’s easy to see why Instagram is such an engaging platform. Everyone has their own niche and the big brands and celebrities are there as well. Currently, National Geographic has over 86 million followers. Nike is right behind them. Celebrities with huge followings include Selena Gomez with 133 million followers and Beyonce with 111 million followers.
On a more real level, people are using Instagram more than ever to promote their brand. Consider Hilary Rushford, New York stylist and former Radio City Rockette, who decided a day job cubicle wasn’t for her and formed the Dean Street Society which is a motivational company helping people develop the best of themselves, whether it’s personal style, entrepreneurship, defining a business model, or marketing. She has 167 thousand followers and is growing fast.
So back to the classroom: how does this all tie in? The kids in my classroom have never known a life without digital technology. They are totally connected and invested in their phones. Teachers today must find a way to make that work for you instead of against you. It’s hard to engage a kid in the merits of Macbeth when they’re more interested in the latest cat video on YouTube or taking a selfie with a cute Snapchat filter. The reality is there. As educators we have to embrace it and work with it, otherwise you are doomed to one semester after another of frustration. There are many ideas out there to help figure out ways to engage students through social media.
Social media is here to stay, and it’s growing. Make it work for you, whether you’re in the classroom or promoting your brand, blog, or posting a cat video.