I generally hate news like this, because some public school district officials have to be pushed — kicking and screaming — into using public relations tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Nevertheless, this story just goes to show you how determined people can be in using social media to deceive, lie and generally screw with other people’s lives.
According to the National School Public Relations Association, a fake Twitter account posing as the Rogers, Ark., Public Schools announced on Monday that the schools were closed because of bad weather. Although many schools in the region were closed because of a storm, Rogers Public Schools were open.
The fake tweet was discovered early enough for Rogers Public Schools, which has 813 Twitter followers, to respond through regular communication channels. Ashley Siwiec, the district communications coordinator, reminded families that they should verify all social media posts by also checking the district’s website, rogersschools.net, which also features a warning about imposters.
Ms. Siwiec also issued this announcement: “Please note that @RogersSchools is the real Twitter account for the Rogers School District and @Rogers_Schools is an impersonator.”
In addition, the district filed a complaint with Twitter in an attempt to disable the account, and Twitter responded quickly, suspending the rogue tweeter. According to a local TV station, the fake account already displayed many tweets similar to those posted on the official account, dating back to Feb 10, 2010.
While this is a good lesson for anyone who believes that these giant social media companies won’t respond, it’s also not yet another reason to avoid diving into social media. Just remember that nothing is fail-safe in the World of the Web. Here are a few tips for anyone administering school district social media tools:
1. Always contact Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to report fake accounts, spam, and inappropriate comments.
2. Develop a social media policy, if you don’t have one.
3. Write disclaimers and guidelines for use and post them on your Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages.
4. Link to your disclaimers and guidelines from your website home page.
5. Conduct a public presentation about how your district is using social media. Preferably, conduct the presentation at a public event, like a school board meeting, and televise it district-wide.
6. Turn off comments on both your YouTube channel and on each video you post on the channel.
- List of All Google Related Twitter accounts and Facebook pages (madrasgeek.com)
- The Giffords Tragedy and Social Media (zdnet.com)
- Case Study: My Strategy and 7-Part Online Toolkit for Tribarter (carriewriterblog.com)