Sunday, March 9, 2014

Face off: @Twitter verses @Remind101 for family outreach via texting

To engage or not to engage? That is the question when it comes to figuring out the best platform for strengthening the home-school connection with texting.

Schools know that texting is a great way to reach out to families. It’s better than the “robo-calling” that is only one-way, is overwhelmingly reported as an annoyance to the Better Business Bureau, can disturb parents at work, or set off all the school staff phones ringing at the same time. They also know texting works well if you have a population that is less likely to have reliable, ongoing access to the internet. It’s also one of the best ways to get information right from your school and into the pockets of those who care about students.  

But with so many choices out there, which is the best one to choose?

Twitter and Remind 101 are two of the most popular free services available to text parents. But how do you know which one is best for you?

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  

Both Twitter and Remind 101 are great tools to give families an instant insight into what is happening at your school.  The difference is whether or not you want the school community to engage with you.

Twitter: Platform for community engagement
At schools like PS 10 in Brooklyn, it’s all about engagement. They want to hear back from as well as reach out to the school community, and Twitter fits the bill perfectly. Twitter has helped school staff develop relationships with families in new ways. Teachers and parents Tweet and reply using school hashtags.  The conversations are robust and relationships are strengthened on an ongoing basis.  Teachers get to know parents. Parents get to know teachers and each other. You can see some of what they are Tweeting at PS10 in Brooklyn (and Instagraming, and more) on his Tagboard at https://tagboard.com/ps10bk.

What schools like PS 10 love about Twitter is that they can set up Twitter Fast Follow so Tweets can go right to anyone’s phone, even if they don’t have a Twitter account. They also love that they can use an embed code so Tweets show up right on their website.  Look at Principal Eric Shenninger’s blog to see what that looks like.

Remind 101: Platform for community notification
While schools like PS 10 are doing a great job of engaging families, not all schools are comfortable with public engagement with parents. The reasons are many, and some who have dipped their toes into the public engagement waters have quickly retreated.  For them, a service with one-way notification like Remind 101 may make more sense.  

Not only can you do one-way texts, but what’s also great about Remind 101 is that, just like with Twitter, you can embed your reminders on an online space like a website or blog with a widget they created this year.  You can find out how here.

The Verdict

It depends upon what you want.  If it’s two-way engagement, Twitter all the way. If your school is not ready or interested in publicly engaging, go with Remind 101.

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