If you find it hard to believe that 140-character posts on Twitter and updates on Facebook could possibly help change the world of gifted education, think again. Social networking among gifted advocates is at an all-time high and continues to grow. Five years ago, it would have been hard to imagine educators and parents of gifted students from across the world gathering weekly on Twitter to share resources, insights and inspiration. Yet, now it’s a reality. More than 1,000 tweets are devoted to Global #gtchat (a Twitter chat dedicated to gifted and talented issues) each and every week.
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development, National Association for Gifted Children, Council for Exceptional Children, SENG, Prufrock Press, Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, Stanford University’s Enrichment Program for Gifted Youth, The Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University and dozens upon dozens of national and state gifted associations and local gifted organizations, as well as schools and businesses serving gifted communities, are now actively tapping the benefits of social networking and engaging their constituents in real-time.
So just how and why do people seem to be flocking to these platforms and what are the potential benefits for parents? Let’s take a closer look at what I call the 6 Cs of Conversion.
In our 24/7 digital world, we’re finding ourselves — and our students — plugged in. We now take email for granted. Who would have thought “cleaning out one’s inbox” on a Monday or after vacation would be such a well-understood phenomenon and dreaded task deserving attention a decade ago? Truth is, we’re already online and most individuals have gotten accustomed to a Web-laden world and lifestyle. It only makes sense, then, that people, who spend a good portion of the day in front of a computer and/or on a mobile device, find the convenience of Facebook and Twitter appealing These mediums — and all the millions of people associated with them — are literally right in front of us.
From party lines to rotary phones, cordless to cell phones, faxes to email and texting, human communication continues to evolve. Seth Godin, renowned business visionary who has authored dozens of bestselling books that have been translated into 31 languages, including one of my favorites, Linchpin: Are You lndispensable?(Penguin Publishing 2010), recently noted on his blog:
Social networking and the organization of data via tribes will significantly influence and impact communication in the years to come. As parents and gifted education advocates, we can employ these tools strategically to help forge alliances, discover and explore new learning opportunities and lobby for better funding outcomes to benefit our high-potential students.
One of the most intriguing aspects that social media allows for (which some people are unaware of) is the ability to customize one’s experience. You can choose to connect and Communicate with people who share your passions and interest. Yes, you can decide to look up an old friend from high school, but more importantly, you can be quite purposeful and connect with those interested in gifted education, gifted issues and gifted advocacy.
I’ll share more about this momentarily, but building cohorts/tribes online is one of the more potent outcomes of using these mediums effectively. It’s also why people who are impassioned about social media - love it.
Finding like-minded individuals and using social media to share ideas, dialogue, resources and opportunities not only makes sense, but it’s also one of the ways that “The Big Sort” that Godin spoke of (the organization of all this online data) will happen.
The power of the cohort/tribe is ultimately collaboration. As Shel Israel, author of Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in New Global Neighborhoods (Portfolio 2009), points out, it’s time to say, “Good-bye broadcast. Hello conversation.” Marketing over the past decades has centered on broadcasting, Companies and organizations broadcasted what they wanted their customers, constituents and/or members to hear. They held the power and controlled the output. They weren’t so much interested in what their customers or clients had to say (except for the occasional customer satisfaction survey and/or focus group). Rather, they wanted to ensure they were in front of these customers frequently with well-crafted messages that (hopefully) moved them to action.
That is all changing. While it is perfectly all right for businesses and organizations to share news about products and/or services (i.e. conferences); marketing and advocacy as we know it has evolved to a new level — one that requires dialogue. And given the current state of gifted education in the United States and throughout much of the world, widespread collaboration via social networking should be one area we place our attention upon.
It takes a while for new individuals to get the hang of tweeting, posting to Facebook, participating in Webinars and utilizing blogs and various platforms (and understandably get over/through some of the more common hurdles); however, it does beg one to be creative. Because social networking promotes dialogue — ideally centered on a critical issue — it inherently allows for fresh thinking.
We’re creating the future online — one tweet, one post, one legislative action link — at a time. And this is only going to become more and more prominent — and normal. Because new application and interfaces are being created every month, social networking’s opportunities to impact will only grow. Who would have thought a single post on Javits could help spur hundreds to contact their Senators and House Representatives with fervor? The more creative — and technically savvy — we become, the greater our chances of being heard, understood and supported.
People, including parents and educators of gifted, are on social media because they’re natural learners. They want to stay current, in touch and in the know. Those who are willing to get up to speed and make powerful connections will have the opportunity to share information, soak up learning and participate in real-time advocacy. It’s a conscious choice.
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of social media campaigns has nothing to do with:
The goal of social media for gifted organizations, parents and advocates can actually be quite clear: to further support talent development and provisions for gifted students. To do that effectively requires:
Just like gifted education, social networking also has its fair share of myths and even naysayers. I’ve touched on a few of these, but here are just a few common myths and misconceptions about Twitter:
I’ll use Twitter as an example; here’s what you need to know:
We all know how detrimental myths about gifted education can be. So, please don’t be dissuaded by social networking myths. Social media is changing the face of learning, collaboration and advocacy worldwide. Moreover, it’s an ideal environment for gifted types, It’s timely, pertinent and educational. And frankly, it’s fun!
If you’re new to the world of Facebook and Twitter, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:
About the Author
Deborah Mersino served as founder and principal of Ingeniosus (pronounced: in-genie-oh-sus), a global marketing communications firm specializing in gifted and talented education. As a consultant, writer and speaker to gifted and talented organizations and communities throughout the world, Ms. Mersino helped public school districts, private gifted schools, universities, state and national gifted associations and businesses serving the gifted population with marketing communication strategies, including social media tactics and thought-leadership.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.