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How to Rein in Rogue School Social Media Accounts

By March 10, 20249 min read

According to survey research from schools and education professionals across the country, some 80% of schools are dealing with rogue social media accounts. That is, they are actively working through risks and issues associated with having social media pages connected to their school or district brand that are not run or monitored by the district itself. Why, exactly, are schools concerned about rogue accounts run by parents, students, alumni, and other community members? What can administrators, school PR professionals, and districts do about them? What steps can be taken to reign them in? Where to even begin? Here’s everything you need to know about getting a handle on rogue school social media accounts.

The Problem with Rogue Socials

A rogue social media account is one that represents your school, district, mascot, or another group or community that falls under your school or district’s brand, but isn’t controlled by your school or district. These accounts are usually run by a student, parent, alum, or other community member, as opposed to being under the control of a school PR or communications professional, member of school administration, or another school/district employee. 

The intent behind a rogue account can range from malicious and destructive to well-meaning and supportive. For example, a rogue account can be set up for the sole purpose of bashing on something or someone (known as a hate account or a bash account) and may be run by a disgruntled account admin. On the other hand, a rogue account for a school’s sports team might simply be run by a parent or other volunteer with the aim of sharing news, photos, and other updates about the team. In both cases (and those in between), numerous issues can arise.

A lack of control of the account puts credibility and public relations at risk by creating confusion about whether posts and updates on the account(s) are coming from the school itself or someone outside of it. This can lead to misinformation and controversy, especially if rogue accounts address sensitive issues and policies (either in their posts or in comments and/or responses to others’ posts). There also exist some important legal risks and liabilities, notes school law attorney Bobby Truhe of KSB School Law. “Trying to shut rogue accounts down by school action or disciplining those who run them can raise First Amendment concerns, among others,” he notes, adding that schools that have a well-run and reliable social media presence can avoid outside accounts popping up and causing confusion. “It’s also why education on digital citizenship, especially for students and parents, is so critical for schools,” he adds. 

Getting a Handle on Rogue Accounts

To get started on the road to building a reliable social media presence for your school or district, you’ll need a firm understanding of the rogue accounts that exist today. What are they? What is their intent? How much of a following do they have? And, perhaps most importantly, who runs them?

This is likely going to take some legwork. An audit is a great place to start. Class Intercom’s free, downloadable Social Media Accounts & Access Guide and corresponding Social Media Audit Spreadsheet Template provide step-by-step instructions for working through existing accounts (both those accessible to and managed by school or district staff and those that are not). 

This is an ideal starting place for reigning in and securing your school or district’s accounts. Steps in the process include: Locating official accounts and noting ownership of them, then determining access permissions and reassuming appropriate access at the admin level of the account and downwards. Notably, it might not make sense for the school to assume or reassume ownership. Instead, schools/districts will want to formally create distance from rogue accounts that are not school- or district-sanctioned by eliminating the use of school logos and school names and ensuring that these pages include disclaimers about who runs them. Either way, schools will need to start by tracking down unofficial accounts and assessing each account’s content and intent. 

Gaining Buy-In & Creating Advocates

Once they’ve been tracked down, the trickiest piece of the puzzle is typically the actual reigning in of unofficial or rogue accounts. That is, you’ll need to connect with the person or people operating the account(s) and convince them to turn it over or make some changes. This process can feel almost like a negotiation, where keeping things positive and staying aligned toward a common goal can often lead to the most amicable outcome.

Before you decide to connect with someone behind a rogue account, do some recon. Who are they and how are they connected to the school? What are their goals in running the account? Is it about logistics and keeping everyone in a club or on a team informed about practice times, tournament dates, and fundraisers? Is it a place for parents to collect and share photos and information? Is it an alumni page meant to keep people in touch? Perhaps it’s a group or page aimed at poking fun at a quirk unique to your school or a fan page for a teacher or administrator. On the flip side, maybe it’s a page started by a disgruntled former student or employee. Regardless, knowing more about who’s running the page will help inform if and how you go about recovering access to the page. 

If you decide to connect with the account admin, aim for buy-in by being transparent about your goals. Explain who you are and how you ran across the account. When accounts are well-intentioned, express your gratitude for the account admin’s support and efforts to connect the school community and bring people together. Try to determine how important continuing to run and/or contributing to the account is to the person/people behind it by asking a broad question, such as: How did you get started with this? Or: Is this something you’re actively involved with?

The Advantage of Technology

As you’re working through these courses of action, look for ways to gain admin access for at least one, preferably two people within your district. This allows you to have more control of the page itself and make decisions about its content. Admin access also gives you better support service directly from social platforms like Meta, which will triage your support inquiries differently if you are an admin versus a page contributor. 

One of the key advantages to using Class Intercom to manage your school or district’s accounts and pages across social platforms is secure, central access and simplified user management and page management. The platform allows for unlimited users and lets admins create customizable access permissions, so different users and user types can be contributing to pages at the appropriate level. So, for example, if you had an account for your school as well as accounts for athletics, an individual account for the swim team, the cheer team, and the football team, as well as a page for the English department, you could customize access permissions at numerous levels for all or some of these pages. You might want your school communications lead and a couple administrators to have the highest level of approval/moderator-level access to all these accounts. You might even want a district-level communications person to have all or some access to one or multiple pages. In addition, a coach and student volunteer might have access to the athletics pages, while a handful of parent volunteers who commonly contribute photos or videos from meets and games might enjoy having contributor access to the individual pages for activities they’re involved with. Student social media teams connected to classes or clubs might also need to have contributor access to contribute photos, videos, and captions. These custom access permissions allow these types of users (including students!) to submit photos and info for review by moderators, without allowing them to actually publish to the pages. All of these scenarios are easily accommodated within the platform, and can help you navigate conversations with people running rogue accounts who may still want to contribute, but don’t necessarily need to continue to run a page. 

Structuring accounts and corresponding access permissions gives you a way to redirect folks running rogue accounts to a central, secure platform where they can still contribute if that’s important to them. Posting through Class Intercom instead of posting natively provides a number of additional benefits. Here are a few talking points to use in explaining how your school or district is using technology to secure and centralize social media communications to individuals outside your school who are running rogue accounts. 

  • “We’re implementing a new technology platform that allows us to centralize our school social media accounts to ensure they are aligned with district policies.”
  • “We’re currently deploying a platform that allows us to involve students in content creation for school social media platforms as part of our commitment to teaching them good digital citizenship and strategies for putting out content online.” 
  • “We love the page and presence you’ve built here and would love to explore ways to fold it into our school’s/district’s existing pages so everything is more consistent and cohesive.” 
  • “I appreciate your connection to and involvement with our school community and would love to explore ways we can set the account up so you can continue to contribute content moving forward.”

Next Steps

Once you’ve managed to track down and regain control of rogue social media accounts, the effort of establishing and maintaining a strong social media presence across the accounts you decide will live on is crucial. It, first and foremost, acts as a deterrent for rogue accounts that may pop up in the future. A strong social presence allows you to identify these newcomers quickly, firmly establish that they are not operated in conjunction with or on behalf of the district, and swiftly take action to stifle confusion and risk. 

Of course, there are other opportunities that come with having a strong social media presence for your school or district. It becomes a way for the school to engage with community members and build goodwill, positive rapport, and support. It helps school PR and communications teams proactively communicate about what’s happening in and around their school communities, effectively amplifying positive stories. It helps schools recruit–both students and families as well as talented teachers, staff, and administrators. It can help students gain hands-on experience with digital media, design, copywriting, editorial, and other useful skills. What’s more, a school social media presence that actively involves and empowers students as content creators can also be a fulcrum for digital citizenship programs, including restorative practices for digital media infractions and even authentic assessment for real-world learning programs. Truly, the possibilities are vast and exciting. 

Need a hand with rogue socials, activating newly regained accounts, or figuring out how to manage page or user administration? Something else? The team at Class Intercom is here to help. We work with schools and districts nationwide to help them maximize and manage school social media based on their unique needs. Use the button below to connect and learn more. 

Class Intercom

The Class Intercom content team offers powerful perspective on social media content, technology, and management for schools and districts. Our approach is one of seamless collaboration, scheduling, moderation, and archival—all backed by powerful pedagogy.