Far from just a place to share cat videos and baby pictures, social media has proven to be a practical communication tool for any kind of organization, including school bus operations.
Many school districts and contractors have used Facebook and Twitter to inform the public about their success stories, service updates, employment opportunities, and other timely developments.
We at School Bus Fleet make good use of social media as another avenue for sharing industry news, photo galleries, and videos from our website. Our social media audience has grown by leaps and bounds since we started using these platforms years ago.
Consider our latest social stats:
With more than 17,000 connections across those three platforms, it’s plain to see why social media has become so valuable to SBF, as well as to our readers.
Still, social media also carries massive potential for negative attention. With the proliferation of smartphones and the ease of capturing and sharing video clips, those who get caught in an unlawful or embarrassing act run the risk of becoming the next internet sensation.
That point has been demonstrated in recent news stories. A few examples:
• In Ottawa, Illlinois, WLS-TV reported that a high school student shot video of his school bus driver texting while driving the bus in May. According to the news source, the student posted the footage on social media, and “it started to create a stir almost immediately,” attracting nearly 20,000 views in less than a day.
• In Springdale, Ohio, a school bus driver was fired after a parent shot a video of her running a stop sign last year. WCPO reported that when the parent posted the clip on Facebook, it was viewed more than 65,000 times in 24 hours.
• In Kent, Washington, onboard video from a school bus showed a 7-year-old in a wheelchair — which was not properly secured — tip over and crash to the floor in January. KING 5 reported that the girl’s mother posted the footage on Facebook, encouraging others to share it to raise awareness about the importance of providing proper care for special-needs children. (Watch the video here.)
As these incidents show, when a video goes viral on social media, the news media is likely to cover it, giving it even more exposure on the internet and the evening news.
Your school bus drivers need to know that their passengers can easily capture their actions on smartphones and post them online for anyone to see. That’s all the more reason to maintain a professional manner and follow proper procedures at all times.
It may sound cynical, but on a school bus, students are always watching, and in today’s world they can share what they witness with thousands. In some cases, students have even taunted authority figures for the very purpose of capturing an angry reaction and posting it online — a phenomenon known as “cyberbaiting.”
So while your transportation department should certainly tap into the positive side of social media by sharing good news and important updates via your own channels, be sure to remind your staff about the bad kind of social media publicity.
School bus drivers should be aware of the risk of going viral. And I don’t mean catching a cold.
James Blue was the general manager of METRO Magazine.View Bio