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In the education world, new tools constantly hit the market. More teachers are working online, either part or full-time, than ever.

Because of the growth in online education, traditional best practices in teaching are being replaced by digital best practices.

Even for teachers keeping much of their work inside traditional classrooms, the Internet plays a big role in their careers.

Whether or not a teacher brings digital tools into the classroom, social media and digital presence have an impact on their image and career.

With all this going on, how can teachers optimize what is available to them on the internet?

We’re going to dive deep on this topic in a two-part series.

Staying ahead

Keeping up with a rapidly changing industry is intimidating. There’s no doubt about that. However, it is manageable with a bit of forethought and a strong routine.

The basis for staying ahead of the curve is to read – constantly. Industry blogs, journals, books, and the news should all be on your list.

Most major publications have a section dedicated to education news, The New York Times and The BBC having two of the strongest.

As teaching online grows in popularity, industry leaders have begun blogging about their process.

Anomalous Educator posts articles weekly covering all aspects of teaching online from business help to tech to digital classroom tips. Another great blog is Teach Nomadic, which offers product reviews and more technical info for online teachers.

SEO is equally important. I suggest subscribing to The Moz Top 10 — their weekly newsletter contains articles on the latest trends, tools, and changes surrounding Google and other search enginges.

For online teachers to make the most of modern tech, the next step is to familiarize themselves with digital tools designed for classroom use.

Most of the pen-and-paper techniques that teachers are accustomed to are being replicated in digital format. No one wants to re-learn things they already know. Keep in mind, however, that after you’ve mastered the learning curve the daily workload will actually be made easier.

With modern tech tools, organization and storage are streamlined online. This may prove to be different than the way you’ve done things in the past and require some adjustments, but your life will be easier because of it.

Social media outside the classroom

Think back to your days as a grade schooler. What do you remember knowing about your teachers, other than what you heard and observed each day at school?

Odds are, not a whole lot. You certainly hadn’t seen their road trip photos from college or observed their social interactions with friends. The thought of being that informed on your teacher’s personal life probably didn’t even cross your mind.

Times have changed. As a result, digital image is incredibly important for online teachers. Your students are going to look you up on Facebook. They are going to see what you post on Instagram and Twitter.

For starters, keep posts visible to the public professional and positive.

Perhaps the best social media advice I give is to streamline your profiles. Online teachers should think of themselves as entrepreneurs, and of their social pages as their digital footprint.

Maybe not quite as professional as a business listing on Yelp or Google, but as a window into what a student, their parents, and those in the industry should expect when working with you. A few suggestions:

  • Find a profile photo and stick with it. Use the same image across all platforms.
  • Show off your credentials. Where did you go to school? Where have you worked? Think a mini-LinkedIn. Take a look at the social pages of a few teachers or professionals you admire. What are they doing that you can replicate?
  • Contact information. I encourage online teachers (and all professionals) to make themselves easy to get ahold of.

It is particularly critical for online teachers running their own business or that have any responsibility for marketing to be available for contact. Create a Facebook admin page for your business and list contact information there.

If your job doesn’t stretch beyond instructing, the last point, in particular, isn’t as crucial. But it is still important to create a positive image via your social profiles and keep any public content professionally consistent across each.

Social media is a great place to build professional contacts. Joining Facebook groups, interacting with professionals on Twitter and LinkedIn, and sharing relevant media (news and blog articles) on your pages helps to build your image as an authoritative professional figure.

When used correctly, social channels make everything from cold reach-outs to job applications more verifiable and trustworthy.

Moving up the career ladder depends largely on building trust – in today’s world, social media just might be the best way for online teachers to do that.

See our full guide to social media best practices.

Social media in the classroom

Social media is part of in-class education these days. There are a number of tools available for communication between students and groups. There’s a lot of negativity surrounding social media.

Personally, I’m excited about the positive effect it can have in education and across other industries.

Your students are on social networks – for many, these play a major role in daily communication. Modern technological advances have made it possible to integrate social media into your work without being unprofessional or risky.

Unless you’re a professor instructing at the Graduate level, ‘friending’ students on platforms like Facebook is generally a no-go. Instead, set up a classroom group on a site such as Twiducate or Google Classroom.

These platforms allow teachers to communicate directly with students, assign and review work, and provide a social forum for classroom interaction among students.

The result? Your students’ social craving is both satisfied and used for positive interaction and educational benefit.

Networking

You’ve heard it your whole career: network, network, network. Here’s the gist of it: the more people you meet, the more people you know who may benefit your career, direct to towards a new opportunity, or point students in your direction.

Put yourself in front of as many of these people as possible! Sometimes something will come of it, other times nothing will happen. But there is always value in being ‘part of the scene’ and an active member of the online teaching and online business communities.

Here’s how to get started:

  • If you meet someone who falls into any of the categories above, friend or follow people you meet on social media. There is no shame in sending that request – do it! Facebook is the most interactive because it’s the easiest to develop name recognition on and the messaging service is incredibly personable, unlike Twitter or Instagram. Interact regularly with the person, join Facebook groups for online teachers (of which there are plenty), make yourself part of the ‘digital community.’
  • Did you get a business card at a happy hour meetup? Follow up via email with contacts a week or so later.
  • Look for webinars, online communities, meetings to join. Follow blogs. The blog here at The Babb Group is a perfect place to start – there are plenty of ideas for influencers to follow, ideas to implement, and resources to check out right here.
  • Have something to say? Reach out and offer to write a guest post (do some research on guest posting best practices first, but this is a great way to get your name out there).

It takes a lot of work to build up a roster of students, get the word out, create lesson plans, and everything else that goes into teaching online.

Relationship building is the key to making this process happen smoothly and progressively – the people you meet and interact with along the way hold the key to your success.

Pursuing any chance to meet someone who may eventually benefit your online teaching career is a critical part of business growth. Part of taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way is just to say yes! Accept invites. Whether online or in person, get out and do things.

OK! But how?

How do you know when you’ve found a promising networking opportunity? Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Step one is to identify how someone may be able to help you and how you may be able to help them.
  • Shut up and listen. People love to talk about themselves, especially on the internet, at conferences, and at happy hours. All you need to do is listen. They’ll love you immediately. In the back of your head, think big picture – is this person worth staying in touch with?
  • Earlier this year, I attended an online workshop and got engaged in the discussion on the side while the presentation happened. I came away with three or four email address. One turned into a good contact and is now a client.

The key is to follow up, and do the things you say you are going to do.

See our full guide to networking best practices for online teachers.

Here is part two of the series.

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