Meta, Facebook’s recently renamed parent company, reported that they lost users on the platform for the first time in the history of Facebook. Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Meta, alluded that the impact of TikTok is a big reason for their loss of users.
TikTok was the most downloadable app in the Apple store every month in 2021. The popularity does not show signs of slowing. Despite the backlash of devious licks challenge on the social media platform, TikTok has seen tremendous growth, especially amongst 25 to 35-year-old users.
A Superintendent’s Quest to Reach Educators via TikTok
This growth opens a massive opportunity for school districts to engage their community. Dr. Georgeanne Warnock, Superintendent of Terrell ISD, has embraced the platform to do just that.
Warnock has been on TikTok as the SubbingSupt for only three months and already has over 38,000 followers, and her videos can have upwards of 150,000 views per post.
She joined TikTok to connect with educators and parents, learn from their experiences, and make the community that she serves better as I learn and grow. Educators across the country look for her guidance on the platform to better themselves during the traumatic last two years.
I was able to speak with Dr. Warnock about school communications and how she uses TikTok to engage. Here is our conversation.
Meet Dr. Warnock
How did you get where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. After about five years in the classroom, I had a desire to do something to have a broader impact; I thought about law school or public policy, but I was encouraged to pursue administration. I definitely did not want to be a campus administrator, but once the door opened, I absolutely loved it. So, I served as an assistant principal at a high school, then principal of a high school. I had the chance to serve in district leadership as the Associate Superintendent, and then I became the superintendent in Terrell ISD.
School Communications in 2022
How does your professional relationship work with your school communication staff?
I can literally talk in my office, and our director of Communications can respond from her office–we are very close, and the communication team is integral to our success in everything we do as a school district. They are part of every meeting, every project, every decision because communication to all of our stakeholders is critical to the success.
How will school communication change from a superintendent’s perspective in the next five years?
From my perspective, I think we will see a few trends continue in school communication. We will continue to seek ways to create two-way communication that builds engagement. We will continue to use video and images more than text. I think we’ll see a continuation of schools reaching out to the community on new platforms.
“…we’ll see less of a superintendent in a suit in front of a teleprompter with perfect lighting and script and more “in the moment” communication.”
Social media will continue to be very important in recruiting staff and students. I think we’ll also see an increase in what I term “authentic communication.” I’m not sure what to call it, but I think we’ll see less of a superintendent in a suit in front of a teleprompter with perfect lighting and script and more “in the moment” communication.
Where can Superintendents innovate when it comes to school communication?
With the Great Resignation and the sharp decrease in teacher candidates in both university and alternative certification programs, we will have to innovate recruiting and retention. I have been very inspired by so many superintendents and school PR professionals. I think we can innovate in telling our stories to our current families, potential families, and our current and future employees.
What’s one skill that is underdeveloped in school communications?
I don’t think we have enough fun. We work with KIDS! Our work is JOYFUL! I sometimes don’t think we show how much FUN we bring to work every day. Walt Disney said, “Laughter is no enemy to learning.” I am not sure we lean into the laughter enough.
Embracing TikTok as a Form of School Communications
I started on TikTok to monitor my children. I have four teenage sons, and I want to make sure that they are creating clean digital footprints for their future. So, I really started my account to troll them and make sure they weren’t creating trouble for their future selves.
I started watching videos and fell deep into #teachersoftiktok. I laughed, cried, and reflected as I watched. I noticed there really wasn’t a superintendent voice sharing and responding in this space, and I wanted to leverage this community for my own learning, so I joined in the conversation.
“I want a culture that people can tell me what is working and what is not.”
What I love is that I get really candid feedback. Sometimes in your own district, as the superintendent, you can be the “emperor with no clothes on.” I want a culture that people can tell me what is working and what is not. Asking for thoughts on TikTok lets a teacher from Montana (just a random example) tell me what she HATES about the idea I posted…and then, I can ask our teachers what they think in a very approachable space. I can hear many opinions that I might not have considered, and I can learn about needs I might not know otherwise.
Did you ever expect to get the following and interaction when you first created your TikTok?
No! I was SHOCKED. I still am shocked. But, I love the interactions and community.
What makes TikTok different from the other social media platforms?
I think the short video format is engaging. My For You page is filled with teachers and school stuff, comedians, recipes, dogs, skincare… and I get connected to funny and creative content every day.
What is your goal with your TikTok posts?
My goal is to connect with educators and parents, learn from their experiences, and make the community that I serve better as I learn and grow. I also hope that I have given some insight into the experience of a superintendent.
One of my favorite posts on your TikTok is answering audience comments. What was your inspiration to start this? Why is it important to respond?
I want my experience to be one of community and conversation, so I think it’s important to respond. If one person is asking, I bet many others have the same or similar questions. In answering questions, I think it helps build engagement… I am more likely to continue engaging with those who respond to my questions.
@subbingsupt Reply to @heatheragunn ♬ original sound – Georgeanne
What is one piece of advice for Superintendents looking to communicate through TikTok?
Be yourself, do what feels comfortable for you, and don’t worry about being perfect.
Last question… Do you have a mantra?
Work hard. Be kind. That’s it. The key to success. If we all did that, the world would be an even better place.
About Dr. Georgeanne Warnock
Passionate about high-quality education for all students, Dr. Georgeanne Warnock has served as Superintendent of Terrell ISD, located east of Dallas, Texas, since January 2020. With over twenty years of experience in public education, she currently is focused on leading work in equity, early literacy, community engagement, and social-emotional learning, as well as amplifying student and teacher voice. Dr. Warnock earned her undergraduate degree at Trinity University and her doctoral degree at the University of North Texas. Prior to coming to Terrell ISD, Dr. Warnock served as a teacher, high school principal, and Associate Superintendent in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. She and her husband, Matt, are the proud parents of four sons.