Social Media

A Tweet Mightier Than the Sword
By WALTER G. JACKSON/School Administrator, April 2019

AS A TWITTER USER since 2010, I have come to respect the omnipresent power that social media carries. Many of my roughly 2,500 Twitter followers offer heartfelt comments, likes and thank you’s to my daily posts. The experience can be intoxicating and addictive.

Social media today has an infinite presence, spanning across generations from millennials to Gen X, Y and Z. Many today use social media as their primary form of communication, depending on this social hub for everything from news to relationship building. Social media is the platform for the personal, private and praiseworthy. Today’s school leaders must use social media just as the math teacher of the 1960s faithfully used a protractor.

As superintendent, I use social media to promote the accomplishments of my students, influence and inspire my staff, and inform our parents about all things educational in our district of 5,000 students in Brenham, a suburban community midway between Houston and Austin, Texas.

This year, the use of Twitter helped launch our elementary STEAM academies through daily tweets from teachers and parents, illustrating and celebrating the learning taking place. Our district blog allows me to engage stakeholders with more detailed information about current events in education, district initiatives and progress toward strategic goals.

My experiences lend themselves to a few points of advice for my colleagues elsewhere.

» The superintendent’s words matter, so use them!
Social media paves a path to connect and communicate with stakeholders and to share relevant and engaging information in a timely manner. Twitter allows superintendents to satisfy stakeholders’ around-the-clock craving for information while strengthening the community of supporters.

The key is to post information that is appropriate for the platform while keeping the audience in mind. Tweeting a Bitmoji response to a student engages our younger audience in 280 characters or less. Blog posts that provide greater detail serve the needs of our older generation of supporters. Regardless of the platform you choose, remember that your word is powerful, so use it.

» The superintendent’s use of social media demonstrates “hip” and relevant leadership to millennials and young families.
Nothing excites a student, teacher or parent more than seeing the superintendent like their tweet or photo. If you want to engage your students, write a blog post about what they are involved in (coding, STEM activities, artificial intelligence, etc.). Try tweeting public praise to the student band or orchestra for earning honors in competition. We must meet our students and families where they are, and they are on social media.

» The superintendent’s use of Twitter can engage and inspire.
A “Great job!” tweet commending a student who earned recognition for an accomplishment can be more powerful than a handwritten note because of its public nature. The student’s parents and friends will read what the superintendent wrote publicly, and thousands more are likely to see it too.

» Use social media for public service announcements and safety updates.
Social media can be used to update parents and communities on district initiatives and timely academic and safety messages. I have tweeted and blogged about the importance of good attendance, the dangers of vaping and the introduction of new safety measures. This allows the entire school community to observe positive messages coming from the top.

» Tweet what you mean and mean what you tweet.
Because Twitter, blogging and all forms of social media create a permanent record, be sure to use proper grammar and avoid political, racial or highly controversial language when posting in your official role as superintendent. Use caution and always remember, the tweet is mightier than the sword!

WALTER JACKSON is superintendent of the Brenham Independent School District in Brenham, Texas. Twitter: @wgjackso