Social Media

The Power of the District Hashtag
By Matthew J. Miller/School Administrator, November 2016

School districts everywhere have countless opportunities to be a positive megaphone for all of the exciting things happening in their classrooms and schools. Social media is an excellent vehicle for showcasing student and staff accomplishments, for professional learning exchanges among administrators and teachers and for promoting upcoming student performances and other events of public interest.

Think about it: Where else can you reach your stakeholders as quickly and cost effectively as you can with Facebook and Twitter? The onset of social media sites also has opened the door to faster two-way communication — mostly in a positive manner.

But how do we, as school district leaders, pull the engaging posts about our classrooms and schools together? Where do we go to comment, share and, in many instances, learn about the positive momentum building in our schools?

One word: #Hashtags.

Name With Meaning
A hashtag — always written with a # symbol — is used to index keywords or topics on Twitter. You can easily follow something that interests you — in this case, that would be your school district — by coming up with a searchable school district #hashtag. Most districts and schools use a form of the school district’s name or a phrase that represents the school community.

In my 7,700-student school district in northeastern Ohio, we are the Mentor Cardinals, so we use #OnceACard as our district’s Twitter and Facebook hashtag. #OnceACard came to us through a theme we’ve used for years in our district, “Once a Cardinal, Always a Cardinal.” We encourage our students, teachers, administrators and staff members to include #OnceACard in their tweets and posts.

If you are thinking about your own district, consider embedding your district name, mascot or meaningful phrase that will be truly unique to your school system. Keep in mind, the letters in your hashtag count toward Twitter’s 140-character limit allowed in any message.

As a superintendent, I can search our hashtag on a daily basis to see what’s going on in classrooms, student groups, extracurricular activities and citywide events. This gives me the opportunity to “Like,” “Retweet” and often “Comment” on a post about my schools.

Similar to most superintendents, I don’t have the time to seek out information on our social media timelines. But by using a common district hashtag, I stay easily connected in limited time and can weigh in on events and topics that are important to those we serve. In Twitter, education leaders have a quick and effective way to portray an even broader sense of school pride.

Expanding Boundaries
To get your school community more engaged with Twitter to share posts and photos of the wide array of developments in your schools, you need to embrace a common district hashtag, use it repeatedly and market your hashtag as much as you can.

In Mentor, we incorporate #OnceACard into promotional items, including school T-shirts and other spirit wear, and use it prominently on marketing flyers and on our school district website. Student groups in athletics, music and other extracurricular activities also embrace the spirit of the district hashtag. Parents use it to highlight what’s going on in the lives of their children. Alumni can use the Twitter site for class reunion planning or to share a memory with fellow graduates.

In addition, school board members are using the hashtag, proudly posting photos of our students and teachers doing amazing things that they see in every visit to our buildings and while attending school-based events.

The theme behind a common school district hashtag extends to your community and region. It becomes a part of the community fabric, breaking the boundaries of the originally intended 140-character blurb.

Matthew Miller is superintendent of Mentor Public Schools in Mentor, Ohio. E-mail: Twitter: @MentorSuper

**Social Media is a new monthly column, involving an array of contributors, that will address practical matters on subjects of relevance to superintendents and school district administrators.**