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Providing Encouragement and a Listening Ear Through Social Media

Glenn Robbins, superintendent in Brigantine, N.J., attends the session on supporting students through social media.

Finding information and connecting with others has no boundaries in a world teeming with search engines and social media apps and it’s a sure thing your community is watching. 

As a superintendent, finding ways to develop a voice and a brand while navigating the negatively takes planning and intentionality.

In their panel discussion Friday, five superintendents from across the country provided insights into their experiences with social media platforms during “Supporting Superintendents Through Social Media: Providing Encouragement and a Listening Ear.”

“We use social media for three purposes,” says Susan Enfield, superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Burien, Wash. “Advocate, celebrate and educate.”

Conversations about social media posts emphasized the power of an intentional hashtag. “A good hashtag brings your schools and district together to push out positives,” says Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Local School District in Liberty Township, Ohio.

Martha Salazar-Zamora, superintendent in Tomball, Texas, participates in the social media session.

Panelists suggested changing hashtags annually for districts and schools; commenting that hashtags are vital for advocacy, branding, board reviews and creating mini campaigns.

Social media transforms how outside people can see inside classrooms. It gives districts the opportunity to tell stories and draw attention to the positives happening daily in classrooms as well as in other areas of schools that go unseen like school cafeterias.

Changing from an in-person event to Facebook Live changed Lakota Local School District’s superintendent chat from reaching a handful of people to almost 800 listening and responding live with more watching after the video posted, Miller said.  

A few key takeaways included working closely with your communications team, looking at analytics to know when to post, creating a social media policy, having control of master accounts for all school and district accounts and communicating social media expectations to all staff members.

Be purposeful when creating professional handles. Create a handle that’s portable. If you change jobs, your username and followers should travel with you. 

“Iron sharpens iron,” says LaTonya Goffney, superintendent of Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas.  “I follow people who do great work.” Goffney and others encouraged superintendents to follow each other and to take advantage of AASA’s resources like the social media lounge.

Speaking to superintendents who are hesitant to use social media. Enfield says, “You don’t have the option. It is part and parcel, you have to lead in social media.” She suggested superintendents new to social media pick one platform and just begin.

(Lisa Trail is a reporter with AASA’s Conference Daily Online and director of communications and strategic initiatives with Murfreesboro City Schools in Murfreesboro, Tenn.)

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