Monday, May 25, 2015

Value Added Hashtags?

    This year, I have dabbled in using social media to promote the library program.  While I have set up a Lakeside Junior High School Library Twitter page (@GoldenEagleLMC), a Library Facebook account as well as a library Instagram account, I have experienced very limited success in getting my students to integrate these library accounts into their social media diet.  In fact, the number of teacher followers on this platforms has generally dwarfed the number of student followers!

   Two Fridays ago, I took a great leap forward in using social media to promote the library through hashtags.  Previously, I have participated regularly in the variety of tweet chats. (If you are not familiar with tweetchats,  the way they work is that you post out to the questions posed by the moderator with a hashtag (#arkedchat for example) at the end of each tweet- it is a great way to grow your PLN!)

   This move forward with hashtags, all started when I got an email from one of the Spanish teachers asking if she would mind if the library was included in a photo scavenger hunt she had designed for her students in honor of Cinco de Mayo.  Of course I emailed her back that I would gladly participate!

     As I read the email, it got me thinking about how I might use hashtags to promote the library through this activity.  I proposed that we add a social media component to encourage students to share the photos they took during the scavenger hunt on Twitter and Instragram with the hashtag #cincodemayoljhs.  The teacher agreed to share the hashtag with her students for this activity.

     I created a few signs around the high traffic areas of the scavenger hunt around the school that featured the hashtag #cincodemayoljhs.  While no students posted to Twitter, students did add several photos on Instagram-12 in fact, with that hashtag throughout the day.  While a dozen might not seem like a lot, it meant that in each of the 7 hours of the school day, student groups were posting photos using hashtags as a part of the library program for the first time!

     The success of using hashtags in this scavenger hunt got me thinking about how hashtags could instantaneously improve student interactions with the library.  What if I publicized upcoming library events on Instagram with a library hashtag? (#GoldenEagleLMC)  What if I used the library hashtag to promote new books/services in the library? Would this encourage previously less interested students to participate in programs increasing our student attendance at these events, or increase circulation of library materials?  A question for my fellow library/media specialists-how have you best employed hashtags to promote your libraries?  I look forward to exploring these possibilities next year!

    My experiences getting students to use hashtags reminded me of when cell phones first entered into schools.  One of my favorite quotes about this was: "students have them, so we might as well put them to good use!".  I think that phrase definitely applies here: "if students are using hashtags on Instagram, we might as well put them to good use to promote the LJHS library program!"

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