May 20, 2016

The Century in Cambridge celebration marked the 100th anniversary of MIT’s move from Boston to Cambridge in 1916, and events were planned for most of the spring. We wanted to share our festivities with the rest of the world, so we created the hashtag #MIT02139 (MIT + the campus’s zip code) to support the celebration.

The goal was to coordinate our 200+ departments, labs, and centers (DLCs) to share our Century in Cambridge celebration message and get them excited about using the hashtag #MIT02139. We also hoped that the hashtag would catch on with a broader social media audience.

On May 7, we celebrated Moving Day, which reenacted the Charles River crossing of MIT’s move from Boston to Cambridge. The river crossing was the final event open to the public during the series of events from February to June. Moving Day concluded with a pageant and dance parties that were for MIT community members only.


Here are the numbers for #MIT02139 on Twitter for Moving Day:

  • 1,599 original tweets
  • 2,396,142 accounts reached
  • 10,363,327 impressions

Our hashtag started trending at the start of Moving Day events. Additionally, two other hashtags relating to Moving Day grew organically and began to trend: #MITMovingDay and #MovingDay (although the latter was also being used in connection with a British golf tournament). By the end of the day, #MIT02139 was still on Twitter’s national list of trending topics.



We wanted to introduce the hashtag into the vernacular of MIT’s social community as early as possible. We also wanted to motivate our social media partners to use the hashtag by giving them both timely information and assets (images, videos, text) to share on their social media channels. Nothing was required or over-shared—the key was to let the conversation grow naturally and organically.

We identified content creation opportunities appropriate for social sharing from the marketing calendar. We set up a Dropbox with clearly named folders—one for every event—and made them available to all MIT social media managers. Because we kept adding new assets to the folders, our partners made it a habit to check the Dropbox for new content.

Once we identified our content, we used existing execution plans to include #MIT02139 content on MIT’s main social media channels.

We also used existing email lists to remind our partners of key social sharing dates, milestones, and our successes.

Starting from our first tweet on December 2015 from the @MITevents account, momentum kept building. Not only did a majority of our DLCs actively participate in the campaign, but people in the greater Boston area picked up on it, as did Boston-area influencers, and it spread to our international audience.


Nothing is more motivating on Twitter than a like or a retweet. Early in the campaign, I used my personal Twitter account (@theJennyLi) to like every #MIT02139 tweet that came from an individual and not a DLC. Obviously, you have to be judicious about what you like through an organization account, but you have more liberties with a personal account.

I wasn’t sure how people would react to this, and in all honesty I knew it could backfire. It’s possible that people could have been turned off by the fact that an MIT employee was essentially encouraging the use of an MIT-created hashtag, but for some reason it worked for #MIT02139. I noticed that all the people who received a like from me kept using the hashtag throughout the year.

I kept liking tweets I would see from a person who used the hashtag for the first time, and as the campaign went on I did this less and less. Since the hashtag was being used by more and more people regularly, it no longer relied on my participation to keep the hashtag fresh and active.

Do I recommend this for your social media campaign? Like so many other considerations in social media, it depends on many factors. I would not advise it for a capital campaign, because it would feel like I’m asking people for money, but for an inclusive celebration, why not try? Ultimately, you know your audiences and what your goals are; you have to decide for yourself. If anything, this is a good reminder to constantly try new things in social media because you never know what will catch on.


The Century in Cambridge celebration built momentum because there were several events throughout the year that were open to the public.

#MIT02139 first made Twitter’s trending topics list on April 23 for the Open House, giving it great momentum heading into Moving Day.

Because #MIT02139 was unique to our celebration, it was easy to track results.

We may continue to use #MIT02139 in conjunction with social posts relating to our neighborhood and the City of Cambridge.