Unique ways to create fresh social content

Having an overarching social media strategy is vital, but just as important is creating fresh, interesting content that engages your followers. In the busy school PR office, there isn’t always a lot of time to do this well, but with these unique platforms, you can create content that keeps your social strategy fresh and engages your audiences in a way that goes beyond just photos or videos:

Meerkat or Periscope
These platforms burst onto the scene this year and brought instantaneous live streaming to the masses. No matter which one you choose to use, you can now go live from classrooms, from graduation, from an open house or from a sporting event without needing a full camera crew or big production. You could open up classrooms for a tour or to showcase students working at any time for parent engagement. Think about promoting the “Live Stream of the Month” and promoting it through your e-newsletter, website or other traditional channel.

Learn more about Meerkat or Periscope.

Canva
Canva is a great platform to create social content graphics. You can easily create infographics, posters, Instagram graphics, blog graphics, social media headers and much more without requiring the skill of a graphic designer. This is amazing for those of us operating in one-person shops. Social content is more engaging if it is visual. Canva is way to constantly create graphic elements for social media without having to use a designer.

Learn more about Canva.

Spotify
How can you use a streaming music service for engaging social content? Take a lesson out of Spotify’s playbook and create playlists for your various audiences. Is your football team vying for a state championship? Build a playlist full of inspiring songs (I’m thinking “Eye of the Tiger” or “We Are The Champions”). Maybe you want to create a playlist to highlight the end of the school year (Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”, anyone?) or the beginning of summer vacation or to help students study for a standardized test (and there are plenty of those!). This requires creativity, but these playlists can be embedded on a blog or website, shared on your social channels or included in e-newsletter content.

Twitter Tools for School PR: Tweetdeck vs. Hootsuite

Tweetdeck has long been my tool of choice for managing Twitter. When a friend who is a social media manager for a local organization raved about Hootsuite, I decided to explore my options.

After a couple days of noodling around with Hootsuite, I found that each had its advantages:

Tweetdeck:

  • Provides easy access to retweets and favorites for each tweet, while Hootsuite only lets you see the retweets
  • Displays Twitter’s new quote tweet format, while Hootsuite requires you to click through to see it
  • Has clean design and intuitive navigation, including shortcuts to jump back to the top of columns
  • Is free, while Hootsuite Pro costs about $10 a month

Hootsuite:

  • Allows you to divide your columns into sections under separate tabs, named however you like
  • Includes an analytics tool, while Tweetdeck users must use the separate Twitter Analytics site (which I like better)
  • Provides Facebook integration, although it doesn’t have all the functionality of directly using the Facebook site
  • Has a more robust scheduling feature, although I rarely schedule ahead in order to keep my content more timely

So far, I’m leaning toward sticking with my free Tweetdeck. What is your preference?

The Threat of MobileGeddon

Did you dread the arrival of April 21, when Google would unleash its mobile-friendly algorithm? Did you fear all of your Web traffic would drop to zero and the world would no longer know anything about your school district?

If you remember the Y2K drama that gripped the computing world 15-plus years ago, this latest event may have seemed similar: a perceived (or publicized) threat that may or may not have come to pass, for which we considered dramatic, preventive measures.

In a nutshell, Google announced that websites that were mobile-friendly (according to the new algorithm) would rank higher in searches. This change was brought about by the realization that more than half of Google searches are now being done on mobile devices. Google feels that the results that are served up should be sites that work best on the initiating device.Mobile tool (You can test your site using Google’s mobile friendly testing tool.)

Now, this all makes sense and would be of reasonable concern if you’re faced with being in a competitive environment. However, if patrons are searching for the Green Elm Schools website, by name, that singular district is going to rise to the top anyway.

Yes, we should all be working towards a mobile-friendly, responsive-design website, because it is a good practice: we need to make our sites as usable as possible for all comers. Just remember, the sky isn’t necessarily falling.

Ditch Your Phone’s Camera: Quickly Share DSLR Photos on Twitter

There’s something extra engaging about sharing photos of an event live on your Twitter feed. However, the tool you use to send those tweets — your phone — doesn’t have the best possible camera or lens, especially if you’re taking photos of quickly moving children in bad lighting.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a high-quality digital SLR camera, like a Canon or Nikon, the best scenario would be to take photos using that device instead, especially if you’re using it to take photos of the event anyway.

However, getting a high-quality photo from the camera to your phone so that you can quickly share it on social media may require some testing.

Here’s what I’ve tried:

Wi-fi enabled camera:
Many of the new digital SLR cameras have built-in wireless capability, where you can download a Canon or Nikon app for your phone and connect it with the camera over wifi. I had two setbacks with this: 1) the phone wanted to keep connecting to the building’s wifi instead of the camera’s wifi, and 2) transferring the photos over wifi was very, very slow.

Wi-fi enabled memory card:
Similar to the wifi-enabled camera, an Eyefi wifi SD card can connect wirelessly to your phone so you can transfer photos using the Eyefi app. Because it is wifi, I had the same issues as above.

Camera-to-phone cable connection:
I decided that a wifi solution wasn’t going to work, so I needed a direct connection. The cable that comes with my Nikon camera is meant to connect to a computer’s USB slot. After some searching, I found a small cable that would connect the male end of a USB cable (the camera cable) to my Android phone. It’s called USB On-The-Go, or OTG.

With this cable, I can connect my camera directly to my phone, import any photos, then share them immediately on social media. The entire process takes no more than a minute.

Although this setup works for me with a Nikon camera and Android phone, your mileage may vary, depending on the devices you’re using. It won’t work for an iPhone.

Have you had any success in quickly posting photos from your DSLR camera? Please share below!

Twitter Officially Allows Retweeting With Comments

If you have been watching your Twitter feed recently, you may have noticed some changes. In early April, Twitter officially revamped the retweet feature.

Since the beginning of Twitter, retweeting has been a common practice. However, it sometimes took creative thinking to get the original message and your added commentary into the 140-character limit. Now, users can retweet content and add to the conversation.

When users retweet, it now puts the original tweet in a box and you can add your own commentary, up to 116 characters in length.

PLVtweet

Some users like the new look, others do not. I think it gives the Twitter feed a cleaner look, but it does make pictures and graphics smaller (especially on mobile devices). I also like the fact that you don’t have to squeeze your comments and the original post into 140 characters.

How Do You Use QR Codes in Your District?

Like many school districts, we are in our budgeting phase. For our department, that means looking forward to next year to plan for all expenses for the upcoming school year.

Recently, a 40-year old piece of equipment in our copy shop died. It folds and staples all of our programs for musicals, plays, school events and awards. Thousands of programs are folded and stapled each school year. We had to request a new one in our budget for around $6,500.

I bet you are now wondering how this applies to social media. Well . . . during our budget meeting, our chief financial officer brought up an interesting question: “Do you really need paper programs with all of the smartphone and tablet technology? Couldn’t you just put a QR code on the wall with instructions to scan it and download it to their phone?”

What an interesting idea. I took an informal poll of several of our parents. They said they were not ready for only QR codes yet. They still wanted to have that paper copy of the program as a record of their children’s achievements. They also noted that the light from the screens might be distracting in a dark environment and that not everyone has a QR code reader installed on their phone.

But it really made me think. It could be a way to save thousands of dollars in printing costs, as well as help the environment. It would be quite simple to accomplish. Just create a .pdf file of your program and post on your website, copy the URL, and then visit a website that creates QR codes. Print a poster with the QR code and instructions and you are ready to go! The most difficult part would be convincing your students and families it is OK to not have a hard-copy program.

We use QR codes in many of our printed materials, including our district newsletter (view the latest edition). Our survey data indicates our community still relies on our hard-copy newsletter to receive information about the district, so we continue to produce it three times per year. We have not tracked the “scan-through” data for QR codes, but my assumption is that they are not frequently used by our readers.

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in October of 2014 about mobile technology. Their data indicates that 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone and that number is growing every year. On top of that, 42 percent of adults own a tablet computer and 32 percent own an e-reader.

Our own district data is even more telling. We conducted a survey in November of 2014, and our respondents noted that 77 percent own a mobile device (smartphone, tablet or e-reader) – that number grew from 62 percent in 2013. The majority of people in our district and nationwide have the ability to use a QR code reader.

I am hoping to get some feedback from this blog post.

Does your school district use QR codes on a regular basis? How do you track the results?

Would you ever consider eliminating paper copies of event programs (or have you already) and asking families to download them onto their phone or mobile device?

Facebook Launches New Privacy Portal

Last week, Facebook launched a new Privacy Basics portal that the social media company hopes users will find friendlier and easier to understand. And because Facebook is often reinventing itself, an easy-to-understand primer on privacy will help users and administrators keep up with the changing privacy landscape.

In the new portal, you’ll find visual guides that cover topics including detecting suspicious activity on your account, setting a secure password and even identifying “trusted contacts” who can help you recover a lost password.

According to Facebook, the portal is available in 40 different languages and can be accessed from a mobile phone, desktop or tablet.

In the “What Others See About You” section, Facebook explains, among other things, how to delete posts, how likes and comments work, how tagging works and how to deactivate and delete accounts.

In the “How Others Interact With You” section, Facebook explains how to unfriend and block users, how to manage what others post on your timeline and how to manage likes and comments on your page.

Perhaps the most important section of the portal is the one called “How to Keep Your Account Secure,” where Facebook explains what to do if you think your account has been hacked, how to tell if phishing is taking place on your account and what to do if you spot spam messages.

If you’re managing Facebook fan pages, the new portal is worth checking out. You can find it here.