Connect With Colleagues on #K12PRchat

teachers-noncertIf you aren’t personally on Twitter, you most certainly have colleagues in your district who use it for professional development. From renowned authors and speakers to fellow teachers and administrators, Twitter offers educators unprecedented access to a dynamic professional development network.

In fact, a Twitter executive reported last year that, of the half billion tweets that post each day, 4.2 million are related to education.

And while school communicators have been connecting individually on Twitter for some time, a new Twitter chat offers targeted professional development and networking, from the convenience of a computer, smartphone or tablet. Every other Tuesday evening, #K12PRchat will bring together school communicators from across North America for one hour to share and learn.

If you’re new to Twitter chats or Twitter in general, this is a perfect chance to get your feet wet. A Twitter chat is a group conversation that is designated by a unique hashtag — in this case, #K12PRchat. Moderators ask questions, and participants tweet answers to those questions, using the hashtag. Click here for more background on Twitter chats and great tips to get the most out of the conversation.

The value of a Twitter chat is clear: The first #K12PRchat took place on Tuesday, and you can view all the tweets with the hashtag here. You don’t even need a Twitter account to read the encouragement and great content that your colleagues are sharing. (You do need an account to participate in the discussion.)

Make plans now to join or watch the next #K12PRchat, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Future chats will take place at the same time, every other Tuesday. Take this chance to engage and share — your professional learning has never been more accessible!

 

Expand Your Text and Free Your Mind

Keyboard

Other contributors to this blog have covered different tools that are available to help manage the social media workload: monitoring apps, scheduling apps, grammar-checking apps and on and on. No doubt, there wouldn’t be nearly as much content being generated and shared if all the work had to be done manually.

Well, here’s another addition to the tip jar . . . text expansion.

Text expansion tools are plug-ins and built-in utilities that save you the time and hassle of typing the same letters over and over. In my case, I probably use my district’s name, Francis Tuttle Technology Center, at least a dozen times a day. But, I rarely enter that phrase by keying it in completely.

When I’m creating a document in Word, the software automatically kicks in after four letters (F-r-a-n) and prompts me to “Press ENTER to Insert” the complete phrase. That’s because I use AutoComplete to help out with that repetitive task. There’s a good tutorial on how to set up AutoComplete for Word on the eHow site.

That’s great if you spend all of your day in Word. What’s even better, though, is having the ability to use text expansion across all of your work. An example is the built-in text expansion possibilities offered by Apple for OS X and iOS devices. You can set up the Keyboard Shortcuts utility to be synced across iCloud such that all of your text expansion shortcuts are available to you whether you’re working at your desk, on your iPad or on your iPhone. Then, whether you’re creating a document, texting or filling out a form, text expansion is at your beck and call.

If you’re in the Windows world, there are many options available (both free and paid). Here are just a few that you can look into:

  • PhraseExpress
  • Texter
  • Breevy

If you have other text expansion tips, be sure to comment on those and share your experiences.

photo credit: monique’s typewriter via photopin (license)

Modern day press clippings made easy

You may still have a photo album or four sitting around your office holding press clippings from your early days on the job; but nowadays, with online news, social media, bloggers, and more, it can be difficult to maintain a thorough collection of the news circulating about your district.

Enter Storify. Storify is an online tool used to gather, save and share online content. I relied on it first in grad school to collect online research on story topics and to monitor current stories about what I thought was a novel story idea. Now, I use it as my online press clippings album for what is actually put in print about my district.

Within Storify, you can set up feeds, or “stories,” by collecting and organizing various media from various platforms – from Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to Getty Images, Google Plus and Flickr. You can search news feeds, images, even set up RSS feeds. You can organize by date, topic or media type – it’s all up to you. You can make your “stories” private or share them with the public. You can even share links to collections to show others all the media on a particular issue or accomplishment.

If, like me, you have Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts set up, you can easily enable the Storify Chrome Extensions and your press clipping file is now just a click (or share) away.

Of course, as a former journalist, I’m still fond of starting my day with the Metro section in hand. But now, I can save myself from the missed articles, inky fingerprints and tape, glue and photo books all over my office. Now I may never have to take a pair of scissors to a newspaper again!

What do you think? Do you have a way of keeping track of media reported about your district? Share your tools or tips with us!

Keep your social media feeds fresh with crowdsourced content and Buffer

As school PR pros, we understand we can’t cover every good story going on in our districts. The beauty of social media, however, is that everyone is now empowered as a broadcaster, and there are scores of school and district brand ambassadors out there sharing the good stories to their own followers. By tapping into the crowdsourced content created by teachers, PTAs, parents, student groups and alumni, we share their good news to a larger crowd and keep our social media feeds fresh.

When I find crowdsourced content to share, I use a tool called Buffer to queue it to be published at a later time. There are a number of benefits I enjoy by using Buffer:

    • Buffer spreads the content out in a more natural pattern so that you don’t bombard your followers with multiple posts in a few minutes.
    • It allows you to set your content to be published during optimal viewing times, when most of your followers are online. To find out what those times are, use tools like Tweriod or SocialBro for Twitter, and Insights for Facebook.
    • Buffer supports both the native and manual retweets. Retweet with comment doesn’t seem to work, however.
    • If you install the Buffer extension for your Firefox or Chrome browser, Buffer will install a button for you to queue up content straight from the Facebook, Twitter and Tweetdeck websites.


I did a one-week experiment of using only Hootsuite for our social media updates, and I quickly realized how I can’t live without Buffer.

Do you use a similar tool to queue and spread out your social media posts? How do you take advantage of crowdsourced content?

Boosting Engagement on Our District Facebook Page

My team has been working on increasing our engagement on our district Facebook page, and we’ve seen some success. Our organic post reach was 1,397 in January, and it was 3,710 in May.

Here are some things we found effective for boosting engagement:

  • Video:
    For a while, Facebook didn’t show how many views a video received, so we just embedded the YouTube link. Now that Facebook shows this data, we take advantage of the fact that videos uploaded to Facebook auto-play in users’ feeds and the site pushes them more.
  • Tagging:
    At first, I didn’t tag people I knew in our photos, but when I recently started doing this, traffic soared. I also learned that I can tag friends of friends, and this allows me to tag people in almost every photo. It helps that I’ve been in my district a long time, so I’m Facebook friends with lots of people.
  • Driving Traffic:
    In each edition of our email newsletter, we include a link to a Facebook photo album that we’ve been populating throughout the month. This brings in traffic from patrons who might not have visited our page in a while, as well as a few folks who are Facebook-phobic.

    Our research told us that our audiences, especially our internal audiences, want to see something from every school. So my team works carefully every month to make sure we have something from all 16 schools in our photo album. This is boosting our click rates from the email newsletter.

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?