Change is Easy. Transition is Hard.

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, they change it all. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate through the latest changes to Facebook.

Facebook Cover Photo and Profile Image
The new format gives us the opportunity to get rid of the photo strip across the top and have one large image to showcase our page. Get more details from Facebook on the cover photo here.

  • Image size maximum: 850 pixels by 315 pixels
  • Image minimum: 399 pixels

Larger Posts
Pictures and videos are larger in posts. You can highlight posts by clicking the star icon in the upper right of a post. The pinning feature allows you to feature a post for up to a week before moving back to its place according to when it was posted. To pin a feature, click on the pencil icon in the upper right of the post and select “pin to top.”

Why would we want to highlight or pin different posts on our page? These tools help to tell your story and to increase awareness of certain activities, students, events and more.

Have your basketball, soccer, softball, track, gymnastics, golf or football teams won the state championship? Did you build a new building? The newest changes to Facebook allow you to go add “milestones” to your timeline. Look to the line that runs down the middle of your timeline and select “milestone.” You can fill out the information.

Fan Posts
Posts to your page by fans are now in a separate area on the right. Your story is now the focus of your timeline. The more visually engaging your content is, the better. Fans may spend more time reading through your timeline than before.

Custom Tabs
The custom tabs we knew don’t work with the new Facebook page. They haven’t disappeared. They’re still there. We don’t have the ability to capitalize on a landing page with a call to action. You can still incorporate applications and custom tabs. You just have to choose how to use them. Twelve applications can be showcased, with only four prominent at the top of your page. Photos cannot be changed. They are the first application to be shown. Choose your next three wisely. Make sure they are the ones to which you most want to drive people. You can always change based on activities, marketing focus, etc.

Facebook Offers
Watch for the ability to offer a deal on Facebook.

Insights, Admin Panel and Messages
Just when you thought it was over, Facebook included another change with the Timeline. You can access insights, likes, notifications and the new messages feature from the admin panel. Viewing insights, managing your account and communicating with your fans seem to be easier thanks to the new admin panel.

What are some of your favorite features of the new timeline? What do you not like about the changes?

Seven Facebook Strategies to Build your School Community

With so much caution around student-staff social media interactions, should a school have a Facebook page? Absolutely. Facebook posts from your school can provide a professional online presence and open the door to two-way communication with parents.

Each school has a unique personality, and its Facebook presence will reflect that. Here are seven strategies principals can use to build trust, connections and involvement with families and students.

1) Control rumors: Is the school gossip mill working overtime? Use Facebook to respond publicly to parent and student questions, clarify misconceptions and make sure people have the facts.

2) Push toward a goal: Whether you’re trying to boost attendance, increase conference participation or raise funds, use Facebook to celebrate progress toward a goal, and remind people how they can help the school hit its target.

3) Showcase student work: If you have parent permission to post student work and photos, use Facebook to post art, essays, projects or music performances to highlight the innovative learning opportunities in your school.

4) Boost event attendance: While you still need to announce school events in all the usual ways, using Facebook events for just-in-time information may boost attendance at parent conferences, school concerts, open houses or parent meetings. The RSVP feature provides the opportunity to announce last-minute changes and to send a reminder.

5) Make school announcements: Bus running late? New after-school program? Flooded gymnasium? Snow day? Use Facebook for breaking news and watch it go viral.

6) Do research: Want to know what your community thinks? Post a link to your online survey, and do the research before making a change at your school.

7) Try trivia: Make it fun! See if your fans can answer a weekly question tied to facts about your school, student achievement, staff or curriculum. Prizes can be as simple as a reserved volunteer parking space, free tickets to the school play, a tour of a new facility, or a chance to be a guest speaker at a classroom event.

The Chardon Tragedy and Social Media’s Role in Times of Crisis

This week in Ohio (as well as across the nation) we were shocked to see the tragic events develop before our eyes at Chardon Local Schools, a relatively small school district near Cleveland. For those of us who work in education, the thought of students being in harm’s way is gut wrenching, so this tragedy has truly caused all of us to stop and reflect.

For me, upon hearing the news first on Twitter, I instantly thought of my good friend and Ohio School Public Relations Association colleague Ellen Ondrey, who serves as Chardon’s community coordinator. Ellen has served on our board of OHSPRA for years and is currently our treasurer. Hearing her voice on the live news broadcast, her clarity, focus, transparency and genuine care for her district reminded me, and likely all of us who do this for a living, of why we have committed to helping school’s communicate and be prepared in times of need.

In Ohio, our network of school communicators did what we do best: communicate and offer our assistance to our friends and colleagues at Chardon Local Schools. And of course, social media played a prominent part in that. OHSPRA took to its Twitter account and Facebook page to offer support and resources. We knew there would be ripple effects across the state and nation, and we wanted to ensure that we offered support on the issues of crisis planning and communication.

We also saw how social media played a role in the word spreading about the shooting, from students inside the school using cell phones and tweeting while the crisis was happening to how thousands used sites like Facebook and Twitter to offer condolences and support. Social media continue to shift how we communicate, both good and bad, but the questions to ask are whether your school district is using it effectively and in times of need and are you prepared for how to leverage it best?

I wanted this blog post to be an open discussion on your thoughts on crisis communications and the role of social media in these moments of crisis. I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas. Consider this a starting point to crowd-source some best practices or ideas on leveraging social media in times of crisis.

We continue to offer our sympathies to Chardon Local Schools, the community and especially the families.