How Star Trek’s Sulu Showed Us the Limitations of Our Districts’ Facebook Pages

ImageRecently, Facebook introduced the concept of promoted posts on brand pages.

Page administrators were told that in order to show our posts to more of our fans, we needed to pay for each post. For $5, $10, $15 or $20, Facebook would increase the reach of your post, making sure more of your parents, students, staff and patrons would see your content.

It seemed that Facebook had suddenly limited the effectiveness of school PR folks’ favorite new tool. If we didn’t pay, our people wouldn’t see our pictures, videos and updates. We were alarmed, and we weren’t alone.

George Takei, better known as Sulu on the original Star Trek series, took to his hugely popular Facebook page to complain about the change.

“FB recently decided that only certain fans will see certain posts, and it plans to ask me to pay for more fan views,” Takei posted. “I understand that FB has to make money, especially now that it is public, but in my view this development turns the notion of ‘fans’ on its head. So I encourage all friends and fans to visit my page regularly to make sure they share in all the fun.”

One of Takei’s more than 2 million Facebook fans was actually a Facebook staff member, and he responded to the actor. Takei posted his response, which cleared up some of the confusion but not all of the concerns:

“To the esteemed Mr. George Takei, I saw your post earlier (at the top of my feed, in fact) on supposed changes to the way your posts were delivered to fans. I work at FB and even work on the product you describe, and I wanted to drop a note to say that we’ve changed NOTHING about the way page posts are delivered to fans. I still see your posts in my feed all the time (keep ’em coming :)). The main point of confusion we’ve seen is that pages don’t realize that their posts were never reaching 100% of fans. If you go to your page insights, you’ll see this has always been the case.

 “And it makes sense if you stop and think about it: there is just no way to see all of the stuff happening on FB in your feed. Personally, I have over 700 friends and have probably fanned 1000s of pages, there is no way I can see all of their posts in my feed everyday. Fortunately, FB does a pretty good job ranking content based on the people and pages I interact with the most. So naturally, George Takei and Taco Bell are usually at the top of my feed 🙂

 “All Promoted Page Posts does is offer an easy way for page admins to pay to promote a post using FB ads using functionality that already existed. A lot of businesses use posts to promote sales, concerts, etc and its an easy way to get more distribution and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from pages about the product.”

OK. So perhaps a recent drop in the number of people reached on our posts was due to summer vacation and not to any changes in who sees our content.

What all of this taught us is that, for a long time now, Facebook has not been showing all of our fans everything we post. Unless a fan interacts with us frequently by visiting our page, commenting on our posts, opening our photo albums or liking our content, that fan might not see our latest post.

And Takei had it right. Unless we want to pay for our posts, there is not much we can do about it, other than to post engaging content and to drive traffic to our page from other places.

An evolution in reading and publishing…Scribd

Think of Scribd as a book club online where anyone can join a conversation on almost any topic. You can read, print, download and send publications to your cell phone from their site. Upload your PDF, Word and PowerPoint documents to share them with a very large community of readers.

Consider these five ideas for how this site can be useful to school PR staff, teachers, students and parents across the district:

  • News Clippings
    Like Shane pointed out in “Five ways your school district can use Pinterest,” you can use Scribd to feature your news clippings. Upload pdf or jpg versions of articles, adds, posters, banners, etc. to your account.
  • Resource for Teachers
    From essays, theses and homework to study guides, notes and quizzes, there are many resources available to aid your teachers in their efforts.

  • Share school publications
    From course offerings to manuals and handbooks, students and parents can easily access documents from your account. They can download, print, read and even share documents, saving you time and money.
  • Presentations
    Need to give a presentation on Web 2.0 and social networking? Maybe a grammer lesson on gerunds and infinitives? There are presentations you can use as inspiration in developing your own; or maybe you prefer to use their exact presentation. Prezi.com is another good resource for presentations.
  • Resumes
    College graduates and young adults are looking to Scribd as a place to store their resumes in addition to LinkedIn. This could be helpful if you also have human resources duties, need to hire a new staff member or explore various resume styles.

We’re always looking for new ways to use Scribd. Do you have any?

Five ways to take the pulse of your community

PR professionals always have an ear to the ground. Issues anticipation is about sensing and understanding public opinion, then using what you learn to navigate strategically and transparently through times of change and challenge.

Twitter and Facebook are essential tools in this work, providing windows on the world into the concerns and priorities of school district parents, students, employees and community members.

Five easy strategies can help you take the pulse of your community on a regular basis:

  1. Broaden your friend base:
    Besides growing your school district’s fan base, cast a wide net to expand the circle of Facebook friends on your personal page. Friend district partners, involved parents, community leaders, neighbors, staff members, Board members, Education Foundation board members and volunteers. Be sure to protect your personal privacy by setting up different groups for personal vs. professional contacts.
  2. Lurk and listen:
    Pay attention to what’s buzzing in your community. Watch for complaints, debate and controversy tied to education. When they mention schools or kids, what are people wondering about or worried about? Which education or political groups are they tracking on social media? Are coalitions forming for or against a proposed school district change? Resist the urge to post or comment, and just listen.
  3. Invite private messages:
    Be sure to invite fans of your school district Facebook site to message you privately about any issues or concerns. Respond promptly to resolve issues, provide information or direct them to the right district expert. This is a good way to resolve individual issues around grades, health, bullying, employees, or discipline without compromising student or staff privacy.
  4. Post a survey:
    When a hot issue bubbles up, try an online survey. If a protest group has achieved critical mass, post it on their site. Community members will be glad you’re listening, and by using open-ended questions, you may well find some workable compromises or innovative strategies to resolve the issue.
  5. Share what you hear:
    Many district leaders do not follow social media, so let them know what you’re hearing, especially in turbulent times. Copy key conversation threads into an email, so they have a feel for the community’s priorities and concerns. Remind them that it doesn’t matter how much you are listening if the district does not act on what it hears from the community.

YouTube for Schools: A Good Bet for the Future?

You might remember a time when YouTube was, like its friend Facebook, the bad kid in the schoolyard. Those days might just be over for the video-sharing website once best known for documenting fistfights and piano-playing cats.

In March, The New York Times published a story about Google’s new tool, YouTube for Schools. Thought you’d never hear the words “YouTube” and “schools” together in the same sentence? Largely because of the support of tech-savvy teachers, YouTube has introduced a new tool that permits school districts to use a “gated” version of the website. With it, teachers and administrators are able to view all videos on YouTube, but students can’t log in, at least not in school. Still, the tool allows them to watch YouTube EDU videos like Khan Academy, PBS, TED Talks and Steven Spangler Science, along with videos posted by their school district.

This is a major step forward for YouTube. The site has gradually transformed its reputation by introducing YouTube EDU several years ago in a partnership with the country’s major universities, then by working closely with the fabulous Khan Academy to make its videos accessible to the world. Already, a number of school districts around the country have signed up YouTube for Schools, including the Chicago Public Schools.

Go to YouTube for Schools to learn more about signing up. To view some of the YouTube channels your teachers are just dying to use in the classroom, check out Khan Academy, Steve Spangler Science, PBS, Stanford University or TED Talks. You’ll find it hard to step away from the computer. Then advocate on behalf of your teachers, if necessary.

YouTube for Teachers is another useful resource, which includes hundreds of video playlists, organized by subject and grade, with many aligned to common core standards.

Here’s a video explanation of YouTube for Schools: