“Improvements” Coming to Facebook News Feed

Nearly a year ago, Facebook changed its formula for how information was displayed in users’ news feed. The new formula was supposed to pull more pertinent information based on an individual user and the pages and people they follow. It was designed to pull status updates that Facebook felt was the “right content at the right time.”

For many organizations, the change in this formula was frustrating. Instead of seeing the news feed in chronological order, posts were shown in the news feed based on content and engagement. Much of the audience for a particular Facebook page wasn’t seeing the information that was being posted. If you are a Facebook page owner that looks at insights like I do, you might have seen a shift in the numbers of people seeing your posts. Less reach and less engagement.

In a statement last week, Facebook said they are again tweaking the formula to show more timely stories. The new formula will factor in topics that are trending. It will also factor in when people are liking, commenting and sharing on a post. The article explains:

“If people are engaging with the post right after it is posted, and not as much a few hours later, this suggests that the post was most interesting at the time it was posted, but potentially less interesting at a later date. Based on this signal it is more likely to appear higher in News Feed earlier on and lower at a later date.”

As a part of this change, Facebook will also look at this formula to see what information needs to be bumped. Bumping occurs when Facebook determines a user hasn’t seen a post yet that is getting a lot of engagement. Facebook then bumps that post back to the top of a user’s news feed to ensure they are more likely to see it.

What does this mean for Facebook Pages?
Facebook doesn’t anticipate major changes in what users see. They are still encouraging Facebook page owners to create “great content that is relevant and resonates with their audience.” Also, be sure you are posting your great content at peak times. Read the post on this blog Life is About Timing by Ken Koch, APR for more information. I am hopeful that this new change will enhance what posts our audience see. Stay tuned to see how it goes.

Rediscovering Your District’s History through Video

This summer, our department received an interesting task from our human resources department. They asked us to create a video to encompass the history of our district for administrators and new employees.

It seemed like a simple assignment, until we started doing research and writing a script for the history of a district that went all of the way back to 1846. After weeks of script writing, filming and pulling photos from our archives, we produced the final video in late July. We were able to encompass nearly 170 years of district history in about 17 minutes! Admittedly, I am a documentary nerd, so I really enjoyed this project.

What we discovered through the process was the positive connection we could make with our employees, students and community through video and social media.

Our first official screening of the video was to our 800 employees during our annual district convocation. Ninety-six percent of our staff gave the video an excellent review in our post-event survey, and the anecdotal comments showed many positive comments from employees. Many said they felt a deeper connection to the district by better understanding its history.

A week later, we shared the video on social media, and within a few days had more than 2,400 views on YouTube. The video reached nearly 10,000 of our Facebook fans, which is an extraordinarily high amount for the Ritenour School District page.

The comments by our fans were even more humbling. “Fills me with Ritenour pride! And brought tears to my eyes,” said one fan. Another commented: “The things we learn about our past here on Facebook amazes me.”

We’ve had numerous requests to show the video at meetings within our community, and the overall positive response has been amazing.

The power of video is unmistakable. Who knew that one project introduced to us by our HR department could leave such a positive impression with so many people in our community?

Just in case you are interested and have about 17 minutes to spare, you can watch the video here:

Hyper Over Hyperlapse

That title might sound like space-age lingo, but many school communications professionals I know are beginning to get hyper about Hyperlapse, a new app created by Instagram that provides you with the capability to transform a normal-speed video into a time-lapse video.

Hyperlapse also stabilizes your videos, which makes viewers feel like they’re a part of the action. The app is currently available only on iOS, but is likely to be available on Google Play in the not-too-distant future.

The playback speed available on the app makes it fun to use. You can either use the default speed of 6x, or choose from 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x, 10x or 12x. At six times the speed, a 60-second video will be shrunk to a 10-second video, and a 90-second video will be shrunk down to 15 seconds — the maximum length of an Instagram video. If you plan to upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo, then you can make it a longer production.

Here are six cool ways you can use Hyperlapse to promote your schools:

1. Campus tour: Take your iPhone and videotape a walk around campus, through classrooms, playgrounds, the gymnasium, etc.
2. Get to Know Our Community: Give new or prospective families a quick look at your city or town. Travel to some of the landmarks, the parks, your schools, city hall, the mall, and create a time-lapse video of your travels. You can find a great example on YouTube, in this Hyperlapse look at the bridges of New York City.
3. Classroom activities: Use Hyperlapse as a fun way to videotape classroom activities, things being built, discussions taking place and students in action.
4. Special events: Wouldn’t the school’s annual Halloween parade be more interesting as a time-lapse video? What about the homecoming parade? And spirit week? What about videotaping the construction of the set for the high school musical in time-lapse?
5. Field trips: Recording highlights from class trips would be fun using Hyperlapse and Instagram. Take a look at how the National Aquarium in Baltimore recently used the app to film its Blacktip Reef.
6. Sporting events: Not everyone wants to sit through a full-length video of a football or basketball game. Using the app, you can produce a cool, sped-up video of much of the sports action in a thoroughly entertaining way. The routines of the cheerleading squad would be a super subject for a time-lapse video.
7. The arts: Hyperlapse can be used to videotape students as they’re painting a masterpiece, sculpting a ceramic bowl or rehearsing for the next concert.

You can find Hyperlapse on the iTunes store.

Testing the Common Core waters using social media

As the new school year begins, preparation for the new Common-Core-aligned tests is a hot topic across the nation. Our local newspaper did a feature article about the tests and how teachers are preparing, complete with examples of test questions for different grade levels. What do parents think of all this?

In PR, we always start with research. I decided to take the pulse on our district Facebook page, posting the article and asking, “What questions do you have about the Common Core curriculum and the Smarter Balanced tests?”

Parents responded with some thoughtful concerns and questions. Here’s a sample:

  • “I’ve forgotten all that high school math! How can I help my child?”
  • “My worry about the Common Core is that it is too much, too soon. Our kids need to learn how to learn, how to think, and how to problem-solve before all the memorizing starts.”
  • “What kind of 3rd grade math problem requires an hour to complete?”
  • “There is a serious problem when officials predict that 2/3 of students will fail the first year. I sure hope our kids are prepared to pass these grueling tests.”
  • “Where can I find the Common Core curriculum for my child’s grade level?”

People fear and speculate about what they don’t understand. To address misinformation and answer their questions, I built on our website a new Common Core FAQ on our website, and used social media to guide parents to it.

Next, I shared the FAQ with principals, helping them anticipate questions at Back-to-School night events.

As momentum builds toward the spring tests, I will continue to check in with our community to see what they are thinking about Common Core assessments. This two-way dialog will be an essential tool in preparing our community to understand what the tests entail, how our schools are preparing students to meet this new challenge, and what to expect from the first round of scores.