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.

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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.

Smile — You’re on Candid Camera!

What’s the impact on public meetings when virtually every person in the room has a video camera in their pocket?

Recently my school district hosted a regional meeting for our state Department of Education, sharing information about the new Smarter Balanced state tests. This is a controversial topic in some surrounding communities, so I was prepared for a lively debate. What surprised me, however, was the number of cell phone cameras in use throughout the meeting.

Standardized testing protesters videotaped not just state presenters, but every attendee who asked a question or made a statement. How many in the crowd, I wonder, were afraid to voice their views, knowing they could appear on social media? How many worried that if they spoke about a child’s special needs, it would compromise student privacy? How many educators worried about the impact on their careers? How many folks wished they had sat in the back?

Video or audio recording at public meetings is usually legal and increasingly common. As public relations practitioners, how can we ensure that public meetings remain a safe place to exchange ideas and express diverse views?

Transparency is a trust builder, and video can be a way to involve community members unable to attend an event. However, there are ways to keep it from having a dampening effect on your public meeting:

1) Remind presenters to expect cell phone video cameras: Public officials should be aware that it’s likely they will be videotaped, especially when dealing with controversial topics. Remind them to be diplomatic. Make sure they are well prepared with talking points and real-world examples.

2) Lay some ground rules: Ask your audience to respect any individual requests not to be video or audio recorded when they speak in the meeting. Explain that people may have a need to protect student privacy or a child in protective custody.

3) Provide a way to ask questions or raise issues anonymously: Hand out cards for questions and comments, which can be read aloud by a neutral facilitator. Provide the presenter’s email address, so people can ask questions privately. Try a clicker-response poll using cell phone technology so folks can weigh in anonymously. Poll Everywhere is one of many such tools, allowing for open response, word cloud response and multiple-choice polls.

4) Balance airtime: Don’t let one person or viewpoint dominate. Allow the opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard. Setting a time limit on comments can help. Don’t allow a second question or comment until several others have had the opportunity to speak.