What Do the New Twitter Rules Mean for Schools?

The news is sweeping social media, so you’ve probably already heard: Twitter plans to stop counting images and videos toward your 140-character limit.

On Tuesday, Twitter came out with more details:

  • What Counts and What Doesn’t?
    To avoid counting against your character total, you’ve got to use an attachment rather than a link. So links to your article on the school-district website count against you, but using Twitter’s built-in photo or video uploader would not. Quote tweets won’t ding you for the link to the original tweet. And for those who like adding polls or silly GIFs from Twitter’s library, you’re in luck – those don’t count, either!
  • When Will This Happen?
    Twitter is giving developers time to work with the new rules, so it will roll out over the next few months. I expect we’ll just be surprised one day when the changes take effect, and we might not all get them at once.
  • How are Replies Different?
    If you reply to someone, the @handle won’t count toward your character limit. And for those of you who know how to use “.@” at the beginning of a new tweet that starts with an @handle, the period will no longer be necessary. New tweets that start with an @handle will go to all your followers, and if you want everyone to see a reply, you will just retweet yourself.



Five Ways to Keep School District Social Media Followers Engaged During the Summer

It is hard to believe the summer of 2016 is almost here. What happened to the 2015-2016 school year? You have worked hard to build your social media presence and audience throughout the school year. How do you keep that momentum going over the summer months?

Below are a five tips and strategies to keep your social media followers engaged and connected when your schools are out for the summer.

  1. One of our favorites is our graduation “roll call.” We ask our Facebook users to post the year they graduated during our annual high school graduation ceremony. It is a really simple post – we ask our fans to post the year they graduated in the comments section as well as a congratulatory message for the graduating class. Each time it garners hundreds – sometimes thousands – of comments, likes and shares and helps increase the number of alumni following our page.
  2. Another favorite is the “Throwback Thursday,” where we find a photo or historical nugget from our archives to share on social media. This is not a new or unique concept by any means. But we can set up our posts for the summer months in advance, which is very helpful when we are out of the office on vacation or at the NSPRA conference.
  3. Be sure to post when you have good content to share. Our district regularly features unique summer school activities. Whether it is a fun field trip, STEM activity, summer camp or other initiative, this is another positive way to feature your district in the summer months.
  4. Photos of summer construction, professional development and the implementation of new curriculum are not exciting – but they do keep your users in the know about things happening in your district when children are not in school.
  5. Finally, we like to feature fun stories and photos from students, staff and families. Be sure to ask your staff and families to send you photos if they took a once-in-a-lifetime trip or had an amazing experience in the summer months. It’s the personal touch and connection that keeps your social media followers engaged during slower times.

These are just a few of many ideas to increase social media involvement over the summer.  I am curious to hear what other districts are doing as well. Please share any and all ideas in the comments section below. Have a great summer!

Grow Your District’s Communications Reach with Tough Love

In the past, our district’s cultural mindset was that we, the Office of Communications, would take care of communications. Either we would go out and cover a story and take photos, or staff would send us information or pictures. We would then distribute the story or information districtwide via Twitter, Facebook or the district email newsletter.

However, even with only 16 schools, getting to each and every event can prove a problem with a small communications team. In the age of social media and web tools, we can’t and shouldn’t be the only funnel from which information gets out to our community. That kind of process is not only inefficient and untimely but it makes communication the responsibility of someone else other than the school.

This school year, we started giving our staff a dose of tough love. When someone sends us a photo to tweet out, a small event to cover or information to distribute, our team has gently refused and instead offered staff the opportunity to learn how to do it themselves.

This sounds harsh; however, our team provides staff with support and structure through our new mantra, “empower, train and coach.”

Empower: Giving district staff the permission and access to communicate directly to their audiences

Train: Providing staff with training on communications tools, an overview of district policies to follow, and guidelines and standards for communicating effectively and consistently

Coach: Offering continuing support for improving communications, including technical tips and content ideas

This framework applies not only to social media, but a wide variety of communications tools, including email newsletters, new school websites and blogs.

The change in mindset hasn’t been easy or perfect, and some school staff aren’t yet on board. However, some who were originally reluctant are now some of the most avid and creative in their communications, especially on Twitter.

This principal was very reluctant to join Twitter for many reasons. But after months of tough love from us, he was ready to be empowered. Now he is one of the most awesome and natural tweeters we have ever seen.

The result of our tough love has been viral. More and more staff are seeing the value of communicating on their own and are ready for training. The demand has been so high that we are expanding beyond one-on-one training and our Social Media Tips articles and are planning to develop recorded training videos and regularly scheduled group trainings.

We anticipate many bumps in the road ahead. But ultimately, more voices sharing the great stories in our schools will be more powerful than just a few.

How the Latest Facebook Tweak Affects Your District

Facebook’s hacker culture means constant changes.

The algorithm the site uses to decide which content rises to the top of your news feed is getting one of those changes.

Up to now, the main factors that decided whether your school district’s posts got lots of eyeballs included

  • How many people already liked it or commented on it
  • Whether it includes a photo
  • Whether it includes a video uploaded to Facebook’s player

Now, content that people spend a lot of time reading will also rise to the top, even if your page users don’t click on a reaction button or comment.

So your article about your school board’s big decision might get a lot of attention, even if it doesn’t inspire a lot of reaction.

In the same announcement, Facebook’s wizards said they will “also be making an update to reduce how often people see several posts in a row from the same source in their news feed.”

So if you’re posting a lot of content on your district page at once, chances are that some of it could get lost in the shuffle.