Searching for Cassandra

As the school year comes to a close for many of us, it’s often a time to reflect on the things that have happened. I can’t help but think back to my school days.

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Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan,  1898. where my curiosity was sparked by Greek mythology.

According to myth, Cassandra was given the gift of foretelling the future, but in a twist of fate, she was cursed with no one believing her.

While you may not have Cassandra’s gift, you likely have tools at your disposal that can help you foretell possible social media crisis.

Many of us are already using social media monitoring services, but sometimes there are items the monitoring just doesn’t catch. When’s the last time you just typed your organization’s name (or another key term) in the Facebook or Twitter search tool to see what pops up?

I do this from time to time, and on Facebook, I narrow my search to the city in which I live to see what our community is really saying.

A disengaged parent, student or employee may be negatively posting about your organization without you realizing it. The more sensational, the faster it seems to travel when you consider the reach of said post.

Never heard of this? It’s because you weren’t supposed to. If this is being done on Twitter, it’s called a subtweet.

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Either way, it can be damaging to your organization’s brand.

This simple search can help you see a crisis on the horizon, giving you time to alert leadership that trouble may be around the corner.

Cassandra’s curse doesn’t have to be yours. Knowing what’s around the corner can give you the proof you need to protect your credibility as a practitioner and the time to prepare social media crisis response.

Reactions Now Weighted More in Facebook Algorithm

Many of us have become accustomed to the Facebook reactions that began rolling out last year. In late February 2017, Facebook completed the rollout, ensuring that users worldwide could now use reactions. For those unfamiliar with reactions – Facebook users can hold their cursor over the like button and then select from like, love, haha, wow, sad or angry.

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With the rollout worldwide, Facebook also announced that when users use a reaction rather than hitting the like button, it would be weighted more in the news feed algorithm. According to a Facebook news release:

“Initially, just as we do when someone likes a post, if someone uses a Reaction, we will infer they want to see more of that type of post. In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, “wows” or “sads” a post — we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”

What Does This Mean For Social Media Managers?
Page owners will now have a better understanding of how their users are interacting with the content they publish. In the past, it was sometimes difficult to decipher what a user really meant by liking the content.

Additionally, instead of asking users to “like” your content, ask them to react to the post. This will increase engagement on your page and ensure users are consistently seeing relevant content from your organization.

Donkey Basketball: A Case Study in Monitoring Your Social Media

donkeyWhen a student tweeted at my district about a fundraiser her school’s student council had planned, I followed our procedures and forwarded her message along to the principal.

She was concerned that the donkey basketball game her classmates were putting on would include animal abuse.

The principal went to the student council and started a conversation with its members about how to handle this feedback.

By the time the student and her mother decided to go to one of the local TV stations, the student council had already had a chance to discuss the issue.

I was able to share with the reporter that the students had listened to their classmates’ feedback and decided not to hold this fundraiser, and they planned to evaluate how they select fundraisers in the future.

Keeping a watchful eye on social media helped us get ahead of this situation, so we didn’t hear about it first from the reporter.

Engage Your Audience and Grow Your Following During Snow Days

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What would you do if you knew that thousands of people were simultaneously watching your social media accounts waiting to see just two simple words, “snow day”?

Like so many school districts, when there is a possibility of snow, parents and students take to our social media accounts knowing that we will announce a snow day there first. So, if you knew there were going to be so many people looking at your social media all at one time, what would you do? The answer should be ENGAGE THEM!

On our most recent snow day, we added more than 700 new followers across our district and superintendent social media channels, and our engagement was six times our normal rate.

  • If your superintendent is on social media, have him or her engage in the conversation (before, during and after) and let them make the first official announcement.
    • If your superintendent is new to Twitter, like ours, have them follow other superintendents to see how they engage with students and parents.
  • Retweet and share the “official” announcement in various places.
    • Our superintendent sends the first “official” announcement. We share this message, as well as an official message from the district page.
    • Do you have community pages? Share on these.
  • Run a contest
    • Who can provide the best reason to have a snow day?
    • Who can build the best snow man?
  • Engage with media outlets and local city officials.
    • Retweet your closing announcements from media outlets.
    • Thank city crews (tag the public works department or official city account) for working so hard to keep the streets clean.
    • Share pictures of your school district grounds crew working to clear parking lots and sidewalks.

What other tips do you have for engaging your audience during snow days? Feel free to post them in the comments.

When the Thunder Rolls…Dealing With A Social Media Storm

We see it on social media ALL the time. Someone posts something that seems innocent enough, and before we know it, the post or tweet has gone viral as a misstep. The thunder rolls in and a social media storm develops.

This fall our district dealt with a social media storm when we least expected it.

The backstory:
When we changed from carton milk to bagged milk, we tested it in several schools the year before. We implemented it this year. All seemed to be going well…until one day. We posted about one of the local media stations doing a story on the new milk, and the storm hit! The district became inundated with comments of parents unhappy with the decision to change and rumors began to fly.

Now that the clouds have dissipated and the storm has passed, here are a few things we were reminded of during our social media storm:

  1. Listen to your Audience
    The great thing about social media is the two-way communication. If you are on social media, you should be willing to take that feedback, evaluate and make changes if necessary. For us, the situation was something that wasn’t on our radar as a concern. After hearing from the public, we took the opportunity to take polls and hear more from our community about the issue.
  2.  Know the Difference Between Misrepresentation of Facts and a Difference of Opinions
    It is important to know the difference between misrepresentation of facts and a difference of opinion. Not everyone is going to agree with a district decision, and that is OK (snow days). If someone has concerns, we would rather they involve us in the conversation then take that conversation elsewhere. If there is incorrect information – take the opportunity to give them the correct information.
  1. Educate Your Audience
    With any situation, rumors tend to fly quickly. Take the opportunity to tell your audiences the facts. Make sure they hear them from you, which leaves less room for misinterpretation.
  1. Transparency
    Transparency is key. Throughout the whole storm, we remained very transparent. People had a lot of questions and concerns about reasons for the change, nutritional facts and the taste of the milk. We answered all their questions in multiple communication methods, shared the nutritional facts and even had our Board of Education taste the milk at a public meeting.
  1. Vocal Minority
    Look at the commenters. Is a small number people posting multiple times or is it a large number of people posting concerns? Many times it is a vocal minority.
  1. Admit Wrongdoing – Correct the Problem
    If there truly is wrongdoing, admit it! Sometimes the best thing to do is apologize, show your audience that you are learning from the issue and fix it.
  1. Build Trust With Your Audience Ahead of Time
    No matter what the issue is, follow these steps prior to any storm – social media or otherwise – and you will build trust with your audience. Building trust helps to minimize social media storms ahead of time.

For many, when they experience a social media storm, their first instinct is to shy away. The way we handled this storm showed the value of schools using social media. We give our community the opportunity to provide feedback, we listened and evaluated what we were doing. We included our audience in the whole process. Ultimately, we didn’t change what we were doing, but I believe our community feels like we listened to their concerns and took them into account when making a final decision. That’s invaluable.

Watch What Others Do On Social Media; Use Facebook Pages To Help

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Some of the best social media ideas I have implemented have come from watching what other schools and districts are doing. Watch what others do on social media. Repeat after me: watch what others do on social media. Watching what others do will give you ideas on how to expand your social media presence and ideas on how to keep content fresh.

As part of my professional development, I follow several other schools, districts and school PR people from across the country on social media. However, sometimes I miss really great posts. To help, I use Facebook Insights. It helps me to track schools I know are using social media really well.

In Facebook Page Insights, I can add pages to watch. It lists the pages, the total page likes they currently have, their increase or decrease in likes for the week, the number of posts for the week and their engagement for the week. If I see a page had a high number of likes or engagement, I can click on the Facebook page and see what their posts were about and what posts had really high engagement.

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Become a Twitter Power User and Ditch the Official Twitter App

If you’re a social media power user, you know that the most efficient way to monitor Twitter is by organizing those you follow into Twitter lists.You might also keep track of custom searches, including hashtags, via a columns-based interface like the Tweetdeck website.

I’ve noticed, however, when I’m on the go and using my phone to monitor the twittersphere, the official Twitter app just doesn’t cut it. Lists and custom searches aren’t easily accessible.

If you want to tweet smarter and have easy access to lists and custom searches, try these apps instead:

For Android:

Falcon Pro 3

Pros: This app is fast, highly customizable, and has one of the most intuitive and clean interfaces I’ve ever seen. Photos and images show up big and bright within each timeline. Swipe in from the left side of the screen for a “notification inbox” that shows you when you have new followers or interactions (retweets, favorites, mentions, etc.). Swipe from the right to edit your custom columns for lists and searches:

This app is so good, that just days ago the developer announced he was hired by Twitter. Let’s hope some of these great features are eventually integrated into the official app for both Android and iPhone.

Cons: None, except that you’ll have to purchase the app for full functionality. Falcon Pro 3 is free to try with demo lists, and a few dollars to use the full version.

For both Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad):

Hootsuite

Pros: Like its desktop browser counterpart, the free Hootsuite mobile app gives you access to both Twitter and Facebook, lets you schedule posts, and allows you to set up custom “streams,” including lists and searches:

Cons: One major downside is that tweeted images don’t show up within the streams. The new “retweet with comment” feature isn’t integrated. Also, some features (like embedding images in your tweets) are only available to those who subscribe to Hootsuite Pro.

Janetter

Pros: This is also one of the very few apps that lets you set up custom columns, which Janetter calls “bookmarks”:

Cons: The new “retweet with comment” feature hasn’t been integrated yet. The ad-free Pro version is $4.99.

What Twitter app do you use? What features are most important and why? Chime in below!