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Choose an Image When Posting Links to Facebook

Facebook recently changed the options you have for selecting an image to accompany a link you are sharing when posting to a Facebook Page. Extension associate Stacy Wang clued me in to the change when we were discussing strategies for getting the best possible photo to appear with a link when one of our webpages is shared in a Facebook post.

As of today (10/2/2015), this option is not available on individual Facebook profiles, but only when posting as a Facebook Page.

When you type or paste the address of a webpage you want to share into a post, Facebook will display all the images on that webpage that are large enough to be included as part of the post. Below that, you'll see smaller versions of the first 3 images with blue boxes around them to indicate they are selected. If you publish the post, all 3 of those images will be displayed as part of your post with each of them linking to the webpage you shared. You can deselect any or all of the 3 images or even add an image from your computer to the post before publishing.

Choosing Images When Posting a Link on Facebook

This is a great addition to Facebook Pages, but what about when individuals share a link to your webpage? Are the best images appearing along with the link to your webpage?

NDSU Ag Communication software developer Roger Egeberg has some tips for including images in your webpages that will work well in Facebook posts.

Make sure you have at least one high-quality image that is at least 200 pixels in height AND width. That's the minimum size of image that Facebook will detect.If you don't include at least one image of that size, your link will appear without an image at all.

If you include an image at least 600 X 315 pixels, Facebook will display that image above your link rather than displaying a smaller image as a thumbnail to the left of the link. For images displayed above links, Facebook favors images that are about twice as wide as they are high (a 1.91:1 aspect ratio to be exact). Using images with landscape orientation minimizes the amount of cropping Facebook does when displaying these images.

In general, images have a positive effect on social media engagement. Including a Facebook-friendly image on your web page could make people more likely to share it on social media, and increase the number of clicks that post gets once it is shared.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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So You Think You Want To Make an App

More than 150 million American adults have a smartphone and on average U.S. smartphone users spend more than 37 hours per month using apps. We should definitely consider how we can leverage apps to reach out and engage the people we serve. Unfortunately, app development can be complicated and costly.

App developers at the NMSU Learning Games Lab and Ed Techs from Ohio State University developed this flowchart to help people think through the app development process.

So You Want To Make an App

The flowchart is really helpful. However, based on our experience with NDSU Extension Service apps, I'd make a couple of changes.

First, I'd add the question, "Does your app leverage the unique capabilities of a mobile device?" Many apps are no more than mobile websites, giving access to information, but not taking advantage of a mobile device's camera, GPS, audio recorder or other capabilities that could add context and functionality to the app experience. If you answer "no" to this question, you should strongly consider building a mobile-ready website rather than an app.

Second, I'd adjust the cost. Development costs vary across the country and when using internal vs. external developers, but I'd start with a budget of at least $15,000, especially if you plan on developing your app for more than one platform (Android, Apple iOS, etc.).

If you are interested in developing an app, please contact me. I'd love to share what we've learned.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Liking Your Page's Post on Facebook

Over the years, Facebook has continued to make it easier for a Facebook page administrator to like or comment, as themselves or as another page they admin, on a post from a Page they administer. Confused? Let's walk through how to do it, and hopefully it will become clearer.

I am an administrator of the Nourishing Boomers and Beyond Facebook page. I also liked that page using my personal Facebook profile, so the posts from Nourishing Boomers and Beyond show up in my newsfeed.

If I see a Nourishing Boomers post in my newsfeed and want to like it or comment on it, I need to know whether I am liking/commenting as Bob Bertsch or as Nourishing Boomers and Beyond.

Shows a post from a Facebook page I am an administrator of, indicating the icon in the lower right which shows which page or profile I am using to like or comment on the post.

In the image above, the arrow shows you where to look to tell which profile or page you would be using if you clicked "Like," "Comment" or "Share" on the post. Because I see the image associated with the Nourishing Boomers and Beyond page, I would be liking, commenting or sharing as Nourishing Boomers. To change that, I just need to click that image.

Shows you can change the page or profile you are using to like or comment on a Facebook post by clicking the icon in the lower right corner of the post and selecting another page or profile.

Once I click the image, I can choose my Facebook profile or any of the Facebook pages I administer. Once I have made the selection, I can like, comment on or share the post from my Facebook page as the profile or page I've selected.

Facebook Page Post Commenting

That's it. Liking or commenting on the posts from Facebook pages you administer is a great way to reach new audiences. Give it a try and see if it improves your reach and engagement.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Screencasting with Skype for Business

A couple of weeks ago, Amelia Doll, NDSU Extension Service - Burleigh County, asked me about a tool to use for screencasting. She was looking for a way to show families how to complete various 4-H forms.

I suggested she use Skype for Business (formerly Lync), since she already had it on her computer. Here's one of the screencasts she did using Skype for Business and posted to Facebook. It's a great example of meeting client needs in an innovative way!

Check out the short video below to learn how you can record your own screencast using Skype for Business.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381


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Change Spreadsheet into a Document

Have you ever needed to convert a spreadsheet into a document? I know a lot of us are using Google Forms to collect registrations, feedback, and more. Sometimes answers to open-ended questions can produce lengthy responses that require you to scroll, scroll, scroll in the spreadsheet. This is not reader-friendly.

In another situation, a state specialist was collecting registrations and wanted the registrants to get a copy of the information they registered for. Some of the responses were lengthy and it was a chore to copy and paste from a spreadsheet into a document.

There’s an easy way to convert a spreadsheet into a document by using the “Save as Doc” add-on in Chrome. Before I get to the How-To, there are some things you must do first.

1. Use Google’s Chrome browser.

2. Login in with your Google account.

3. If your spreadsheet is in Excel and not a Google “sheet”, convert it by uploading it to your Google Drive and then opening as a Google Sheet, which is Google’s version of Microsoft Excel.

4. Add the “Save as Doc” add on to your Google Drive

Follow the video below to see how to convert your data in your spreadsheet into a document.

Save as Doc Demo on YouTube (2:33)

Save as Doc add-in in the Chrome Store

Contact me if you need help with this or want to test it out.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 371-6403

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Mobile Connection with the Lync 2013 App

Microsoft Lync is a valuable communications tool that brings together instant messaging, audio-conferencing and videoconferencing. Those features, plus Lync's ability to integrate with Outlook for contact availability and meeting scheduling, make it extremely useful.

One Lync feature that does not work for us at NDSU is the ability to call-in to a Lync meeting by phone. In the not too distant past, that meant you had to be at a computer to join a Lync meeting, but that has changed.

The Lync 2013 app for Android, iOS and Windows is a great option for connecting to a Lync meeting when you are away from your computer. With the app installed on your smartphone or tablet and a wifi or 3G/4G connection, you can join a Lync meeting from your mobile device.

It's not the same as calling in by phone (you are using mobile data, not calling minutes), but it does provide a mobile connection.

You can join a scheduled Lync Meeting by going to the calendar tab in the Lync 2013 app and touching "Join meeting." If you can't see scheduled meetings in your Lync 2013 app, you can join the meeting by touching the "Join meeting" link in the email message inviting you to the meeting.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Outlook Web App Tips

I was working away from my office the other day and used the Microsoft Office Web App (OWA) in place of my laptop, which was left back at the office. With an Internet connection, I could get to my work email in Outlook and use calendering and Office tools like Word and Excel.

Sometimes the app version isn’t as robust as the desktop version. I found two things that work very differently in OWA vs. on my PC.

Folders

I find it really handy to file emails for future reference in folders by topic, project or sender. The folder structure on the desktop client is different than the OWA.Here’s a snapshot of the Outlook folders on my PC:

Outlook_Desktop.png


In OWA, it appears you would double click the Inbox folder to get to your sub-folders, but that is not the way to get there.  

OWA_outlook.png

Instead, click on More and your sub-folders appear.

OWA_subfolder.png

 

Email signature

If you've set an email signature on your computer (here’s how to), it doesn’t translate over to the OWA, so you have to set it up there, too.Here's how to set up an email signature in your OWA.

There’s an extra step if you want to add an image to your email signature. First, the image needs to be hosted online (not pasted in from your computer). Go here to get the NDSU email signature graphic online. Right click Copy and then head back over to the Web app to paste in.  

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Insights Into a Viral Facebook Post

This past weekend (Jan. 30 - Feb 1, 2015) the NDSU Extension - Lawns, Gardens and Trees Facebook Page had one of their posts go viral. The previous 10 posts on the page averaged a reach (the number of people a post was served to) of 453.8. The post below reached more than 187,000 people. By looking at the Facebook Insights for the post, we might see a couple of reasons why.

LGT Succulents Facebook Post

There are definitely reasons for this post going viral that go beyond anything that can be quantified. The photo obviously resonated with people. It got more than 10,000 likes and 2,200 shares. It might be that the photo shows a great idea that many people had not been exposed to before. I call this the "cool" factor. if something you see online makes you say, "Cool," you are more likely to share it because it might make your friends say, "Cool," and make them think that you are cool.

The photo is also timely. It was posted on January 30 (more on that later), 15 days before Valentine's Day. Some people might be looking for Valentine's Day gift ideas, and along comes this photo. The photo clearly shows it's subject. Some people may have been tempted to take a photo of the entire display table and posted it with text like "Look at all the great ideas at this event!" I don't think a post like that would have been as effective. The actual post contained a single idea that could be shared and replicated instead of a table full of ideas that were unclear.

By looking at Facebook Insights I found some more tangible reasons why this post might have spread so widely. The first thing I did was to look at where the earliest shares of the post came from. This wasn't easy. You can access the shares from the admin view of the post, but by the time I looked at the shares there were more than 2,000, which meant a lot of scrolling to get to the earliest shares.

The post was put up at 4:40 p.m. (Central) on January 30, 2015. the first share happened at 8:48 p.m. That first share got 10 likes and 3 comments. The second and third shares had similar numbers of likes and comments, but the fourth share at 10:57 p.m. got 128 likes and 21 comments. The next 3 shares again had modest numbers of likes and comments, but at 12:10 a.m. on January 31, the post was shared on the Sweetstuff's Sassy Succulents Facebook Page garnering 249 likes and 10 comments. After that more and more of the shares began coming from Facebook Pages rather than people on Facebook, and the post began to reach more people. By 10:07 a.m. on January 31, the post had found it's way to the Facebook Page of Garden Design magazine, a page with 406,403 likes. When they shared the post it received 1,941 likes and 181 comments. By the standards of other NDSU Extension Facebook posts, it had gone viral.

Facebook Pages tend to have more likes than individual people on Facebook have friends, so the numbers are in their favor. Facebook Pages also have an imperative to share content they think is valuable to their audience, so they are looking for quality information with the intention of sharing it. I'm not saying you should focus all of your Facebook Page activity on reaching other Facebook Pages, but connecting with other Pages, especially those outside your organization that may reach a different audience than you reach, should be part of your strategy.

Let's get back to the timing of this post. It was posted late in the afternoon on a Friday. If you post to your Facebook Page only when you are in your office, you might not post very often on a Friday afternoon. The NDSU Extension Service - Lawns, Gardens and Trees Facebook Page hadn't posted on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday since October 2014. By posting late on a Friday, they potentially reached an audience they had not reached before, or they reached their audience at a time when it was more convenient for them to share.

If you look at the general data, like they do here, you might think weekends are a bad time to post to Facebook, but you aren't trying to reach 1.1 billion Facebook users. You are trying to reach your audience. You need to find out when your audience is on Facebook and when they are ready to engage. The best way to find out is to post at a lot of different times, then look back at your Facebook Insights and see what you can learn. If there is a time your audience seems more engaged, you might want to schedule important posts for that time, but don't forget about the rest of your audience. Continue to spread out your posts to reach more people.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Create a Call-To-Action on Your Facebook Page

Facebook is rolling out a new "Call-To-Action" feature for Facebook Pages for brands, businesses and organizations. It's pretty simple, but pretty useful as well. It allows you to create a button at the top of your Facebook Page that links to any destination on or off of Facebook. Currently, you can choose from 2 buttons, ""Shop Now" or "Sign Up."

I used the feature to create a "Sign Up" button on the Nourishing Boomers and Beyond Facebook Page that leads to the signup form for the program's e-newsletter.

Facebook Call To Action

As you might have noticed in the image, Facebook has added a new metric for "CTA Clicks" which will track how many times your call-to-action button is clicked.

To create your own call-to-action button, log in to Facebook, go to the Facebook Page you administer and click on the "Create Call-To-Action" button. Just put in the web address of the web page, Google Form, Qualtrics survey or whatever you want the button to link to.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Microsoft Launches Outlook Apps for iOS and Android

On January 29, 2015 Microsoft launched new Outlook apps for Android and iOS.The new apps offer some features you don't get by connecting your NDSU Microsoft account to the native "Mail" and "Calendar" apps on your smartphone or tablet.

I downloaded and installed the Outlook app for iOS on my iPad mini and, after some confusion due to mistyping my password repeatedly, was able to get logged in by choosing "Exchange" when prompted, and entering my full NDSU email address and password. There was no need for defining the "server" or touching any of the other advanced options you may have had to use to set up your NDSU email on your phone or tablet in the past. The set up of the Outlook app on my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) was identical to the setup on my iPad, right down to the same delay due to my bad typing skills.

As soon as I opened the apps, I was taken in by the look and feel. They are definitely an improvement over the the generic mail apps on iOS and Android.

Outlook App Email on AndroidThe Outlook apps automatically separate your messages into 2 tabs, "Focused" and "Other." Important e-mails are supposed to be shown under the "Focused" tab. The apps did a pretty good job of that for me right from the start. I did find a few important emails under the "Other" tab, but it was easy to move them to "Focused" by opening the message, touching the menu icon and choosing "Move to Focused Inbox." The app asked me if I just wanted to move the message or to move it and create a rule that would put all future messages from that sender in the "Focused Inbox." As you move messages back and forth between "Focused" and "Other," the app will start to learn which types of messages are important to you.

The apps also feature the ability to "schedule" a message, which means you can delay it, scheduling it to return to the top of your inbox at a time of your choosing. This is great for managing those messages that are important to you, but you can't deal with them right away. By swiping left to right on a message, you can choose to "schedule" it to return to your inbox in a few hours, in the evening, the next day or at a custom time. Being able to interact with messages by swiping is a major feature of the new Outlook apps. By quickly swiping right to left on a message you can archive it. By swiping right to left a little more slowly, you can delete it.

I'm still exploring the apps, but one of my favorite features is access to the calendar from inside the Outlook app. Microsoft is also talking up the ability to easily insert links to files from Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive and Box.

Overall, I think the new apps are a big improvement over just connecting your NDSU Microsoft account to the "Mail" and "Calendar" apps on your iOS or Android devices. You can download the apps for free (see the links at the top of this article). Give them a try, and let me know what tips and tricks you discover.

UPDATE: I just came across this excellent post from ProfHacker, "Outlook for iOS and Android: An Email App Administrators and Staff Will (Really!) Love," with more information of the features of the new Outlook apps.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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