14 CDs on Facebook

At the Statewide Administrator’s Training this month, we had a great discussion about social media and how to use it to better reach people in your area. Social Media is great for keeping your organization in people’s minds, which is important when they’re, you know, thinking about digging up a stream or maybe implementing some cover crops. Your job is to help them, so make sure that you’re the first place they think to go!

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Creating Connection with Instagram

I saw this post on digitalgov.gov, a segment of the General Services Administration that helps federal agencies augment their online presences. They’ve got lots of other great resources, ideas, and topics for government organizations like ours. Check it out here.

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By . Posted November 10, 2015.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Instagram lately.

It’s pretty big, especially among the younger populations (AKA. Millennials).

Actually, from what I can tell, it’s pretty big with lots of different age groups, genders, and ethnicities; and it’s growing every day.

Instagram users

Full disclosure: I use Instagram in my personal life. I love it. Especially now that our phone cameras have improved beyond what most people can manage with a DSLR. Especially since micro-blogging took hold.

But the question today is, how can we, as government communicators, leverage this platform to greatest effect?

There’s a couple agencies out there that have taken the bull by the horns and managed to hang on for the ride: the Transportation Security Administration (@TSAon Instagram) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (@usinterior on Instagram). They both post photographs, but the similarities, at least on the surface, end there.

U.S. Interior posts beautiful, well-composed, high-quality photos and occasional videos of our national parks and wildlife. They regularly receive upwards of 20,000 likes on their images and have undoubtedly been seen by many more people than that. They post at least once per day, sometimes twice.

TSA posts small, sometimes grainy, sometimes bland photos of the strange things people try to smuggle onto airplanes. They have expanded now to post photos of their adorable and highly skilled 4-legged employees, along with reminders of the rules for safe airline travel. They post less frequently—sometimes with several days between posts.

So what are these government agencies doing right? They’re creating content that people want to see. They are sincere. Our parks really are that beautiful! Some people really think they can smuggle “Batarangs” on an airplane! When I think about scrolling through my feed on IG, it goes something like this: baby, baby, selfie, coffee, STRANGE LOOKING WEAPON THAT SOMEONE TRIED TO SMUGGLE ONTO A PLANE, baby, food, STUNNING NATIONAL PARK PHOTO, selfie, selfie, selfie. What do you think I’m most likely to stop on?

@TSA and @USinterior don’t necessarily “engage” in the traditional sense, but their imagery CONNECTS. Their content is accessible. Many Americans have experienced taking off their shoes in the airport—now they have chuckle about it because they understand the reason. Our national parks are more accessible to most people than the far reaches of this planet. Visitors can connect these images to their own lives; feel nostalgia for them; laugh about them with friends and family.

Unfortunately, many agencies don’t have these visual resources to work with, so we need to create them. Graphics aren’t right: People visit Instagram for photos, not infographics. (although the occasional one, used where appropriate, isn’t a bad idea). So here’s my charge to you as government communicators engaged in social media—figure out how your agency can use Instagram. Post an idea here. Let’s start a conversation.

The Instagram help center is pretty robust, but here are some links to get you started:


 

So, what do you think? How could Conservation Districts use Instagram to connect with your constituents? FULL DISCLOSURE: MACD doesn’t use Instagram yet. But I’m thinking about it. And in my personal life, it’s my favorite social media (I’m @sturdykate).

To spur some ideas, here are a couple of Montana Conservation Organizations that do a great job with their Instagram accounts: (click on the blue name to see their full feed).

Good afternoon from the Tributary Fire A photo posted by Michael Gue (@young_men_and_fire) on

Let’s Talk About File Types

In all the activities that administrators do, we create a lot of files, and we use many different programs to create those files, which means that on a daily basis we create a myriad of different file types—often without knowing we have done so.

But not all file types are created equal, so I thought it would be useful to spend some time talking about the different types of files you’re likely to encounter, and the pros and cons of each, so that when you hit save, you can choose the settings that will keep your hard work in the best possible format.

Document Files (Letters, etc)

File Types-01 File Types-02

Database-Style Files

File Types-03 File Types-04

Image Files

File Types-05 File Types-06 File Types-07 File Types-08File Types-09

Publication Files

File Types-10 File Types-11

 

I hope that this has cleared up some confusion for you, and will point you in the direction of the best file type for your needs. I have also created an image with all of the document types described here if you want to download it and print it out. Download it here.

 

all file types-01

Make your pictures the best they can be!

Greetings, administrators!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Social Media Fridays post. Today I wanted to share a free online tool that will help those of you who have websites or use Facebook, and even those that put together printed newsletters.

We all know that it’s important to have great images to accompany your written text. Images catch readers’ attention, and can break up big sections of text. And on Facebook, images generate a whopping 53% more likes and 104% more comments* than regular posts! *according to this post

But your camera doesn’t always produce the greatest pictures on its own. Sometimes the light is bad. Sometimes the background is distracting. Sometimes it just doesn’t POP.

Enter online photo editors. We’ve all seen before and afters of what a little Photoshop can do. But we can’t all afford Photoshop. Luckily, there are lots of great FREE online photo editors that can help you spiff up your images so they really shine.

Here are a couple that are great:

I most often use Pixlr, simply because I’m used to it. Even though I have Photoshop, I find that sometimes it’s just easier! So to demonstrate just what you can do with Pixlr, I put together a couple of before and after photos.

Let’s start with this one, of some burrowing owls. Sunni Heikes-Knapton sent it to me to fix, because she wants to frame it and give it to a retiring supervisor (the photo was taken on his property, and as she said, “He really loves these little fluff balls”). The photo was taken by Ennis photographer Jayre Leech.

IMG_0033It needs some help, don’t you think?

So I went to Pixlr.com and opened up Pixlr Express. Because it’s easy. And fast.

First item on the list, and this is something I always do, is to go to Adjustments, and click Auto Fix. Which right away made an improvement.Screenshot 2015-09-10 16.25.06

BIG improvement. But I felt like it still needed some POP to really make those owls stand out. So I added a Vibrance Adjustment, and moved that up a little. I did the same thing for a Contrast Adjustment.

Then I used a little trick to really center the viewer’s attention on the owls, and not all that distracting grass.

I added a Focal Adjustment, which blurs out and desaturates the edges of the photo, so that the center stands out the most with the most detail. It mimics the effect that a good photographer could create by changing the settings on their fancy camera.

Screenshot 2015-09-10 16.29.04

 

I still wanted a little more warmth in the photo, so I added an Effect. I chose Subtle, and Ian, and toned it down to about 51. I also added an Overlay Vignette (I chose “bubble”) and toned that down to 34 to subtly darken the corners of the photo, once again adding focus on the owls in the center.

Here’s the final:

owls

 

Now if I wanted to make this all the way fancy, I could add a heavier effect, and some text. This would be great for putting on Facebook and such.

fluffballs

Let’s recap how much better these barn owls look after a little editing:

owl collage

 

And all of that was done in about under ten minutes! Pretty sweet, right? Just think how much better EVERYTHING will look once you get the hang of it. I bet you could make your workshop photos look a little bit more like Beyonce’s Instagrams if you tried. (That’s a good thing).

How else could you use this tool? What if you put together a quick little advertisement to remind people that you have a Soil Health Workshop coming up! This would be perfect to post on Facebook or in your newsletters to catch people’s attention.

img w txt

 

UPDATE: 10/22/2015

After I posted this post, Ginger Kauffman (Flathead CD) emailed me say that she used Pixlr to edit some 310 photos that a supervisor brought in that were too dark. She said, “we can now see what is in the photos!  Thanks for the great tip!”.

Sunni Heikes-Knapton (Madison CD) also emailed to say that she has been “using the heck out of Fotor” and loves it. She also said that she would add one tip:

I would add one thing to your great advice- and that’s for people to remember to give credit to the photog that took the image. Of course, a real professional has their name on the image already, but it can be a nice gesture and a way to build a relationship with a community member when credit is given to non-professional photogs.

Thanks for the feedback, ladies!