Facebook Timelines for PE Programs
by Joey Feith
Facebook just recently launched Timelines for Pages which, as you may have guessed, brings Timelines (Facebook’s virtual timeline of your life) to Brand Pages (Facebook’s online space for brands).
Why is this interesting for #PEGeeks? Well, I know that some of us have set up Facebook Pages for our PE programs. If you’re able to convince your admin to let you use Facebook for your program, Pages is a great option since it allows you to communicate with your students through your “brand’s” (your program’s) image. What this means is that you can interact with students without having to “friend” them and without them being able to easily find your profile on Facebook. For example, when I post to ThePhysicalEducator.com’s Facebook Page posts appear as “ThePhysicalEducator.com shared…” instead of “Joey Feith shared…”
There are a lot of features to Facebook Pages that I could write about here, but that would make for an extremely lengthy blog post (Update: this post is lengthy anyway. Sorry). Instead, I’d like to focus on a few key features of Timelines and something really important I haven’t heard anyone mention when talking Facebook Pages for education: EdgeRank.
Aside from their new Cover Photo/Profile Picture combination, Timelines function a lot like normal Facebook Walls, they just look a little fancier. You can still post status updates/photos/videos/questions to your wall, and so can your fans (or students). Posts appear in two separate columns that are divided by your Timeline and users can scroll through your Page’s history.
Some things you should know about posts you create on your wall: you can now highlight a post (hover over it and click on the star), you can “pin” it to the top of your page, or you can make a post a “milestone”.
Highlighting a post makes it larger (it will take up both columns) so as to increase its visibility when someone visits your Timeline. For example, if you wanted to showcase a video of an example of a past student’s work to help your class understand what they are to do, you could highlight it.
2. Pin To Top
“Pinning” a post means that that post will remain at the top of your Page’s timeline regardless if more recent posts are made. Maybe you have an exam coming up in two weeks and you’ve created a list of notes for revision that you posted on your Page’s Timeline. To make sure the list doesn’t get pushed too far down your Timeline due to more recent posts, you could “pin” it (by selecting “Pin To Top” from the drop down menu) to the top of your Timeline until you exam has taken place.
Facebook Timelines are not only meant to serve as communication tools between you and your students, they are also meant to share your brand’s (your program’s) history. To help with this, you can create posts that are “Milestones”. Let’s say your school has a new pool installed in their athletics facility, or one of your teachers wins an award. You could create a milestone out of the event (by selecting “Milestone” from the post type options) to make your Timeline richer and more fun to navigate.
Another cool thing about Facebook Timelines for Pages is that users can now send a message directly to a brand via that brand’s page. The same way that two users can send private messages to each other, they can now send a message to you through your PE program’s Page. Only now you will again be interacting with them behind your Page’s identity (e.g. a message sent to ThePhysicalEducator.com’s Facebook Page will be responded by ThePhysicalEducator.com, not Joey Feith). For some students, this may be easier for them than sending an email to you.
Here’s the truth about Facebook Pages: Most of the engagement you’ll create through a Page’s post won’t happen by having a student visit your Page. It will happen in the News Feed (the student’s Facebook homepage). When you post an update on your Facebook Page, that post will (potentially) appear in the News Feeds of the people who have “liked” your Page.
The thing about the News Feed is that there is a lot of clutter there. It would be easy for your post to get lost among all the other activity occurring in any given user’s News Feed (hence the “potentially”). To increase the probability of your post being seen by the people you are trying to target (your students), you need to understand the algorithm that decides what goes where in each users’ News Feed. That algorithm is called EdgeRank.
Now, this could be a whole other blog post on its own, so let me make this short and sweet. EdgeRank involves three variables: Affinity, Weight, and Recency.
Affinity is the likelihood that a user is to interact with your post. Remember that crush you started stalking (checking their profile, liking their posts, etc) all the time on Facebook? Remember how all of a sudden their activity kept popping up in your News Feed? That’s affinity. However, its important to note that Affinity is one-directional: spending a lot of time liking/commenting your students posts will only raise your Affinity towards them, not theirs towards you. To raise their Affinity towards you, create posts that will include calls to action (“like this”, “leave a comment”) or that share just flat out great content. Your students will get in the habit of interacting with your posts, and Affinity will be raised.
Weight is how media rich a post is. Posts with more media in them rank higher than just plain text posts. try to included as much media (e.g. links, video, photo, etc) in your posts to increase their weight.
Finally, Recency is how recent a post is (saw that one coming, eh?) Posts that are more recent rank higher in the News Feed than older posts (Facebook’s Mini-Feed, the one on the upper right hand side of your Facebook screen, runs on Recency alone). When posting, try to think of when your students will be most likely to check their Facebook. If you post in the middle of the day while they’re at school, the post might not still be recent by the time they get home.
I hope this post helped clarify some things you should know about Facebook Timelines/Pages. I’m a huge advocate for using social media in schools so that we can teach students how to set themselves up and interact safely and positively online. Creating a Facebook Page for your school’s PE program would be a great way to introduce opportunities for casual learning and get students more engaged with your PE program. If you are using Facebook in your school, I would love to hear how you are and how its working out in the comments below.
Thanks for reading everyone!
Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.