The SNO Report: Social media tips

On social media, show there’s a person behind the post. You’re busy, and you want to promote the new content on your site. The simple solution appears to be a plugin that will automatically post to Facebook and send a tweet whenever a new story is published. Resist the temptation! Readers want to see a little personality. That means crafting the posts and tweets individually.

Show your personality. Have a little fun with the headline. Pose a question. Pique the reader’s interest. Make sure there’s enough context to get a click.

Take advantage of the benefits of each platform. Twitter allows just 140 characters, meaning a pithy tweet. Facebook provides more than 63,000 characters. You don’t need to write that much — a few sentences are great. Include a picture. Ask a question. Provide context.

Preschedule the posts. Get in the writing zone for an hour and bang out a few dozen posts. WordPress allows you to schedule stories to be published in the future. Social media tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck allow you to manage multiple accounts and schedule tweets — with images — to be seen when your audience is active — even if you already went to bed. Experiment with different times to see which gets clicks.

Resurface older content to fill the calendar. Try a “ICYMI” (In Case You Missed It) post from earlier in the week, or from a couple weeks ago. Preschedule these for weekend mornings and Sunday evening to bump up your traffic. Find a balance between craft and efficiency.

Want more tips? Read this. And this. Or this.

Get ready for next semester with a SNO Training Session

Whether you’ve just begun exploring the world of online-first journalism, or you’re a seasoned pro looking to kick your site up a few notches, SNO offers four personalized training sessions to meet you and your staff’s needs. Feeling overwhelmed by WordPress and not sure where to begin? Our adviser and stafftrainings will walk you through the basics and get you on the road to publishing your first stories. Want to add some pizazz to your homepage so it stands out in a crowd? Our design training will show you how to customize the look and feel of your pages and stories. Maybe you’re ready to dig deeper–our advanced training will help you fine-tune your site to glorious perfection.

Our trainings last up to an hour and are conducted over the phone. Using a screen-sharing program, you’ll follow along with one of our experienced and friendly trainers. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to ask all your burning questions. And we guarantee you’ll leave the session with renewed confidence and excitement about the possibilities of your site.

Order a training session today–we’ll make sure you get the information you need. All for just $75.

The SNO Report: SNO pins, you win!

Pinterest: it’s not just for recipes and craft projects anymore. We use the popular website to keep tabs on interesting, innovative things that SNO customers are doing with their sites. On the boards we’ve created, you will find a creative header showcase, full page site layouts, unique design elements, tools for better online publishing, and links to stories on Best of SNO.

You can use this page as a place to find examples, inspiration, and ideas. Best of all, almost everything you’ll see on our Pinterest page was accomplished using the same tools that you have on your SNO site. See something there that you love and want to replicate, but aren’t sure how? Just send us a message or chat, and we can give you some design tips!

Check out our Pinterest page here!

See you in Austin

The ACP/CMA National College Media Convention is coming up in just a few days–Oct. 28 through Nov. 1! Will you be there? We will. Stop by the SNO booth and say hi. We love meeting our customers, and we just might have some swag for you, too!

The SNO Report: SNO Resources To Boost Your Knowledge And Your Teaching

At SNO, we take care of the technology, so you can focus on the journalism. Many sources offer journalism curriculum — lessons on conducting an interview, taking great photos or polishing your lead — yet few sources exist to meet the specific challenges you face in managing a scholastic news website.

You don’t have to start from scratch or spend a lot of money. As your partner in publishing online we’ve developed some resources for you. Our growing list ofclassroom tools such as job descriptions, story and design checklists and even a workflow chart (all as PDF files), gives you a sense of best practices for online newsroom management.

SNO Team members have presented instructional sessions at conventions from coast to coast, and look for us at national conventions this fall. If you have not been able to attend these sessions, we’ve made the presentations available at Slideshareto view online and for you to use with your staff. You missed us in person, but this is the next best thing!

Even better than a 50-minute convention session is a full day of in-person training customized to the needs of your staff or other group. On these SNO Days we come to meet your staff, a group of advisers in a school district or region, or present a strand at your upcoming conference. In July, our team helped more than 30 schools get a jump start on the school year with a SNO Day in Dallas. Those teachers smartly teamed up to organize the training and share the expense, making the training a real value. Is a SNO Day right for your staff, group, or convention? Contact Kari at kari@snosites.com to discuss fees and possibilities.

No matter your budget or location, SNO has a resource to help you improve what you do as a teacher and adviser.

The SNO Report: All about analytics ?

You probably know that all SNO Sites come with access to Google Analytics, a platform that allows you to know who’s visiting your site, how many hits you’re getting, and what your most popular stories are. Or maybe you’ve never heard of Google Analytics, or you’re not quite sure how to process the different types of data you’re seeing. Wherever you stand with Analytics, here’s a quick lesson in “Why does Google insist on using such obscure words and what exactly do they mean?” in order to help you get the most out of your site’s analytics reports.

But, before we get started, you might be wondering– how do I access Google Analytics? Check out our help site article on accessing your Analytics account. You should also be receiving weekly email updates from Google Analytics– or maybe you were, but they’ve stopped. If you need your email subscription renewed, just let us know, and we’ll take care of that for you.

Now that you’re in, let’s start with something you should definitely be paying attention to: “Acquisition,” or, “how people are getting to your site.” Last week, we sent out aSNO Report detailing ways to get your site more traffic; here’s a great way to check if your social media promotion paid off! Common ways audiences access your content are through direct traffic (or knowing your URL by heart), organic search (thanks Google), Referral from another website, and Social Media. This will let you know what you should be focusing on in terms of promotion; aim for Social Media, Direct Traffic, and Organic Search to be the top three.

Now, you probably want to know how many hits you’re getting. You would also probably like to know what is getting the most hits, which pages visitors are viewing the most, and what kind of content seems to drive readers to your site. The “Behavior” section of Google Analytics will be your new best friend. Here, you can track the number of hits each story gets to help determine what your readers care about most. You can also look at how many hits you’re getting on any given day, or how consistent your traffic is over the span of any given time period. You should aim for more of a constant ebb and flow, rather than large traffic spikes after sudden “content dumps.” Posting new content consistently will ensure a more regular traffic pattern.

You’ll also want to learn a bit about your audience. Good news– there’s a whole section for that. Under the Audience tab, you can learn some crucial traits about your beloved readers. Are most of your readers mobile visitors? Make sure your mobile site is fully functional (maybe even consider investing in a SNO Mobile App.)  You should also keep tabs on how many new visitors– and how many returning visitors– you have. A 50/50 split between new and returning visitors is ideal; new visitors are great, but returning visitors implies that you have a solid readership. Having an even mix of both is right where you want to be.

Google Analytics is a great way to monitor everything that’s happening on your site; what’s working, what’s not, and what your audience really wants. Use this knowledge to make your site even more alluring to your readers, and watch those traffic numbers rise.

The SNO Report: Building buzz about your site

So, you’ve got a website. You update it consistently, you’ve adopted an online-first mentality, and, it looks pretty good, if you do say so yourself. You’re doing everything right– so why aren’t more people visiting your site?

The work doesn’t stop once you’ve launched your site. You’ve got to go the extra mile to get the traffic you want; after all, people can’t visit a site they don’t know about. So how do you get the buzz going? There are a few things you can try:

First, know that social media is key; it’s one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website, and can bring you a lot of new followers. If you don’t already have established social media accounts, you should definitely set them up; here are some tips from JEA Digital Media on how to get your social media sites up and running.

If you have an established social media presence for your publication, that’s excellent! Let’s talk about how you can use those social media sites to score some more site views.

First, Facebook.
Facebook is generally the top driver of traffic to school news sites, and by strategically posting your content here, you can significantly increase your traffic. It’s a great way to tease your stories, share relevant local and school news, and post pictures of your staff in action. You can also easily share your videos here, and Facebook’s extremely interactive commenting feature is a great way to interact with the readers of your publication.

Tweet Tweet.
Twitter is an excellent way to engage with your audience; replying to tweets, or retweeting relevant sports updates, announcements, or comments will get your readers more involved, and motivate them to visit your site regularly. Twitter is also a great way to establish yourself as the go-to source for all breaking news updates; the faster you are able to tweet out brief updates, or relay important announcements, your audience will start viewing you as the primary source for all school-related news. And don’t forget those hashtags– they can be a great way to ensure that your tweets are showing up in as many places as possible.

Snap some pics.
Instagram and Snapchat are great visual ways to draw people into your site. Instagram is the best platform to add the supplemental photos your staff has taken that maybe didn’t make it onto your site; and hey, if the photo’s you’re posting just happen to be one of many (the rest of which you can find online at (insert your URL here)!) that’s a pretty good way to drive people over to your site. Snapchat’s “story” feature is a great way to reach students, too; adding photos of articles posted on the site, or videos of sporting events and pep rallies; even adding the occasional fun video of your news staff “hard at work” is great advertisement.

And while we’re on the subject, advertisements can come in many shapes and sizes. Buttons? Stickers? T-shirts? Fliers? All great places to advertise your URL. Does your site have a custom logo? Spread that brand around the school like wildfire; print your logo on as many items of clothing you can. Make some lanyards, if you’ve got the budget for that sort of thing. Homemade products are great, too; posters, pins, hand-stitched pillowcases– if you can dream it, you can do it.

And, of course, keep your site updated! People won’t want to check your site if there isn’t new content, so make sure you’re keeping it fresh.

You can….

Add “fun” content amidst all of that hard-hitting journalism.
Try incorporating some lighter elements to your site, like a daily horoscope, or a weekly editorial or political cartoon. There are things that are commonly found in print papers, so why not take it online? Plus, they’re extremely easy to advertise via social media, and it’s a great way to draw in readers who may have never thought to check out your site in the first place. And chances are, once they’re on your site, they’ll stick around for a bit; especially if you’re utilizing the Side Rails template or therelated stories box.  You can also keep an updated events calendar on your site– ideally, you’ll end up being the go-to site for all the school’s happenings, which will improve both your readership and your reliability.

Bribe them.
No, really. Give them food. Block out a section of time in your computer lab or library for students to come in and “preview” the site…while earning some kind of sweet treat as a thank you. Sure, quite a few of them will only show up for the chocolate bars or donuts you’re handing out, but they’ll also have to at least glance over the site while they’re there.

Share that stuff.
Make your content shareable! Click the “show sharing buttons” on all of your stories before posting them– it’ll be much easier for your student body to spread the news that way, which will reach a broader audience, and take some of the work off of your hands. It’s a real win-win.

You can always check your site’s traffic by logging into Google Analytics; it’s a great way to gauge how many people are visiting your site, how they’re getting there, and what they’re looking at. If you don’t have access to google analytics, or you’ve forgotten how to access it entirely, just let us know.

Best of SNO: now open for submissions

Best of SNO showcases the best student journalism from members of the SNO Network (that’s you!) Why? We believe in recognition and inspiration–by displaying excellent work, we hope to inspire students with fresh ideas and new approaches to traditional news material. Many educators also use examples from Best of SNO as teaching tools in their classes.

Best of SNO is now open for submissions! We post new content daily, so we’re always on the prowl for great writing, original images, video, audio, and whatever else you’ve got up your sleeve. Stories submitted to Best of SNO should be previously published on your own news site. Simply put, we like good journalism–engaging, concise, and relevant–but for more detailed dos and don’ts, check out our guidelines here!

And it’s never too early to start thinking about the SNO Distinguished Sites program; with the school year in full swing, you’re no doubt curating and cultivating tons of great content– so why not get recognized for it? Starting in January, submissions for our Distinguished Sites program will open, but you can start working towards those badges right now.

SNO’s Distinguished Sites Program is composed of six separate badges, each representing a component of a successful news website. The badges are:

  • Continuous Coverage

  • Site Excellence

  • Story Page Excellence

  • Excellence in Writing

  • Multimedia

  • Audience Engagement

We’ve even come up with some new goals for you; because of our two new story page templates and SNO Story Elements, we’ve made some updates on the requirements for the Story Page Excellence badge. Out of the eight stories you submit for this particular badge:

You can apply for the badges in any order; for each set of standards reached, a badge will be displayed on the SNO client list next to that publication’s name. A site that earns all six badges will be considered a Distinguished Site. You can find more information about the Distinguished Sites program in our customer portal!

Congratulations, Mitch Eden
Longtime SNO friend Mitch Eden of Kirkwood (Mo.) High School has been named the Dow Jones News Fund’s 2015 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. Mitch advises the award-winning Kirkwood Call.

The SNO Report: Add your site to Apple’s News app

This week’s release of Apple’s iOS 9 includes a new app called News. Articles in the News app are pulled from a wide range of sources, and you can easily add your site to that content pool by following a few simple steps.

Start by going to https://www.icloud.com/newspublisher/. Once there, create or sign in with an Apple ID for your publication. Next, follow the sign-up steps in News Publisher.

You’ll deliver content to the News app via an RSS feed. To get your feed URL, click on the RSS feed icon at the top of your site or simply add /feed/ to the end of your URL like this: http://thelancerlink.com/feed/.

After you set up your feed, the next step is to upload a type-based logo. Your logo is used throughout News to identify your content, so make sure it’s clear and easy to read, even when scaled down. Apple recommends the following parameters:

  • Horizontal (all on one line) rather than stacked

  • Full-color transparent PNG

  • Required height: exactly 256 px

  • Recommended width: up to 2048 px (8:1 aspect ratio)

  • Maximum width: 2560 px (10:1 aspect ratio — note that some scaling will occur in logos that use the maximum width)

  • Maximum file size: 2 MB

  • Cropped or trimmed to remove extra space to the left and right (padding is applied automatically)

That’s it.  Once approved, any content published on your site will be available in the News app on every Apple device.

Need more help? Visit Apple’s support site or send us an email.

The SNO Report: Kickstart your school year with these new features

We hope you had a great summer! Whether you’re a brand-new adviser or a website pro, SNO wants to offer you an enthusiastic welcome back. We’ve got some great new features and updates to make you the rockstar of your journalism department this year. Keep reading to see what we’ve been working on.

Meet the new and improved FLEX
While you were having fun in the sun, the SNO Patrol was busy developing some new features we think you’ll love!

Side-by-side story template. This is a great option for displaying related stories, like pro and con opinion pieces, next to each other. It’s designed a bit like the longform template, with the ability to set an immersive featured image at the top. You can see an example of what it looks like here.

Want to try it out for yourself? Follow these easy instructions.

Three-column widget layout. When you place a SNO category widget in the Home Top Wide area, you’ll now see an option to create a three-column format. This format creates one, two, or three rows of featured images that sit directly above their associated headlines and teaser text. You can adjust the height and teaser length here as well.

New widget style option. By popular demand, we’ve added a sixth widget style to your site. It’s got a “flag” look to it that we think is pretty nifty! Design it to your liking under SNO Design Options>Widget Styles.

Live widget and menu customizer. You can still design your widgets and menus the old-fashioned way by clicking either option underneath Appearance. If you want to see how your site will look before saving your changes, though, navigate to Appearance>Customize Live — you’ll see a preview of your homepage that refreshes as you make changes.

Easily embed story elements. Adding pull quotes, polls, related stories, and other embeddable objects into your stories is easier than ever. When you’re editing a story, you can now click the “Add SNO Story Element” button to add in these elements and more. You can even search for related stories by title or keyword — no more hunting for story ID numbers.

New preset style starters. Check out the new style starters we’ve added. If you want to quickly give your site a makeover while preserving your widget layout and color scheme, navigate over to SNO Design Options>Preset Style Starters to try them out for yourself.

Introducing SNO Mobile: a dedicated app for iOS and Android
SNO sites are (and always will be) 100% mobile-responsive, right out of the box,even without an app. But for those schools that want to take their sites’ accessibility, convenience, and readership to the next level, we’re now offering a dedicated app that’s crafted just for you. Here’s a small sample of what you get with SNO Mobile:

Push notifications. Instantly alert your fans when new stories are posted on your site.

Seamless syncing. Your SNOMobile app and SNO site are linked, so any time you post a new story on your site, your app will reflect it immediately.

Grow readership. SNOMobile apps work effortlessly with the native social media features of Apple and Android systems.

Want to know more? Read all about SNO Mobile here. We’d love to get to work on your app today.

Unlimited support (as always!)
Enjoy the new school year, and remember: we’re always here when you need us. Simply chat, email, or send us a support ticket — we’ll reply to you with lightning speed.

All our best,
The SNO Patrol


Need a good way to celebrate Constitution Day?
Members of Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee have developed several ways to learn about and explore the Constitution. View the lesson plans or view this video to see how to incorporate activities for the Sept. 17 event.

SNOMobile: Premium iOS and Android apps for scholastic journalism programs

We’ve got some exciting news for you. We’ve been listening to your requests, and after many months of research and development, we’re ready to roll out the premium service you’ve been asking for. That’s right–SNOMobile, our dedicated app for Mac and Android devices, is finally here!

We want to be clear: your SNO site is and always will be 100% mobile-responsive, right out of the box, even without an app. Our WordPress theme is designed to display beautifully on any screen. Readers will have a great experience whether they’re viewing your homepage on a 23” monitor or a 3” smartphone.

So rest assured, you don’t need an app. That said, SNOMobile offers several features that go above and beyond the call of duty. Here are just a few of the perks:

Push notifications. Keep your student body up-to-date on the latest school news. SNOMobile integrates with the native Mac and Android notification systems, and can instantly alert your fans when new stories are posted on your site.

Seamless syncing. Your SNOMobile app and SNO site are linked, so any time you post a new story on your site, your app will reflect it immediately.

Student access. Schools often provide students with iPads or tablets loaded only with district-approved apps. When general internet access is restricted, it can be tough to drive traffic to your page–but the SNOMobile app gives students the ability to view your site independently of a browser.

Grow readership. SNOMobile apps work effortlessly with the native social media features of Mac and Android systems. With a couple taps of a stylus or fingertip, a news story you post today could go viral on Twitter tomorrow.

Our apps are uniquely crafted for each school, and though they may seem tiny in size, creating them is a time- and cost-intensive process. We want our pricing to always remain transparent. The yearly cost of the app is $500 for hosting, support, and ongoing updates. Additionally, a one-time setup cost of $300 covers the initial development and customization of your app.

SNOMobile is a premium product with a premium price tag, and we understand the cost isn’t feasible for many schools. That’s why we pledge to always keep your SNO site looking great on all devices–we’ll never force you to pay extra for mobile-readiness. The SNOMobile app is just an extra, delicious layer of frosting on the cake you already have!

Want to take a look at an app we’ve already released into the world? Check out the Knight Errant, from Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, Minn.:

Ready to order your very own app? Just click here to fill out the order form, and our developers will get to work pronto. As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know–we’re all ears.

The SNO Report: Year-End Best Practices

Because it’s the end of May and you are a journalism adviser, you are probably thinking about summer, and we respect that, but we’d like you, for just a moment, to think about SNO.

Why? At the end of the school year, it’s important to complete a few quick tasks to be sure that your SNO site is ready to go when you return to school in the fall.

  • Make all student users of your site subscribers. The seniors did a great job while they were here; now it is time to pass the baton. To retain all stories written by students who won’t be on staff next year, but eliminate their ability to access the site, we recommend that you change all student user accounts tosubscribers over the summer. When students return in the fall, you can grant access back as needed. If you chose to delete the user accounts of those graduating, be sure to assign the content to another author so that it isn’t deleted.  If the content is deleted, it is not retrievable.  If you have a couple of dedicated staff members that could post a story or two per week on the site, feel free to keep their accounts active, so that readers from around the country can find up-to-date news on your site, even in the summer.

  • Update your site.  Before you leave for the summer, check that your site is running the most up-to-date version of WordPress.  Also check your plugins and theme, a quick update now can protect your site over the summer and give you less updating to do in the fall. Speaking of site protection, it might be a good idea to set up a reminder to check for updates once a month, all year round.

  • Send your students out the door thinking about how they can earn some badges as a part of the SNO Distinguished Site program next year.  Looking at the requirements now sets your staff up to start creating habits that will help them earn the honor of Distinguished Site as soon as applications are accepted in January 2016.

  • Think ahead.  The SNO Patrol conducts hour-long personalized training sessions for advisers and staffs. Order a training session now and schedule it whenever makes sense for you (before the end of the school year, this summer, or even next fall). The variety of training sessions available mean that all staffs, from beginners to SNO experts, will get something out of it, including a staff that’s ready to make use of all that the SNO FLEX design offers.
  • Keep us in the loop. Are you getting out of the jouro biz? Retiring? Please let us know so that we can welcome the new adviser in proper SNO style.

  • There is still SNO in the summer. This summer the SNO Patrol will be adding more features to our FLEX theme.  Look for new preset style starters, live widget previews, and a new story page template for pro/con opinion pieces.  There’s more in the works,too, but we’re going to keep that a secret until the fall.

As always, we want to express our sincere appreciation for letting us build and support websites and features for you and your staff.  We hope that you enjoy your summer break, and we look forward to another great school year.

Sincerely,

The SNO Patrol