- Public School District
Facebook has become one of the most popular media (aside from a website) for districts to reach and engage with their community. While many districts were late adopters of Facebook for privacy and security reasons, over the past few years, many districts have grown to rely on the platform (and all social media for that matter) as a quick and easy way for staying in touch with their social media savvy, digital communities.
But, with algorithms that seem to change like the weather, privacy issues that never seem to go away, and a varying set of best practices from industry to industry — Facebook seems to create more questions than confidence, even in 2019.
If you’re looking to improve your district’s Facebook presence, you’ll want to implement these 10 essential tips for success:
- Know your audience
- Brand your Facebook like your website
- Restrict your presence to one page
- Respond to questions and comments
- Garner positive reviews
- Post daily
- Use photos and videos
- Integrate Facebook with your website
- Don’t post directly from your CMS
- Take privacy and safety into consideration
Now, let’s dive into each of these in a little more detail.
1. Know Your Audience
While Facebook may be the original social media network, it hasn’t caught on with younger generations, with only about half of teens (Generation Z) using the social platform. This means that your current students probably aren’t going to engage with your content here. (But, you can find them on Instagram!)
But if current students won’t engage with you on Facebook, who will? Millennials (although their engagement is on the decline, too), Generation X and Baby Boomers are all more likely to be active on the social media network than your younger audiences.
So, ask yourself: what kind of content do our parents care about? Whatever the answer to that question is, is the content you should be posting on Facebook.
2. Brand Your Facebook Like Your Website
This might seem like common sense, but it is an often overlooked best practice for a successful social media presence. When building out your Facebook page, select a handle, profile picture, and header image that reflect that of your district website.
In this example from Dare County Schools in North Carolina, we see:
- A simple, searchable handle: The handle, @darecountyschools is the same as the district’s name. While the district’s URL for their website is daretolearn.org, the use of @darecountyschools on Facebook was a smart switch, as families may not know to search for “dare to learn.” If your district has multiple names (for example, Mankato Area Public Schools and ISD77), go with the name you use in your logo and branding.
- A logo used as the profile picture: This is extremely important! Because this is the image that appears in news feeds and on your timeline, you want to use your logo, instead of an image, so it is easily recognizable.
- A high-quality header image: Choose a nice, high-resolutionn header image, and even swap it out throughout the year as events and seasons change.
3. Restrict Your Presence to One Page
One of the biggest mistakes we see many schools and districts make is the creation of multiple Facebook pages — such as a district Facebook, athletics Facebook, and then even a Facebook page for each different school within the district. As you may already know from managing multiple websites within your district, maintaining consistency, accuracy, and engagement isn’t always easy as webmasters vary in skill level and time available. The same is true for social media.
Even more importantly, however, is the confusion that multiple Facebook pages creates within your community. Where do parents go for information? Who will have the most up-to-date information? Why is there a Facebook for the middle school, but not the high school? This confusion also segments Facebook traffic, decreasing overall engagement across all pages.
Ask your contributors from each school within the district to submit content to your district social media manager, webmaster, PIO. This helps to streamline messaging and get content to post daily. (Anything to save you time and make your job easier, right?)
4. Respond to Comments and Questions
This is so important! The point of social media is to be social — which means having a two-way conversation. When you simply use Facebook to post announcements and not engage or interact with your followers, you’re failing to meet the expectations of your community.
In searching through dozens of district Facebook pages to find great examples for this blog, we stumbled across many districts that were not responding to comments. So many questions and comments of praise left unanswered by their engaged communities! If you put one social media priority on your to-do list, this is it.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to reply, check out Wayzata Public Schools’ Facebook page. The district not only makes sure to be involved in conversations and answer questions, but have fun while doing so, like they do here while talking about spring break:
And here, having a laugh with a community member about the first day of spring:
And no, Wayzata doesn’t make light of every situation. Some of their comments are informative and helpful to the community as well, like here:
A common question we often field about responding to comments is “what happens if someone asks a hard-to-answer question?” or “what happens if someone says something negative?” Keep in mind that no response looks much worse than a response. Depending on the tone of the comment, you can either respond to the question or comment publicly, or simply reply and offer to take the conversation offline.
5. Garner Positive Reviews
What people are saying about your district matters. It aids in recruitment and retention, as individuals rely on positive reviews to help them make decisions about where they send their child to school.
At a social media workshop last fall, an interesting question was asked about reviews. “What happens when your neighboring district leaves you bad reviews just because you beat them in the football playoffs?”
This had apparently happened to a district in the area — and unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to have the reviews removed on Facebook, as the social media network won’t do anything about it. All you can do is buffer the negative reviews with positive reviews!
For example, Clarkston Community Schools in Michigan has 4.9 “stars” on Facebook, but only 43 reviews. A couple of grumpy football players from an opposing team could easily knock them from their near perfect rating. But, they are doing all the right things — especially with responding to reviewers.
6. Integrate Facbook into Your Website
Because you are likely posting to social media every single day, and updating the content of your website less frequently, integrating social media into your website can help drive awareness about your Facebook presence and promote new content on your website daily.
Districts who use Finalsite have the Feeds module available to them, which allows them to seamlessly integrate social media posts into their website — without using unstyled embed feeds.
Want to learn more about Feeds? Download an information slick!
7. Post Daily
The key to a successful Facebook presence is a consistent one. Most studies and industry experts will advise posting on Facebook 1-2 times per day, but no more than twice. If you feel inclined to post more than twice, consider where else that post could fit into your week so that you have a post every single day.
When posting daily, keep it short! Nearly 90% of Facebook’s users are visiting the network via a mobile device, and only spent about 1.5 seconds looking at a piece of content. Talk about short attention spans!
8. Use Photos and Videos
The number one social media rule? Never post without a correlating image or video! Posts on Facebook that use photos and video show higher-than-average engagement rates.
9. Don’t Automatically Post from Your CMS
While many content management systems promote the ease of use of automatically posting a piece of content to your website, app, alerts and social media all at the same time, this is not a best practice. Rather, it is a bad practice we strongly advise against.
Because all social media networks — including Facebook — have their own set of best practices and algorithms associated with it, it is best to natively upload your content to social media to ensure it follows the best practices for that platform, including a properly-sized image.
While it may take an extra couple of minutes to post directly to Facebook, it is a worthwhile two minutes!
10. Take Privacy and Safety into Consideration
It’s important that your district take the time to create a social media policy that outlines what can and what cannot be posted on Facebook. For example, some districts may opt to not post the exact dates, times and locations of certain events on Facebook, but share them on their website or via email communications. You may also want to create a “photo opt-out policy” for parents to sign if they do not want photos of their child posted on Facebook. While some districts use a general opt-out policy for their website and Facebook, other district choose to have one for each platform as parents often feel differently about the two mediums.
Whatever you decide you are comfortable with, put it in writing, and have your district leadership sign off on it.
If you’re using Facebook as a means of school-to-home communications, it is important that you stay up-to-date with the latest strategies and best practices for using the platform to engage and inform your stakeholders. If your district needs help with its social media strategy, let us know! We work with dozens of schools to cultivate and manage an engaging presence with ongoing management, and ads. And, if you need help wondering where to start, get started with a social media audit!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.
- Social Media