Everywhere we look, there are new social media channels popping up. Some live and die, but many have become part of our daily lives. While Facebook is one of the oldest in the space (it had its 17th birthday this year!), it still has more users than any other social network today. And despite the whispers among the school community that Facebook is “dead,” it is still alive and growing!
Even though Facebook’s famed algorithm shift of 2018 (which, of course, gives precedence to user-to-user content over business pages) caused concern for the future of organic reach for schools, it strategically drives engagement today. From an inbound marketing standpoint, the channel can help your school or district reach both current and prospective families at every stage of your funnel. Ultimately, employing general best practices and keeping up with a consistent posting cadence has proven to show positive results. To help make it easy for you, we gathered everything you need to know — from starting your channel to maintaining it.
Schools who use Facebook actively reap some awesome benefits, including:
- Sharing valuable information quickly and efficiently
- Building trust and transparency through comments, replies, Facebook Groups, and Facebook Messenger
- Targeting specific demographics through social media ads to increase awareness and engagement
- Leveraging Facebook analytics to identify areas for improvement and to prove ROI
- Scheduling content right in the platform to save time
Before we dive in, you might be wondering: should my school even use Facebook? While this social media platform might feel "old" or "dated" it is a critical tool for engaging key target audiences — including parents, grandparents, and extended community members. Learn more in Episode 10 of The School Marketing Show — LIVE.
Overview: Facebook Strategies for Schools
- Important Facebook Terms You Should Know
- General Facebook Best Practices
- Create a Facebook Business Page for Your School
- Conquer Facebook's Algorithm
- Post Regularly
- Earn Positive Facebook Reviews
- Use Facebook Groups
- Use Finalsite Feeds
- Build a Social Content Marketing Strategy
- Always Incorporate Visual Content
- Actively Promote and Share Content Before, During, and After Events
- Incorporate Facebook Stories Into Your Strategy
Insights: Your Facebook Insights will help you answer the valuable question, "Is our strategy working?." This resource can be found in the Manage Page section of your school or district's Facebook Page, and it will provide valuable data relating to your page performance over the last 28 days. Here, you can identify what posts saw the most engagement, how many followers you've gained or lost, and so much more. This page should be monitored on a regular basis to help you improve your strategy moving forward.
Boosted post: This term references an ad that is created by putting a budget behind an organic post that you already know has performed well. Facebook helps you identify these opportunities by noting how many people you've already reached, and clearly offering the option to Boost. This can be the desired option when you're promoting an upcoming open house, a contest, or another short-term campaign.
But isn’t this like Facebook Advertising? Aside from the concept of putting a budget behind a piece of content to reach more people, Boosted posts and advertising through Ads Manager require different goals.
Here's the biggest difference: Facebook ads offer more features to advertisers than Boosted posts do, including more ad objective and optimization options, more customized targeting options, detailed placement options, and more creative control. Additionally, a larger budget is often needed for the more traditional Facebook advertising.
If you don't have a large budget (We're serious. It can be just $10!), or you're just looking to expand your reach for a short period of time, Boosted posts are a great option. And if you're looking for control and targeting options, social media advertising may help your school or district get the reach you need — and Finalsite’s consulting team is here to help!
Facebook Pixel: Failing to set up a Facebook Pixel is a common, and unfortunate, mistake. Why? Because this tool will collect data to identify users who are most likely to take action on your ads. This means more return on your investment, more opportunities to directly reach families who have visited your website, and more. It's an easy feature to set up, and it will open doors to your advertising strategy!
With the average time spent on Facebook lasting 34 minutes per day (Hootsuite), understanding how to effectively engage with your community — by offering the right content at the right time — will help you make the most of the platform. Not only do you want to prospect new families, but you also want to engage with current families, reach alumni, and nurture your followers with strategic content. In order to make the most of the time your families are spending on the platform, here is a round-up of best practices schools should follow for building brand awareness and earning engagement.
The first step to truly understanding how to use Facebook is knowing the difference between personal profiles and Business Pages. It’s best practice for schools to set up a Facebook Business Page to interact with Facebook users. However, you will need a personal Facebook page to be able to create a Business Page, as individual users act as admins for the page. Here are some steps to set up your page:
- Select Business or Brand
- The Page Name should be the name of your school or district
- The category “Education” should be selected to automatically optimize the page
- Upload your school’s profile photo (your logo), cover photo or video (featuring your campus or campus life), and additional information. It is recommended that your profile picture be your school’s logo on all social media accounts. This makes it recognizable, trustworthy, and cohesive across your accounts.
By incorporating the right images, you can really build a nice “branded” Facebook page, like Dare County Schools.
From there, you’re ready to start posting content and engaging with followers! Building out an effective content strategy can help you organize your ideas and ensure you’re providing relevant content for all your visitors.
Facebook favors user-to-user content over content that comes from a business, which means users are seeing more content from their friends and family than from schools.
A successful Facebook strategy will come down to how well you interact with your followers on your school’s page. The algorithm prioritizes active interactions, like commenting and sharing, over passive interactions, like impressions. If you’re encouraging this kind of engagement — great! If not, it may be time to optimize your content strategy.
The Post Oak School nailed it during the pandemic with this distance learning post, encouraging families to share their photos with the school’s branded hashtag — and it saw some great engagement!
Algorithms think, in a sense, like we do. When we go out to eat and have to make a decision, we are taking into consideration the time of day, what we’ve eaten in the past, what we’ve liked, didn’t like, the price, how hungry we are, etc. prior to making an order. Social media platform algorithms go through a similar decision-making process in the blink of an eye, taking content and sifting through it before deciding what to convey to consumers.
In short, users need to engage with your content in order for Facebook to identify it as something “worth” showing to other followers. Similarly, once Facebook sees that an individual often engages with your content, you will be more likely to show up higher on their news feeds when you post in the future.
So, what happens if organic engagement is low? Well, first of all — don’t give up! Disappearing from posting on Facebook, even for a short period of time, can hurt your reach. Here are a few ways to earn organic engagement:
It’s in best practice, on every social media network, to post content regularly for your followers, but what is the sweet spot for posting on Facebook? If you post at least once a day (or up to 5-7 times a week), your followers should see a steady stream of updates from you.
That being said, posting 5 times a week without an engagement strategy will not help you in Facebook's eyes. Generally speaking, a minimum of 70% of your content should be fun, educational, and engaging. This includes student highlights, photos of classroom instruction, trivia questions, and anything that encourages comments and responses. A small 10% of your calendar can be reserved for promotional posts (like admissions-focuses messages), and up to 20% can be saved for shared content from other sources. Sticking to this 70-20-10 rule will help build an engagement-focused calendar that will get your content seen and interacted with more regularly.
You should also factor in the best time to post on Facebook. If you do a simple search for the “best” times to post on each channel, you’ll get mixed results. Ultimately, you should test out different times of the day to see what works best for you.
To see how well your posts perform on Facebook, consider using Insights (defined at the beginning of this blog). Here, you can find real data on how well your school’s page is performing in general, as well as the types of followers you have, post performance, engagement, reach and more.
Facebook reviews have become an essential part of the decision-making process, especially for Millennial parents. If you don’t already, make sure that your school’s reviews are turned on for your Facebook page, and encourage current families to leave reviews! They will serve as testimonials, as you see here for Viewpoint School.
Your page will showcase a rating based on how Facebook is identifying the recommendations left for your school.
If more and more people are posting reviews on Facebook, there's likely an increasing number of people reading them as well. Therefore, reviews and recommendations can, in fact, help the organic reach of your school as users recommend businesses like your school.
Due to Facebook’s algorithm, Groups are an effective way to directly reach audiences who may not catch your organic content in their Feeds. In fact, Facebook Group memberships grew by 3x in 2020 as more users sought out a sense of community during the pandemic (Hootsuite).
Groups come with features that give members an opportunity to engage and interact with one another and get the most important information out of the group. Some of these features include:
Watch parties: Members of Groups can watch videos together! They have the ability to view and react to the video like a live broadcast.
Polls: One of the best ways to encourage your members to interact with you is by creating a poll. And it can be about anything! We here at Finalsite sometimes use polls in our School Marketing Community to help drive our own content strategy.
Announcements: Treated as a separate part of the group, you can highlight specific posts as announcements that might be the most important for your members to know.
Rooms: Another effort to bring communities closer together in 2020, Rooms are a fairly new feature that allows Facebook Group admins to schedule virtual gatherings directly within the Group. This can be an effective virtual alternative to admissions events!
Don’t let your efforts on social media go to waste! By incorporating Finalsite Feeds into your school website, you have the ability to filter in the content from your Facebook page right onto your website. With Feeds, you have the ability to monitor the content being pulled in, and allow your website visitors to view engaging, authentic content without having to leave your website.
It goes without saying that every social media strategy should include a content marketing strategy, which involves planning out the type of content you will post ahead of time. Amanda Cody, Assistant Director of Communications at Portsmouth Abbey School, shared how they group similar content together to map out their own strategy.
“We have ‘buckets’ that we try to hit as planned posts along with organic content. So we'll plan out posts that highlight academic reputation, quality of facilities, location, third-party validation, sense of community, and a few more that underscore our ‘brand.’ Then we'll fill in the gaps with student news or other share-worthy posts that are a little less marketing-oriented and more community-based,” said Amanda.
Their posts are timely, effective, and open the opportunity for conversation.
If you believe your engagement is lower than it should be, it might be because your content is lacking photos and videos. Facebook tends to give top priority to video content in the News Feed, as more than 50% of users prefer video content over all other forms of content.
One way to easily incorporate visual content into your strategy is to make use of Facebook Live. This type of video is great for schools, because you can capture what’s happening at the moment for individuals who can’t be there at that time — such as a sporting event, open house, fundraiser, graduation, etc. Facebook Live can be authentic and fun, too. As an added bonus, you do not need to hire a professional videographer or expensive equipment to go “live” — you really just need a good cell phone camera!
De Smet Jesuit High School, for example, recently went live to introduce their new head football coach. While not a professionally recorded video, it received notable engagement from the school community; this is a testament to providing live video to engage with those who can't be there with you in person.
Facebook Events offer an easy way to get your school's name out there. Essentially virtual invitations, Facebook Events can reach anyone on the platform and gain momentum as more users note that they are attending. Even during social distancing caused by the pandemic, schools found unique strategies to get their communities together virtually by promotion through Facebook.
Detroit Country Day School recently promoted its livestream production of Les Miserables through Facebook Events:
Promoting your content — whether through Facebook Events, organic posts, or Boosted posts — before, during, and after events will help ensure it gets seen and engaged with your entire community.
Ephemeral content, or content that is only available for a short period of time, has taken off on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook alike. Since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, the networks have become similar and more integrated using the Stories feature. And why should they be incorporated into your school's strategy? It's guaranteed content at the top of your community's Feed.
To add to your school’s Story, you can simply go to your page on a mobile device and choose the plus (+) symbol on your profile photo. If your school's Instagram account and Facebook account are connected, you can choose to push Instagram Stories directly to Facebook.
Seeing as they go so hand-in-hand, schools can follow the same best practices for posting Stories on Facebook that they would follow on Instagram. From a best practice standpoint, Stories are a great way to share either 1. information that you know won’t be relevant for a long period of time, or 2. less important content that you would like to put out without overwhelming your daily limit for posts. This way, you’re staying active on the network without hurting engagement.
Understanding Facebook’s core and evolving feature set as well as its latest algorithms will be critical to ensure you’re reaching the right people at the right time. Not only will it become more important to take your Facebook strategy to the next level and to interact with your followers more than ever before, but it will make for an improved user experience on your school’s Facebook page.
Finalsite makes it easy to incorporate your social media content, like Facebook, into your website with Finalsite Feeds. With Feeds, you’re able to promote the content you’re already posting on Facebook on your website, as well as monitor which content is being pulled into your website. If you’re interested in learning more strategies to conquer Facebook’s updates, or if you’re looking for some guidance on how to use social media in part of your overall school marketing strategy, our experts can work with you based on your goals!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In her position as director of demand generation, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website, and social media communications at Finalsite. With over six years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their inbound strategies. She regularly speaks at professional development events for schools and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite.