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Facebook for Schools: Strategies for Building Brand Awareness and Engagement
Kristen Doverspike

Everywhere we look, there are new social media channels popping up. Some live and die, but many have become strong contenders (TikTok, anyone?). While Facebook is one of the oldest in the space, 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 thriving!

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 through comments, replies, and their messaging app to build trust, transparency, and brand engagement and loyalty
  • Specifically targeting demographics through social media ads to increase brand awareness and engagement
  • Leveraging your Facebook analytics right inside the platform under ‘Insights’ to prove ROI
  • Scheduling content right in the platform under ‘Publishing Tools’ to save time

Overview: Facebook Strategies for Schools


Important Facebook Terms You Should Know

Boosted post: This term references when you pay to get your content seen by more people. Boosting a post is very simple if you follow three steps: determine the audience you want the post to reach, how much money you want to spend to increase that reach, and the duration of how long you want that post promoted for. From there, you are able to see how well the boosted post performed through analytics.

But isn’t this like Facebook Advertising? Short answer — no, and here’s why.

Finalsite’s Social Media Marketer Darrian McClellan helps clarify the difference between a boosted post and Facebook ad. “Facebook ads offer a lot more to advertisers than boosted posts do including more ad objective and optimization options, more customized targeting options, detailed placement options, and more creative control allowing you to optimize for various platforms and test different ad copies for performance,” said Darrian.

Since there are more powerful forms of advertising than simply clicking 'boost' on a Facebook post, social media advertising may be a great option for your page as well — and Finalsite’s consulting team is here to help!

Check-in: This term (one I personally use pretty often!) is used when users want to check in at a business or event. This can be great brand recognition for your school as individuals check-in on campus or at an event you’re having.

News Feed: This is essentially an individual’s  Facebook “homepage” to view the most relevant content as it pertains to them, as well as sponsored posts based on their demographics, interests, recently viewed posts, etc.

Tagging: This is relevant for posts, photos, and videos — when you can tag a person’s name or business to the content that you’re sharing. Schools may see this a lot from members of their school community.

Timeline Review: This helps you monitor the tagging (mentioned above) so your school can approve or reject posts before they are tagged to your page.

Timeline: This term refers to the content where users see their posts or posts they’ve been tagged in. It also becomes part of their Facebook page.

With the average time spent on Facebook lasting 38 minutes per day (that’s a long time!), knowing how to make a good impression, engage with a user, and have the right content in front of them 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, effectively 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.


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General Facebook Best Practices

Create a Facebook Business Page for Your School

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 start this as that is a requirement for any business page. Some steps to set up your page if you haven’t done so already are:

  1. Select Business or Brand
  2. The Page Name should be name of school or district
  3. The category “Education” should be selected to automatically optimize the page
  4. Upload your school’s profile photo (logo), cover photo or video (campus/campus life), and add additional information. It is really important to make sure your profile picture is your school’s logo so it is recognizable in users’ news feeds.

By incorporating the right images, you can really build a nice “branded” Facebook page, like Dare County Schools.

Dare County Schools Facebook Page with photos of students

From there, you’re ready to start posting content and engaging followers! Building out an effective content strategy can help you organize your ideas, and ensure you’re providing relevant content for all your visitors.

Conquer Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Updates

Facebook favors user content over brand content, which means users are seeing more content from their friends and family than from businesses (like 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 with this distance learning post, encouraging families to share their photos with the school’s branded hashtag — and it saw some great engagement!

The Post Oak School shares user-generated content from students making tacos while distance learning

Algorithms think, in a sense, like we do. When we go out to eat and we 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:

Post Regularly

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.

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 the Facebook Analytics section under “Insights” behind your business page. Here is where 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.

graphic for facebook post reach

 

Earn Positive Facebook Reviews

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 Choate Rosemary Hall.

choate facebook reviews text from individuals

Your page will still have a rating, but it will be based on how Facebook is identifying the recommendations left for your school.

If more and more people are posting reviews on Facebook, there's probably an increasing number of people reading them. Therefore, reviews and recommendations can, in fact, help the organic reach of your school as users as their connections recommended businesses like your school.

Use Facebook Groups

Due to Facebook’s algorithm, Groups are an effective way to directly reach audiences who may not catch your organic content. It’s a great opportunity for your school to interact with specific members of your community.

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.

Mia posts a poll in the Facebook School Marketing Group about course topics.

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.

Facebook group announcement post, text and Finalsite logo

Use Finalsite Feeds

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.

St Johns Country Day school social media feeds on website with photos and texts

Build a Social Content Marketing Strategy

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.

Porstmouth Abbey School shares their boys' varsity squash & girls' varsity hockey championships.

Always Incorporate Visual Content

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.

There are two great ways to incorporate visual content in a fun way on your Facebook page. First, you can incorporate Facebook Live video. This type of video is great for schools, because you can capture what’s happening in 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.

The Woods Academy has been going live from their head of school with morning announcements while distance learning. You'll see the extra engaging element of starting a Watch Party through the "Watch together with friends or with a group" option. Only available on live videos, this tool encourages your followers to share your live video in real-time with others for added exposure.

The Woods Academy goes live on Facebook with morning announcements from their head of school.

 

Actively Promote and Share Content Before, During, and After Events

A StubHub survey found that 62 percent of respondents had used Facebook to learn about a live event, more than any other social network. Among millennials, this number increases to 72 percent.

Here at Finalsite, we also turn to Facebook to promote our events as well; it just works. Facebook has an events feature in business profiles that allow you to add a photo for the event, give it a name, date/time, and description.

Facebook new event template with option for photo and add text

You also have the option to integrate Facebook’s Messenger app so people can ask you questions about the event specifically, provide a direct link to the page about the event, and add co-hosts if appropriate.

event details for facebook event

 

Incorporate Facebook Stories Into Your Strategy

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 idea of Stories.

Facebook Stories can be found in a section at the top of a user’s news feed, where individuals can share status updates. To add to your school’s story, you can simply go to your page, and choose the plus (+) symbol on your profile photo:

Visual of Finalsite creating a Facebook story.

Schools can follow the same best practices for posting stories on Facebook that they would follow on Instagram. Generally speaking, 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.

Key Takeaway

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!


download your free copy: 2020 social media guide for schools


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
kristen doverspike headshot

In her position as Inbound Marketing Manager, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website and social media communications at Finalsite. With over five years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their branding, SEM, SEO, social media, and inbound efforts. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, HubSpot, and Hootsuite.

  • Marketing/Communications
  • Social Media
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