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Choate Rosemary Hall

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Choate Rosemary Hall
  • General Best Practices
Facebook for Schools: Strategies for Building Brand Awareness and Engagement
stephanie griffin

Facebook has more users than any other social network, so it’s safe to say that your school or district should probably have an account. Although there seems to be whispers among the school community that Facebook is “dead,” it is very much alive!

Facebook allows schools to reach prospective and current students where they are already spending their time, interacting with family, friends, and brands, keeping up with news, sharing content, and more. And recently, Facebook’s updated algorithms have created a place where schools can have meaningful interactions with its followers. While of course, part of this algorithm shift was to increase the use of ads, it was also meant to increase to use of the social aspect of the network: comments, shares, likes, questions, conversations, etc.

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

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 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 nearly 40 minutes (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.  In order to make the most of those 40 minutes, here are 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

The new Facebook Algorithms makes Facebook more people-focused vs. brand-focused, which means users are seeing more content from their friends and family alike than from businesses and brands (like schools). These changes are already impacting the organic reach of schools and districts, so what should you do next?

A successful Facebook strategy will come down to how well you interact with your followers on your school’s page. The newest algorithm prioritizes active interactions like commenting and sharing over likes and click-throughs (passive interactions). So if you’re doing this — great! If not, it may be time to step it up.

Clarkston Community Schools nailed it with this back-to-school post, encouraging families to send in their photos via email or on social media with the district’s branded hashtag — and it saw some great engagement!

Clarkston Community Schools first day of school post with photo of two students

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 all of these things before we place our order: 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. 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, it is a never-ending cycle of: someone need to engage with your content in order for them to see it, organically. Of course, if you’re not engaging individuals organically, you can depend on ads. (And we’ll talk about that a bit later.)

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 best practices for 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. Generally, afternoon hours between 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. see the best engagement. However, it’s great to experiment different times of the day as well because your audience may be more active during different hours.

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

Use Facebook Messenger

Facebook is now making it easier to use the platform as a communications tool.; In fact, Facebook users had more than seven billion conversations using Facebook Messenger on average every day in 2017. When you think about ways to connect with customers using Facebook, don’t forget to include Facebook Messenger in your plans.

Many schools are taking this one step further and incorporating Messenger into their website. Agnes Irwin School set up the Messenger plug in chat box in the bottom right corner on their homepage — just in time for their new site launch. A pop up will come up and directly link the person’s Facebook page if they are already signed in.

Agnes Irwin website with photo of students and facebook messenger chat box in bottom right corner

From there, if you click “chat now,” it will allow you to confirm you’re logged into Facebook, or log in if you're not, then chat with the school right from their website.

If an individual wants to chat, Facebook allows the user to message the school directly, a very nice convenience and great user experience.

agnes irwin website with facebook messenger chat box opened in right corner

Earn Positive Facebook Reviews

Very recently (as of last month) Facebook also made recommendations more prominent. What once was known as reviews on Facebook business pages are now known as recommendations. They will act very similar to how reviews did when it comes to sharing a testimonial about schools, 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.

facebook reviews ratings information text

If more and more people are posting reviews on Facebook, there's probably an increasing number of people reading them, too, according to SocialMediaToday. 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

Because of the latest Facebook algorithms, groups are now becoming more of a way to outsource your content to users you may not be reaching from your school’s Facebook page alone. It’s a great opportunity for your school to interact with members of your community.

These kinds of groups now also 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 now watch videos live in real time even if they’re not in the same room! 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! Shout out to the folks who responded to my poll in our School Marketing Community group to help write this post!

Poll made on Facebook with questions and responses

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 involve 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, recently 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.

Portsmouth Abbey School facebook post about website with photo of campus and tree with leaves

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. According to a study from social analytics and reporting firm, Locowise, videos posted on Facebook drew the most reach in September, while photos won for gaining more engagement. If you’re not already incorporating this type of visual content on your page, now is the time to start. Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video every day (and more than 65 percent of those views happen on mobile devices!)

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.

Lawrence School went live last week for its Head of School Installation Ceremony. Here you can see the video is live in the top left hand corner and how many people are viewing the video in real time.

live video on facebook of person stand at school

Facebook also makes it easy to upload photos into albums on your page. Nardin Academy has a #WeAreNardin photo album, which they describe as “a photo campaign with weekly posts capturing the energy and the vibrancy of [their] community.” It’s a beautiful way to group the photos together and easy to access from the school’s business page.

Photos of women and students for school facebook album

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

The events are easily accessible on the side menu from your page. Lower Merion School District has quite a busy October coming up with some of their upcoming events that they have listed right on their Facebook page.

district events on facebook with text and photo of campus and logo

Incorporate Facebook Stories Into Your Strategy

Earlier this year we projected on of the top social media trends of 2018 would be ephemeral content, content that is only available for a short period of time, from just seconds to twenty-four hours. Since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, the networks have become similar and more integrated using the idea of Stories.

Facebook Stories are now found in a section at the top of a user’s news feed where individuals can share status updates that they only could share on their profiles previously to their Facebook story. Facebook makes it easier to to this by giving users the option to share to their news feed, story, or both:

facebook status what's on your mind with colors and options to post

Schools can follow the same best practices for posting stories on Instagram as they would for Facebook. Stories are great for sharing quick, real-time content that you necessarily don’t need to leave as posts on your school’s news feed. This way, you’re staying active on the network, but only share what’s the most important. Eliminate anything that may be “noise” and try testing our Facebook and Instagram stories.

Key Takeaway

Understanding Facebook’s core and evolving feature set as well as its latest algorithms will be critical this school year to ensure you’re reaching the right people at the right time on the most popular social network on the planet. With this, not only will it become more important to take your Facebook strategy to the next level and 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 but 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 may be looking for some guidance with how to use social media in part of your overall school marketing strategy, our experts can work with you based on your goals!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie GriffinAs Finalsite's Events Marketing Manager, Stephanie is passionate about sharing what's happening at Finalsite with all school professionals. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and brings a fresh perspective for marketing with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. Stephanie enjoys helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments.

  • Best Practices
  • Marketing/Communications
  • Social Media
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