School marketers rely on social media to help recruit new families and engage current parents, students, and faculty. However, those pesky algorithms can make doing so pretty difficult (especially on a tight budget). However, one of Facebook’s older features has made a comeback and it’s making organic engagement easier than ever: Facebook Groups.
What are Facebook Groups?
Facebook has created a way for a person or business to create a public, private, or secret space for people to share content: these spaces are called Facebook Groups. Facebook defines their groups as “...the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content.” If you are on Facebook now, you may already be part of one of their now 620 million Facebook Groups.
Why Do People Use Facebook Groups?
If you have a Facebook Page for your school, you may be wondering why you need Facebook Groups now, too. Facebook Pages are a great, public, way to share content. In contrast, groups can be private safe spaces unique to your school teams, clubs, PTA, alumni, and more. Facebook Groups offer a welcoming and supportive community that encourages two-way communication, allowing the organic growth of meaningful relationships.
Humans are extremely social beings, but also very cautious. We crave a specific tribe of our own and we yearn to belong to something bigger than ourselves. If you walk into any large group of people will you will typically find they will divide off into smaller groups to chat amongst themselves in private, safe, and engaging conversations. This more intimate setting is essentially what you are trying to build — just virtually!
Groups are becoming wildly popular with over 1.4 billion people using the Facebook Groups feature at least once a month. That’s over 40% of Facebook users!
How Schools Can Benefit from Facebook Groups
Schools are already a community, so why not expand that community online and further your reach to parents, alumni, students, and more in a place where they are already spending a lot of their time? While Facebook Groups are not a replacement for password protected Portals within your website, they are an additional avenue of communication for your community and more importantly, help with your organic social media performance.
Creating a community of consistent engagement will keeps your school’s content in the news feed of all those who are part of your Facebook groups. If done correctly, increased traffic to your Facebook Groups should bring more visitors to your school website’s landing page.
One of the biggest social media obstacles that school marketers face is ensuring their Facebook content gets seen — and Facebook groups aid in this effort. Because the latest Facebook algorithms favor human connection over brand engagement, content posted in groups often gets top priority in a user’s news feed. So, if you’re looking for an affordable means to get your social media content seen by your community, Facebook Groups may be your solution.
For example, parents within Hebron Academy’s Parents’ Association Facebook group re-share content from the school’s Facebook page to ensure parents don’t miss content. Because group members are notified by Facebook when new content gets posted, parents don’t miss a thing — and that’s super important for this Maine-based boarding school.
Proceed with caution on using these groups as a pedestal to promote your content. (It’s one thing if fellow parents do it!) People join groups to connect with one another about similar goals and ideas and ask questions in a safe space. Continually promoting your school’s events and own initiatives might deter members from engaging.
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If you’d like to get started with Facebook Groups, here are three types of groups you should be utilizing to build a better virtual community:
Grade level-based groups
Groups for interests, activities, and clubs
Alumni specific groups
1. Grade Level-Based Groups
You use your phone to look up the current events, the weather, and the latest celebrity gossip, so doesn't it seem a bit dated to depend on your child remembering to pull out that crinkled school calendar from the bottom of their backpack to keep you updated on their education? We think so too.
By creating Facebook Groups by grade or graduating class, you create a platform for parents, educators, and students to participate in two-way conversations about what’s happening at school. Facebook Groups are neatly organized with the sub-categories seen below:
This feature makes the groups easy to use, which will lead to parents feeling more comfortable navigating all of the options available to them. Capitalize on that comfort and invite parents to actively participate in the group. On the first day of school ask group members to share what they look forward to most this year. Engage with members by prompting discussions/questions, add to the topics that they bring up, and reply to any questions or concerns they may have.
Grade level groups could also be created for newly enrolled students and families. For example, you could create a group called “Class of 2025 Accepted Students” and invite all of the students and parents who have been accepted to your school for the new year. Building camaraderie and having top-notch communications from the start can have an impact on your yield rate.
An additional benefit of these groups: keeping your public content streams free of clutter. Just like how your website should have a sole purpose (like marketing your school), by using groups, your primary page can, too.
2. Groups for Interests, Activities, and Clubs
National Honors Society, Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), LGBTQ Pride, marching band, football, etc. These are just a fraction of the groups that students, staff, and parents meet for on a regimented basis. These groups are part of what drives creativity, innovation, and success for your school - why not give them a place to collaborate in between meetings and further their impact?
When you provide a Facebook Group for your PTO to collaborate together the benefits will be surprising. By keeping the group members informed and motivated they will have authentic conversations and increased engagement. More engagement will mean that your group will end up on the member’s Facebook news feeds more often, which will again increase traffic and engagement. You are creating a chain reaction of community collaboration through carefully thought out content. In the end this will only benefit your school and all those involved.
This same idea can roll over to all groups, clubs, or activities. Football teams can use the group to notify new players of their pre-season practice schedule. The marching band can use their group to upload videos of their routines to show off their talents to the parents of students in their group. The National Honors Society can organize their local chapter’s volunteer programs.
Communication and a sense of community are key to success. Groups will bring the excitement and commitment that used to be found just in the classroom and will extend that to all mobile devices and keep everyone working seamlessly towards the same goal.
Hebron Academy’s Parents’ Association group is a great example of this. As a boarding school, Hebron Academy has students from all over the world, and this Facebook Group gives parents a platform to communicate, ask questions, and stay up-to-date with the latest from the school.
Minnetonka Public Schools has a very busy and thriving Facebook group for their Middle Schools. The parents are very active in this group — which, when you think about it, makes total sense. The group is comprised of many millennials and Gen Y — Facebook’s strongest users.
3. Alumni Specific Groups
Generation Z, millennials, baby boomers - they may all point fingers at each other for just about everything, but do you know what they do see eye to eye on (and probably don’t notice)? The pride they have for their graduating class! Baby boomers proudly sport their class rings, displaying “61” on the side, engraved in metal; meanwhile, Generation Z shows off their achievement with “Suffield Academy Class of 2021” in their Instagram bio.
There is no reason that their sense of achievement and community should diminish after graduation. By creating a Facebook Group for each alumni class, the alumni can continue to grow together in a place familiar to them: social media.
An alumni group would allow many paths of communication that would otherwise be closed: spotlight an alum for their new career move, post a memory on the anniversary of a big win for the school while they were attending, organize reunions by taking polls of which day and venue would work best for the majority of people. By continuing to harvest this pride amongst your alumni you creating a community that others would want to be a part of.
Students, parents, staff, and alumni thrive in a virtual community. By creating a safe and private space for all levels of a school community there will be an increase in communication, commitment, and campus wide involvement. We know that students and schools thrive with the right support, so let’s expand that supportive network and create more success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.