• Higher Education
Feature Friday: How St. Ignatius College Prep Made Their Social Media Strategy Engaging and Profitable
Stephanie Griffin

Last fall, I shared some insight into how Facebook Live would be the next best thing for schools - and based on my research, it seems I was onto something. 2017 has been the year of video (including social media video and live streaming). If your school is not currently using video either on your website or social media, you really should because:

  • Online videos will account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020
  • Videos up to 2 minutes long get the most engagement
  • 80% of Livestream's (live video software) survey respondents would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog
  • Video of a live event increases brand favorability by 63%

St. Ignatius College Prep Video on iPad

Video is also something that Sean Lawhon, Executive Producer for Digital & Social Media at St.Ignatius College Preparatory in California, wanted to do more of when he joined the school's communications team in 2010. With a background and knowledge of social media, technology, and mobile use, he established new digital marketing goals — one of them being to drive their own coverage around the school's events and achievements (like a newsroom) and break myths others in the community may have about the school.

Being an early adopter of video marketing and social media marketing, St. Ignatius Prep has quite a bit of experience and practice in digital marketing. So, when we found out the school was making money (yes, MAKING!) using social media, it made total sense. I thought "this is a school who totally knows what they're doing." Intrigued, I reached out to Sean to discuss the school's social media strategy. As it turns out, they are doing everything right.

Here are the five key components of the school's successful and profitable social media marketing strategy:

1) Create Social Media Content Around Your Audiences

Social media content is a key component of your school's overall content marketing strategy. The trick to growing your audience and increasing engagement is creating targeted content for different audiences. As a school, you should be writing content for audiences such as current students and families, prospective students and families, and members of the school community. By knowing how to use each platform, it can help your school share content the right way with your followers.

For example, for prospective families. St. Ignatius currently has a pinned post on their Twitter profile with their admissions video from last year to help grow the interest in the school from prospects landing on the Twitter page:

SICP Pinned Tweet

Sean also finds that certain audiences tend to be more active on certain social media platforms. For instance, he is seeing recent grads engaging more on Facebook, fans of the school's athletics engaging more on Twitter, and current students using Snapchat — which the school is beta testing as a new part to their social media strategy.

By knowing who their target audience is on each platform, and who is engaging, it becomes easier to craft different pieces of content and strategies for each network. However, we all know that sourcing content isn't always easy, especially in a small shop. That's why Sean incorporates authentic content by retweeting content from members of the school community as well as thought leaders who encourage the same values and mission behind the school:

SICP User-Generated Tweets

"It's important for us to showcase the school's story and presence in the community," said Sean. "We want to showcase the school's mission, how it differentiates from others, and re-share relevant content with the same message so it can resonate with our large audience online."

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2) Know Where Your Audiences Are, And Post Content That Interests Them

When it comes to strategizing the school's social media content each month, Sean has a unique approach. First, he says he treats each platform differently when it comes time to post content. "Whether it's a sport game or breaking news, I go to Twitter first to post any update," said Sean.

Then, Sean said he only posts on social media in the moment instead of scheduling content ahead of time because he wants to assure the tone of social media makes sense for the given moment. "We try not to only tell what's happening now, but also feature alumni stories, athletics, performing arts, and more as they are happening," said Sean. "We're driving our own school story on social media, like what a PR firm would do for a company."

For example, he went to social media to post live from this past week's open house at the school, and encouraged people to stop by:

SICP Tweet about Open House

We recommend having a balance of both so you are always sharing out content on your social media platforms, but also have the live posting aspect throughout the day when your followers are also on social media.

3) Track When Your School Name or Branded Hashtags Are Mentioned Online

Sean also spends a lot of his time tracking who is talking about the school on social media. You can easily track this for your school too based on your branded hashtags, Twitter handle, and other social media usernames. You can also search in certain social media platforms, like Twitter, to narrow down your search results even further. This is an example of a search with the school's Twitter handle and the potential results:

SICP Search Results on Twitter

By staying on top of when your school is mentioned online all together, it allows you the perfect opportunity to engage with individuals sharing stories about the school and help you add that new, authentic content to your school pages.

4) Follow Social Media Trends, like Video and Live Video

St. Ignatius has taken its video presence in social media to a whole new level this past year. From events on campus, to athletic games, and even messages from faculty and staff, Sean has done a great job incorporating video into their social media strategy. Their most recent videos on Facebook in particular tend to have at least a thousand views:

SICP Videos on Facebook

The school will share video during events:

SICP Video on Facebook

And even include posts to videos from SITV, the school's student produced school announcements:


SITV is St. Ignatius College Preparatory's student-run club that brings news to the student body through two video announcements per week. The videos for SITV themselves are uploaded on Vimeo where anyone can watch these videos on demand at any time.

Plus, the use of video doesn't stop on the school's news feed. The Facebook page's cover "photo" is now a video highlighting the school (a new feature Facebook rolled out earlier this year):

SICP Facebook Cover Video

5) Collaborate with Sponsors for Video Profitability

St. Ignatius has a unique platform for its live and on-demand videos for sporting events on the streaming site, The Cube. Live streaming video has been part of Sean's role since joining the school. "Our longtime athletic rival in San Francisco was live streaming audio of their football and basketball games back in the late 2000s. When I started working at SI in 2010, our rival school consulted us in how to do what they were doing," said Sean. "The company we both used was Stretch Internet and we still use them today for special events like Graduation since they now stream video too."

For over seven years now, the school has been using this site to stream certain games live using HD video. Sean discovered The Cube when they sent him a cold email asking if the school was looking for another live streaming service that was free for viewers. "For a few years we were using the NFHS Network to stream our games but they went to a subscription model. We wanted to have our games free to the public so we could reach the widest audience possible," said Sean. "Also at the time NFHS was streaming only in standard definition while The Cube was in HD. Over a couple of seasons almost every school in our league, the WCAL, was on The Cube except for two schools. One is still on NFHS and one uses YouTube."

SICP Football Game on The Cube

What's great about using this site is the school is able to share the games as they are happening with those who aren't able to attend in person. The school will stream about 30 games a year from football to basketball to volleyball to lacrosse to soccer. They will even interview student athletes and coaches after the game for an inside look into the teams themselves.

What makes these videos distinct are the sponsors helping make these videos possible thanks to their donations to the school. "Our broadcasts feature fundraising commercials for the school plus commercial reads to our major corporate sponsor, First Republic Bank," said Sean.

In other words, the school will hire sponsors (typically a business) that will have a commercial spot featured a few times during the video broadcast, like a sponsorship. "It's great to get a local business or even a large national business that has a foothold locally in the community," said Sean. "When we use the one main sponsor model, we usually do 3-4 live reads of a commercial during the game especially during time outs. That can be coupled with a traditional 30-60 second commercial that's pre-recorded." The sponsor's payment covers the cost for streaming, hiring freelance producers, and the equipment to record the video.

As for the live streaming videos themselves, they have certainly be successful according to Sean. "Viewership grows every year. We average from 400 people watching to close to 8000 viewers per game depending on the sport and the school we play against," said Sean. "Also, with our 'mobile first' strategy, The Cube can deliver HD video to your phone or other devices like an iPad. Plus, you can go back and watch past games On Demand to fit a viewer's schedule."

From The Cube, Sean is also able to embed the videos on social media and include links that the viewer can follow to be redirected to the archive of on-demand videos.

SICP Sport Game Post on Facebook

This is not only a great way to involve businesses in your school's community, but at the same time, it also allows your school to do more on video professionally through cash donations and underwriting.

Tying These Strategies Together into a Successful Campaign

By incorporating these strategies, St. Ignatius Prep was able to pull off a successful giving day campaign in June. Using social media in particular helped the school meet its goals for the campaign. They included a link to their landing page on their Finalsite website to help drive traffic from social media:

SICP Giving Campaign Page

Then they created a branded hashtag around the campaign, #EverySIngleGift that was being used continuously on Twitter and Facebook.

SICP GIving Campaign Tweets

By posting live throughout the campaign on multiple platforms, they surpassed their goal and raised over $255,000 raised in 24 hours, leaving more of an impression on the power of live posting versus pre-scheduled content.

SICP Giving Campaign Post on Facebook

Great job, St. Ignatius Prep!

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How do your marketing strategies compare? Want to be on our Featured Friday blogs? E-mail us at marketing@finalsite.com and share your success with social media, the Finalsite platform, admissions, crowdfunding, or content marketing!

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Stephanie Griffin

Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.



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