When schools and districts think about social media, they all too often think about it in silos. The admissions team needs to engage prospective families, the communications team needs to keep current families informed, the athletics community wants to provide fans with up-to-the-minute updates...and the list goes on.
For most schools, this disjointed management can lead to poor strategy and miscommunication. Without an organized strategy and cohesive schedule, you risk sharing your school's content in a way that engages all your audiences.
Creating a social media calendar that plans content a week, a month, or even a semester in advance can help you create a cohesive social media approach that increases engagement, reaches all of your target audiences, and even saves you time in the long run.
Tips on Creating a Social Media Calendar for Your School
- Understand How Often You Can (and Should) Post
- Select a Social Media Content "Rule" and Follow It
- Determine a Social Media Posting Cadence
- Determine Where Social Media Ads Fit In
- Develop and Plan Social Media Content with All Departments
A social media calendar has the power to:
- Engage all audiences each week throughout the year
- Maintain consistent engagement
- Offer diverse content across all networks
- Consider what your community wants to engage with, not what you want to share
- Optimize content based on each network’s algorithms
Now, let’s dive into each of these steps in a bit more detail.
Two of the most frequently asked questions we get about social media are, “How do we fit all of our content onto one social media calendar?” and, “How do we know what channels to post on?”
Let’s tackle the latter question.
One of the most common pitfalls to getting started with a social media strategy is operating under the assumption that you must be on every channel, every day.
It is better to have a consistent presence on two channels than a haphazard presence on five channels.
If your team or bandwidth is stretched thin, aim to begin on Facebook and Instagram. These channels continue to offer the most reach to get in front of both parents and students alike. Instagram, in particular, is becoming a major player in the social media space, offering the most diverse content options to make the most of your efforts.
Now, to answer: “How do we fit all of our content onto one social media calendar?”
When thinking about the “big four” social media channels, the recommended daily posts allotment are:
1-2 posts per day on Facebook
1 post per day on Instagram, with the opportunity to add 5+ Stories and 1 Reel daily as needed
3-4 posts per week on LinkedIn
3+ Tweets per day on Twitter
With this in mind, you can decide on an exact allotment of posts per departmental request. You can confidently say something like, “OK, marketing gets 5 posts per week on Facebook, admissions gets 2, development gets 1, and athletics gets 2.”
You might be wondering what happens, then, if you receive requests that would exceed these allotments. Maybe you already posted on Instagram today, and your athletics department requests five additional Instagram posts today regarding a sports event.
The short answer: Don’t do it!
The long answer: Exceeding the amount of recommended daily posts on each channel won’t make the algorithms work in your favor. The more content you post on the same day, the less likely it is to be seen and engaged with!
Platform to platform, social media content allowances can be strict. These best practices are best practices for a reason — and if you want to optimize your organic reach, you need to follow the “rules” set forth by social media algorithms. Save that “extra” content for a day during the week when you have nothing to post. You can also rely on the Stories feature of Instagram and Facebook to post additional content outside of your daily allotment.
There are a few sets of social media “rules” for content, such as the 4-1-1 rule, the 70-20-10 rule, and the rule of thirds. In all cases, they suggest that a balanced message takes form with a combination of shared, promotional, original, engaging, and authentic content.
The 4-1-1 Rule: For every four pieces of fun/educational content, you’re allowed one piece of shared content and one piece of promotional content.
The 70-20-10 Rule: 70% of your content should be original, relevant, engaging content (think pictures, live videos blogs, etc.); 20% of your content should be shared from other sources (such as industry blogs), and only 10% of your content should be promotional (think open house invites).
Rule of Thirds: This suggests that ⅓ of your content can be promotional, ⅓ should be shared content, and the other ⅓ of your time should be spent about engaging with your followers. In other words, this rule suggests that you can have an equal amount of promotional and informative content, as long as you engage with followers along the way to create a balanced message.
What are these content types?
- Promotional Content is content that promotes your schools or an event. (Think annual fund, #GivingTuesday, open houses, admissions messages, etc.)
- Shared Content includes blogs from other industry experts, crowdsources content from within the community, or even content from other leaders at your school.
- Educational/Engaginging Content includes the bulk of what you should be posting. This includes student highlights, fun trivia questions, throwbacks, and any content that encourages interaction.
In order to make sense of these rules, we’ll need to do a little social media math!
For the sake of everyone’s sanity, let’s focus on following these rules for Instagram and Facebook only (as Twitter seems to be somewhat of a dying breed at most schools for marketing, admissions, and development.)
So, you get two posts per day on Facebook and one post per day on Instagram. (You also get unlimited stories on both platforms!)
This gives you a total of 21 posts per week across both networks — 7 on Instagram, and 14 on Facebook.
If you’re following the 4-1-1 or 70-20-10 rule, this means:
- 15 of your posts should be engagement-driven
- 4 of your posts should be shared from other sources
- Only 2 of those posts should be promotional!
If you’re following the rule of thirds, this means:
- 11 of your posts can be engagement-driven (Split between original content and shared content)
- 10 of your posts can be promotional
- Whenever someone comments or asks a question, you need to be responsive — no excuses!
If your school relies heavily on Twitter, you’ll want to incorporate that content into your social media equation as well. What we’ve been hearing from schools over the past year, however, is that Twitter is no longer an integral component of their marketing and admissions strategies, but a great platform for athletics.
Which rule is right for your school? The answer to that question should be decided by those who contribute to your social media accounts. For most schools, the 70-20-10 rule offers the most engaging presence. You may feel the need to slightly adapt these rules too. For example, maybe you can’t come up with enough shared content for it to be 20% of your strategy — switch shared content with promotional content to allow more room to share events, and less room to promote content from other sources. What is most important is that you pick a rule and stick to it to create a cohesive message that promotes content from all departments!
Sticking to engagement-driven posts as opposed to promotional posts will cultivate a sense of community that is so vital on social media today.
In general, schools see much higher engagement — across Facebook and Instagram — on content-driven posts as opposed to promotional posts.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Promoted just one day apart, Notre Dame Academy’s Instagram post celebrating their Spanish teacher received over 300 more likes and comments than their post about an upcoming event.
Similarly, on Facebook, Eden Prairie Schools saw incredible engagement on a post that celebrated a student-athlete compared to a post promoting their tutoring program.
Why do we see this trend? Well, promotional content is about you, while engaging and educational content is about your community. In a digital world of noise, today’s social media user wants to be engaged, not sold to!
Aside from respecting social media algorithms, this may be the most important step to creating an unbeatable social media calendar. A social media posting cadence sets your own rules to determine how many times you will promote a piece of content, an event, important information, etc.
One of the main reasons a school’s social media calendar can get overwhelming is the lack of structure for posting content. When you decide, for example, that an event will be promoted three weeks in advance, one week in advance, and two days before, it makes planning content within your calendar much easier. (It also means you’ll debate with your colleagues less often about when and where to post!)
Consider the following questions to create your own social media posting cadence:
- How many times will you promote an event before it happens?
- How many times will you post a piece of news or a blog?
- How many times will you post important information?
- How will you share information after an event? How soon?
- How will you use Stories and live video to supplement content within your feed?
- Which platforms make sense for what we’re trying to promote?
- Who is the target audience of a particular piece of content?
Put these rules into an easy-to-reference spreadsheet so that you and your team can get a clear picture of how often you’ll be planning certain pieces of content.
You can also use our Complete Social Media Calendar for Schools and Districts, which contains daily post ideas throughout the year!
Today, most schools will need to invest some budget into social media ads in order to increase awareness — especially for promotional content, which by nature sees less organic engagement.
As you build your social media calendar, determine which events or content you’ll want to contribute ad budget to, and how much. Mark this in your social media calendar so you can be prepared in advance.
And, if you need help with developing a social media ad strategy, our team of experienced consultants can help!
Because social media isn’t a siloed communications platform, your calendar shouldn’t be created in a silo, either. To develop your calendar, work with the departments who want content posted to social media to::
- Decide which platforms you’re going to use
- Pick a social media “rule” that works best
- Create social media content cadences
- Plan content together on a yearly, monthly, or weekly basis
- How you’re going to use social media ads throughout the year to boost awareness and engagement
Then, use your agreed-upon cadence and engagement rule to build out your ideas for each day. Start with what you want to post, question whether it is content created for your community or you to determine if you’ve already met your promotional quota, and then determine which channels work best for that content type. It may look something like:
Creating a planned social media calendar empowers your school to increase social media engagement, make all of your departments happy, and keep your community in the loop, all the while appealing to the algorithms that impact your organic reach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Director of Demand Generation, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.