- General Best Practices
Often, when schools think about their social media strategy, they think about it in silos. The admissions team needs to attract and engage prospective families; the marketing team needs to keep current families informed; the athletics community want to provide fans with up-to-the-minute updates; and the development team needs to utilize the power of social to drive donations. But this siloed approach does not create a unified, branded message that engages all audiences. (And for most schools, can lead to a disjointed strategy and cross-departmental disagreements.)
Creating a social media calendar that plans content a week, a month, a quarter, or even a year in advance can help you create a more cohesive social media approach that increases engagement and reaches all of your target audiences.
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
To create your school’s social media calendar, you’ll need to follow four simple steps:
- Understand (and follow!) social media content posting allowances
- Select a social media content “rule” to follow
- Determine posting cadences
- Work closely with all departments to plan content on a timely basis that works for you
Now, let’s dive into each of these steps in a bit more detail.
Step 1: Understand Social Media Content Posting Allowances
One of the most frequently asked questions we get about social media is “how do we fit content for admissions, marketing, development and athletics onto the calendar?” And, this question is actually rather simple to answer if you think about it in terms of numbers.
If your school uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you are allowed a total of 12-18 posts per day — that’s 84-126 posts per week (considering all seven days, not just the five school days) to share across all your departments.
This breaks down to:
- 1-2 posts per day on Facebook
- 1 post per day on Instagram
- 10-15 posts per day on Twitter
With this in mind, you might say: “okay, well, marketing gets 7 posts per week on Facebook, admissions gets 4, development gets 1, and athletics gets 2.”
But, you might be wondering — what happens if I want to post 3-4 times per day on Facebook, or two to three times per day on Instagram, in order to meet the needs of our departments.
The short answer is “don’t do it!”
The long answer is “don’t do it because you’re going to appear ‘spammy’ to Instagram and Facebook’s picky algorithms, and the more content you post on the same day, the less likely it is to be seen!”
Social media content allowances are rather strict platform to platform. 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 timeline.
But, let’s not go divvying up those 126 unique pieces of content just yet. You need to consider one more important part of the equation: what the content each department is posting should be.
Step 2: Select a Social Media Content “Rule” and Follow It
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.
In all cases, to be clear on what these types of content are:
- Promotional content is content that promotes your brand or an event. (Think annual fund, #GivingTuesday, open houses, events, etc.)
- Curated content means original content you create. This could be a blog, a video, or even just an image.
- Shared content is content you share — such as blogs from other industry experts, from partners within the community, or even content from other leaders within your school community.
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 content 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 content 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. But, whatever works for your school is what you should keep doing!
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!
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, Almaden Country Day School’s Facebook post about their speech and debate team received 6x higher engagement than their post about an online auction.
Linden Hall’s Facebook post about their World Tour Auction was promoted just an hour after their post about having some early spring fun. The content-driven post received 12x higher engagement than the promotional posts.
And on Instagram, the trend is the same. Compare this post promoting Hawai’i Prep’s 43rd Annual Horse Show, to a post one day later about senior capstone projects. The post on senior capstone projects received nearly 3x higher engagement than the one promoting the event.
HPA uses their Instagram rather frequently to promote events (still following the 70-20-10/4-1-1 rules), and if you take the time to peruse their Instagram, you will notice a common thread in relation to the engagement of promotional posts vs. content-driven posts.
Why is this the case? Well, promotional content is about you and entertaining, educational content is about your audience. In a digital world of noise, today’s consumer — despite their generational affiliation — want to be engaged, not sold to.
Step 3: Determine a Social Media Posting Cadence
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 set of rules that you create 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 very messy very quickly 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 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?
You can also use our Social Media Calendar Template, which contains a posting cadence template for working through this with your team.
Step 4: Determine Where Social Media Ads Fit In
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!
Step 5: Develop and Plan Social Media Content with All Departments
Because social media isn’t a siloed communications platform, your calendar shouldn’t be created in a silo. 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, quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis
- How you’re going to use social media ads throughout the year to boost awareness and engagement
To help with your planning efforts, we recommend using our School Social Media Calendar Template. The template includes a weekly posting calendar, posting cadence example, and examples of successful content calendars for both the 70-10-20 rule and the rule of thirds.
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 adhering to the rather “strict” algorithms imposing on your organic reach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, 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.
- Inbound Marketing
- Social Media