- General Best Practices
It's hard to believe, but I made my family's small business a Facebook page for marketing back in 2007 (before business pages existed), based on the fact that I thought it was their best way to reach their target audience, with some easy-to-digest content, affordably.
Since 2007 that concept hasn't changed much, although algorithms, high-expectations, and a total content overload has made it quite a bit more difficult.
And this is the precise reason why we hosted our first-ever Social Media Workshop last Friday. We wanted to share how schools can be successful in an algorithm-driven, affordable, social environment where their current and prospective families live and thrive.
With a dozen sessions crammed into one short day, there were so many amazing ideas shared, I could hardly keep up with the live tweets! However, I've narrowed down my ten favorite tips that every school should consider when implementing a social media strategy.
1. Social media is not the place to be "prim and proper."
Because social media is, in fact, a place to be social, you don't need to follow the same rules as you would in a "look book", brochure, or even on your website. Have conversations, a voice, and a personality. Most importantly, keep it consistent!
2. An active social presence improves your performance in search.
Nope — search engine optimization (SEO) is not just title tags, meta descriptions and keywords. Having an active presence on social media helps give your rankings a boost because:
- You'll be seen as an influencer. Accounts and pages that have more followers and higher engagement are seen as credible — and Google is all about credibility.
- You're establishing the high-quality backlinks that Google loves.
- Google relies on tweets to generate new content — so depending on the particular search or keyword, having the right 140 characters can land you a spot on page 1.
3. Content syndication isn't a strategy.
Taking one piece of content and distributing it the same way on every social network isn't a strategy, and it isn't going to provide you with the engagement you need to build an active social media presence. Each piece of content you want to share on social needs to be individually crafted for each social network.
For videos: Don't distribute the same YouTube video across all platforms. Use native video to increase organic reach, and adjust the length based on platform. Try using 15-30 second videos on Instagram and YouTube, and longer videos on Facebook.
For long-form content (like a news story): Facebook followers don't mind reading longer posts, so feel free to be slightly more descriptive on this platform. Twitter, on the other hand, moves fast. A short, enticing headline with a link to your website is all you need. And always include a photo.
4.The more contributors you have, the better your social media content strategy will be.
Everyone at your school is a content contributor, and your students are your most valuable marketing tools — so make the most of them! You can't be at every event. More importantly, you don't know every mini, meaningful story happening day-to-day. But, your students do.
The Williams School in New London, CT has a student media team that helps to develop and maintain social media content for an active presence. The Westover School has student bloggers in Australia. Loomis Chaffee (who was inspired by The Williams School's social media team back in 2014) also has a student media team to help generate authentic, consistent content.
Free Report: The State of Social Media Marketing Among Schools
5. You need to prove there's a human on the other side of the screen.
One of the biggest mistakes schools make is not engaging with their followers on social media out of fear of "what could happen." But, engaging with followers is one of the best things you can do for your school's brand and social media presence. It humanizes your school, encourages engagement, and shows that you care.
Madison Neal, Loomis Chaffee's Social Media Manager, shared that she has specific strategies in place for engaging with individuals on each network that include:
- "Liking" and commenting on photos Loomis Chaffee is tagged in on Instagram;
- Retweeting a post that's relevant and engaging, even if she didn't post it;
- "Liking" or replying to comments on Facebook.
6. You have to give a little before you can take a little.
Social media isn't a podium from which you're supposed to shout your brand and messaging. It's a place to have a conversation. The most successful social media accounts provide fun and entertaining content, before asking for something in return — like a donation.
For example, St. Anne's-Belfield School tweets numerous witty and fun photos in a row, and then reminds followers that it's time to sign up for summer programs!
Similarly, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy posted this amazing native video on Twitter, and then followed it up with a CTA for donating to their annual fund.
7. A successful social media strategy means conversation + content.
Of course you're going to want to live tweet the championship game, retweet alumni, and reply to followers — but what are the important messages you need to share at a particular time of year? And what kind of content do you have to go along with that?
Take the time to create a calendar that maps out when you need to post about key events, and then make a list of the content you have to promote that event including:
- News stories
Then, create a plan for how you're going to share each piece of content on each network, at a particular time.
8. Consistency is the key to success.
Posting great content on a frequent basis in a consistent voice will build you a good, social reputation — while having a Twitter account that hasn't been updated since 2015 won't. If you're going to implement a social media strategy, you need to commit to posting every day. And yes, that means during the summer and winter breaks — that's when your audience is most active!
9. Organic social posts won't always cut it.
Think of it this way: with 10,000 fans, you can get 25,000 Facebook clicks in a year. With $10,000, you can get that many clicks in a single day. Social ads help you reach your current followers, or new prospects — even if you have a tight budget.
If social ads are completely out of the question, focus on posting algorithm-favored posts, such as native videos and photos. (By the way, we can help with that!)
10. You're not alone.
Just so you know, you're not alone in the whole "I have no idea what I'm doing but I have this thing called Twitter" boat. Our workshop was nearly a 50/50 split of social media rookies and pros. Everyone has to start somewhere — and it's not too late! It's important to be strategic, and have a lot of patience.
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.
- Content Marketing
- Social Media