Social media marketing for schools professionals is pretty tough. Most the departments are understaffed and don't have enough money in their budget for a social strategy. As a matter of fact, in our social media survey of 300+ school professionals, about one-third of respondents don't have any social media budget, and another one-third don't know how much to spend. Additionally, only 5% of respondents have social media marketing as a full time job, and 58% dedicate five hours or less per week to social media marketing.
So, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you're not alone. Your colleagues and even your competitors are in the same boat. And we understand that — which is why we frequently host webinars and workshops on the topic, and added social media marketing to our services line-up.
I recently hosted a webinar called Social Media Marketing in 2018: What Schools Need to Know that covered both trends and strategies for social media success this year. (You can download the on-demand version here!) I covered a lot of ground — including Facebook's new algorithm, Instagram Stories, hashtag strategies, and so much more.
At the end of the webinar, I receive a ton of great questions about social media strategies for schools...and I wanted to take the time now to answer them. My rule of thumb — if one person asks a question, at least two others are thinking it.
Now, let's get to those social media questions!
Social Media Accounts
Do you think schools should have a Snapchat account?
Snapchat is not a necessary social media network to have, especially if you work in a K-8 school. While it is one of the most popular social media accounts among students, it requires its own dedicated strategy, and the schools who do use it have not seen any proven ROI on enrollment, retention, or donations.
However, if you have time and want to throw Snapchat into the mix, we have two blogs on it:
We have multiple Twitter accounts that are often retweeted by our main account — is this a good or bad idea?
Personally, I'm a big believer in keeping social media traffic directed at a single account. When you start adding a Twitter account for every athletics team, club and department, you run the risk of off-brand content being posted, inconsistency and dormant accounts.
On the plus side, you're saving yourself a lot of the leg work if you're in a small shop!
If you're looking for a way to unite those Twitter accounts even more, Finalsite Feeds is a great social media aggregation and moderation tool that allows you to bring all of your social media posts into a single stream on your website, while also moderating content to ensure you always put your best foot forward.
Learn how Finalsite Feeds can help your school improve its social presence. Watch this on-demand product overview.
I work at a school where we are school just starting out on social media, which two platforms would you suggest?
Facebook and Instagram. The ad accounts are linked; the strategies are similar; the content can be similar (not always, but sometimes); and you have the potential for reaching the largest audiences. Although the accounts are similar, you still don't want to post on the two accounts at the exact same time with the exact same content. There are some core differences between the two networks, such as:
- Links do not hyperlink in Instagram posts, meaning when you post a link in your Instagram caption it cannot be clicked.
- Instagram encourages hashtag use; Facebook discourages it. On Instagram, the more hashtags you use, the better! On Facebook, limit it to two or less.
- Instagram doesn't care if you ask for likes/comments/shares; Facebook does. The Facebook algorithm sees phrases like "comment below!" as spammy, while this does not affect Instagram posts.
Additionally, your insights may indicate that the two networks have different ideal posting times.
Our school only uses Facebook. Is that enough or should we incorporate another?
If you're school is already active on Facebook and you're seeing good results, it isn't necessary to expand your social media presence. However, when you put all your eggs in one basket, you miss out on other opportunities you may not know even exist yet. Plus, there's always a chance something drastic could change about Facebook and you'd be stuck! I'd recommend adding an Instagram to your social media line-up, for the same reasons as listed above. However, do yourself a favor and avoid the guesswork. Do a survey of your community and ask if they'd prefer to see you be active on Instagram, Twitter, or even Snapchat. That way, you give your community what they want.
How can you use a Facebook group for schools?
Facebook Groups can be used for schools in a number of ways. They can be used to create a place for accepted students, current students, or alumni to communicate. Facebook groups are great because they can be public or private, and they are currently favored by Facebook's new algorithm. In addition, members of the group automatically receive a notification every time someone posts in the group, unless they opt out. This is a great way to keep current families and alumni in-the-loop.
How do you invite individuals to join the group?
You can invite members to join the group directly via Facebook if you're friends (most likely not common for school marketers!). Or, you can invite them via email with a message as to why they are invited. For example if you wanted to make a group for accepted students, you could invite them via email after they receive their acceptance packet. Likewise for current students, parents and alumni.
Is there a "good time" to post?
There is no "good time" that works for everyone. Typically early mornings, lunchtime, and after dinner are times that get high engagement. Do some experimenting by posting the same content 3-4 times during the week at different times, then use insights/analytics to see which performed the best.
Do students even have Facebook anymore?
Yes — and so do their parents, grandparents, and your alumni! While Facebook doesn't appear to be as active as say, Instagram or Snapchat, 66% of teens report they are active on Facebook.
All things considered, take the time to do an analysis of the audience on each of your social media networks, and tailor your content to each audience. If your students aren't on Facebook, that's OK! You can find them on Instagram instead.
Why can't we post YouTube or Vimeo links on Facebook?
The Facebook algorithm punishes video not uploaded natively to its platform. Additionally, Vimeo and YouTube links won't display as well as a video that is uploaded directly to Facebook.
What is best way to ask for a review?
Relationships matter! The lowest-hanging fruit is your core group of rabid supporters - parents & alums - who should be approached individually before you try any mass appeal for reviews.
Do you have any advice for combating negative reviews from parents, alumni and students — especially if it is due to misinformation?
Most review sources have some mechanism for flagging reviews that violate the source's policies, but in general the best defense is a good offense - harness your community to dilute the negatives with a flood of positives. At the end of the day the fight to remove negative reviews is a losing battle.
If you've resolved an issue with an individual who previously wrote the bad review, you can ask them offline to edit or remove their negative review, as they can easily do on Facebook.
How can we remove a negative review from a fake profile?
Unfortunately, in most cases a negative review cannot be removed by your school. Again, the best way to combat a negative review is with lots of good reviews!
Social Media Ads
Will boosted posts come across as ads and be perceived negatively or inauthentic since they say "sponsored" at the top?
They will be marked discreetly with a word like "promoted" or "sponsored", but there's some debate whether that matters much when the post is authentically interesting or of high quality. Go for it!
Does the new Facebook algorithm affect paid reach?
The January 2018 update you're asking about will force more marketers to enter the paid social arena, so in the sense that competition goes up, then paid reach for the same spend will go down, yes.
Social Media Content
How should we crowdsource content is the majority of those using our hashtag have private accounts?
Crowdsourcing content using hashtags is one of the most popular ways to get great, authentic content for your school — and private accounts do post an issue! Enlist a group of brand ambassadors at your school that consists of parents, students and staff who have provided you permission to follow them on social media. That way, you can see their content without invading their personal privacy.
How do you share other people's content on Instagram (i.e. Facebook has share, Twitter has retweet)?
There is a free app called the "Repost App" you can use to repost Instagram content. It can be downloaded in your app store.
What is the best way to ask for engagement on a post, without appearing spammy?
Because asking for comments, likes and shares is frowned upon by at least Facebook's algorithm, it is important to get crafty in how you ask for engagement. (Note, that this does not apply to Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.) That being said, you can try asking for engagement by asking questions, and encouraging thoughtful engagement like:
- What's your favorite student activity?
- Leave a favorite memory you had with this retiring teacher below!
- Describe this photo in one word.
- Caption this: [insert photo]
The list goes on and on, but there is plenty of opportunity to get creative!
Do you recommend keeping Twitter and Facebook separate? Right now anything we tweet goes to Facebook.
Yes, yes, yes. A million times less. The content and posting strategies for Facebook and Twitter are completely different and should be treated separately. For example, content can be long on Facebook, and you can use multiple photos.
How can we motivate parents and students to use our hashtag?
Run a contest! It always works. You can also include your hashtag in your Instagram and Twitter bios and let followers know they should use it if they want to be featured on your page! And lastly, include it in all the digital communications you send out (like a monthly newsletter) to encourage its adoption and use.
Students and Social Media
How do you feel about student run accounts?
Student-run accounts can be great for schools who don't have the time to dedicate to social media. However, you want to be sure every single post isn't just a student takeover. (Reserve those for Instagram stories!) Finalsite Feeds is great for sharing the content from student-run accounts on your public website and/or Portals.
How do you do an Instagram takeover with students?
A temporary password is a great way to allow students to takeover your Instagram for the day, especially if they're doing so using the Stories feature. If the takeover is for content in the Instagram feed, you can always ask students to submit content to a member of your marketing team to ensure it is on brand prior to posting.
Is it OK to tag current students in Instagram posts?
With permission, yes. Be sure to follow your school's specific guidelines, though.
Should we follow our followers? What are the pro and cons?
While following your followers may seem like a good idea, many students won't want the invasion of privacy, even if their profile is public. However, you can give other local businesses a follow-back!
Alright social media marketers, that's a wrap! If you need help making the most of your school's social media marketing strategy, we have an entire team of social media specialists here at Finalsite who want to help you succeed! Learn more about our in-depth social media audit, social media ad services, profile management services and online review management services on our website.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, and Marketing Manager for Public Schools, Mia creates content that is helpful to public schools and districts. 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.