- Published on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 10:49
For now, Facebook serves as the dominant social media platform for Albion College’s communication efforts. Communication efforts are spread out over several pages and groups -- including the main Albion page, the alumni and athletic pages, and various alumni chapters, student groups, and academic departments -- but in Marketing and Communications, we use Facebook as a way to easily and effectively reach the widest audience.
We consider Facebook, especially the main College page, as a snapshot of campus life: events, academic efforts, student and faculty achievement, news and announcements, athletic honors, College milestones, etc.
Our main audience includes the campus community: students, staff, faculty, coaches. With that (about half) is a large audience of alumni and parents. But the number of prospective students “Liking” Albion’s page is growing, making up almost 10% of our audience -- and even with a now-abandoned Admission Office page, most prospective students found out about Albion through the main College page.
Marketing and Communications maintains the following pages on Facebook:
We also service the Class of 20XX groups, to help engage incoming first-year students, help with the Alumni Chapter pages, and assist with the Parent Engagement group.
Types of Posts
Page posts can fit into the following categories:
- Photos: individual photos that tell a (short) story, usually with a link to the albion.edu page with more information.
- Articles: taking links on stories or events and sharing them. These should include photos with the article whenever possible. And the shorter, the better (think “headline,” not “snippet from article” -- and include the link).
- Polls: simple Q and A voting polls the drive engagement and seek opinions.
- Page Promotions: often these promote other College-based Facebook pages, with a link to that page so that fans can “Like” it.
- Photo Galleries: the most popular Page posts we make, by far. Photo galleries reach the most people and often foster the most engagement, especially when fans tag themselves or people they know in photos.
- Videos: sharing YouTube or Vimeo URLs allows fans to watch the video in their Facebook feed.
There are also Promoted Posts: any of the above posts that receive an extra boost in audience attention as paid advertisements. The College promotes posts when it serves our business needs, such as alumni events or giving-based posts.
While there is no set day or time for types of posts, we do stick to a few rough guidelines -- especially when we need to attract a certain audience:
- Photo Fridays: often a single photo or photo gallery that promotes an event or milestone at the College. Easy, breezy, and good for sharing.
- Timing: To reach an older audience, such as alumni, posting before lunch (11:40 a.m., usually) results in better reach and engagement. To reach college and high school students, posting in the evening (8:30-9:30) is best. On the weekends, posting early (8:00 a.m.) or late on Sundays (9:10 p.m.) results in the best engagement.
- Frequency: For the most part, the College should post from the main Facebook page at least once a day -- and sometimes, if there is something like an event taking place on campus, twice. But they should always be spaced several hours apart. During holiday weeks, when most people are on vacation or away from their computers, posting less often is fine. For smaller audiences, like the alumni page, posting a few times a week is fine.
- Scheduling Posts: Facebook allows page administrators to schedule posts ahead of time. This is convenient for late-night and weekend posts, as the admin does not need to be on Facebook to make the post. However, some degree of follow up is good to make sure the audience is engaging with the post, and to mitigate spam and abusive comments.
Scheduling posts also allows page admins to “set it and forget it”: taking promotions and putting them on the posting calendar well in advance. It’s best to keep track of these kinds of posts so that multiple posts don’t appear within the same time period.
Photos are the best way to engage with a page’s Facebook audience, especially when members of the audience are in the pictures. Even mostly text updates should be made via photos: we include the descriptive text and links within the caption. The visual nature of photos helps our content get noticed.
Students and alumni especially love photo galleries. Events, meetings, portraits, classes, field trips -- these types of photo galleries help us engage with our audience. As such, we encourage the audience to tag themselves and their friends for extra reach. When others tag the page’s photos, they are seen by the tagged person, as well as their friends and relatives, helping photo galleries take on a viral nature.
A few best practices on photo galleries:
- Unflattering photos are the opposite of positive engagement. People don’t appreciate these photos in a gallery, so we try to avoid them. Especially people eating meals and embarrassing facial expressions.
- The more photos the merrier, but even smaller galleries are a good way to document our audience’s activities.
- We use the gallery description to caption the event or happening for historical purposes. We also try to include a link back to the appropriate albion.edu page so viewers can learn more about what’s happening in the gallery.
- Because we can’t assume just the Albion audience is viewing the photos, we try to include a caption with each photo when possible for context.
- As we post photo galleries, we direct audience traffic outside of Facebook to view the photos on our Facebook page. This helps send more traffic to the page, and often results in a few “Likes” along the way.
Facebook’s Cover Photo feature is a good opportunity for the College to showcase its brand: campus beauty shots, student activities, and chances for students to participate in creative projects.
The photo should be changed in preparation for big campus events (Homecoming, Commencement, etc.) and seasons changing -- at least monthly, to keep it fresh.
Responding to Messages and Posts
It’s best to approach Facebook page comments, questions, and messages with a customer service attitude. We try to respond within 24 hours or less when possible. The important thing is to respond.
When appropriate, we share the link to the comment so that campus departments can respond if it affects them (Admission for admission-related questions, for instance).
We treat comments as a way to easily engage with our audience that is engaged with us. “Liking” a good or funny comment is an easy way to respond. Asking follow-up questions keeps the conversation going.
Other Pages Posting
For the most part, few people look at others’ posts on the College’s Facebook page.
That being said, some individual and page posts on the Albion page merit a response, either positive or punitive.
We see it this way:
- If an individual or non-College related page posts something that promotes their business, school, or program, we delete is off the page.
- If the post relates to something concerning the College community -- such as a department, organization, team, faculty member, etc. -- it stays.
- If the post is worth sharing with the College community, our page will reshare the post through the main College page feed.
- For Albion-related or alumni-owned business or cause posts, we take them on a case by case basis. For all of them, we ask: is this appropriate for the wider Albion audience?
Negative and Abusive Posts
How do we determine whether to delete or report negative and abusive comments on Facebook?
- It Stays If: It’s critical of the college, critical of policies, teasing, sarcastic, trollish, etc.
- It Goes If: It’s libelous, abusive, racist, sexist, or any of the below categories.
- It Gets Reported to Campus Safety If: It’s threatening, it’s abusive to students or staff, it displays potential self-harm, it promotes or displays destruction of campus property.
Advertising and Promoting Posts
Facebook allows page admins to “promote” posts -- use paid advertising dollars to increase the reach of the post. The more we pay, the bigger the audience.
We use promoted posts for several occasions:
- If the event is deserving of a large audience: Homecoming, Commencement, etc.
- If the post is giving-focused and directs the College community to donate.
- If the post is uniquely Albion and we want it to be seen and shared by a large audience.
- If the post is Admission-based and promotes a visit day or deadline.
Advertising for more page “Likes” helps increase our audience, as well, and we may use promoted posts to attract more fans.
Key Takeaways for Albion’s Facebook Presence
- Facebook reaches the largest, most diverse audience, and is still tops in social media platforms.
- Photos are the most effective posts, but there are smart ways to use them -- such as including links in the caption.
- Scheduling posts ahead of time helps to reach our audience at times when they are active on Facebook.
- We tend to be permissive when it comes to others posting on the page, but we will consider each comment and post on the basis of its usefulness to the campus community.
- Promoted posts are a good, cost-effective way to reach a larger audience with content.