I’m pleased to launch my School Spotlight series at SchneiderB.com. My goal with this series is to highlight schools, that in my opinion, are doing great things with social media and inbound marketing. I also plan on interviewing the person responsible for the specific social media channel with the hope that they will share their knowledge with you.
Matt and I first connected a few years ago when he asked me a question about social media, specifically Facebook. When I went to check out his school’s Facebook Page I was immediately impressed with the engagement of his Fans and quality of his content.
1. How long have you had a Facebook page for Pulaski Academy?
Three and a half years. January 10, 2009 (thanks to timeline, I now know the exact date!).
2. How many people help to manage your main PA Facebook page?
Really, just two staff members. Myself and our Director of Marketing and Communication manage the page. We both have Manager Administrative Roles, but I tend to oversee most of it and maintain the majority of the page. She helps me with posts, by posting some during the week or will remind me of content or a good story we could highlight. I make most of the design changes and will work with the apps we use on the page.
3. How much time does your group spend managing your main PA Facebook page?
It definitely varies from week to week. On a consistent, week to week basis, probably 10 hours a week; maybe an hour a day. I work on bigger picture stuff during the year and I’ve used the summers to implement major changes. If we decide to change our custom tabs at the top of the page or update our pages inside the Fanpage, that may take more time and planning, especially if it involves some sort of graphic design. Our Director of Marketing and Communication is also our graphic designer, so we work together on ideas and the creative side. I tend to lean more towards the technical side, especially of how we will use Facebook and social media to market to and reach out to our prospective families. As Facebook continues to make major changes to the fanpage layout, etc, we often have to spend a lot more time making changes to the page – it kind of re-directs our plans some and makes us have to focus in a little different direction. That can be a little time consuming.
4. What tools do you use to manage the Facebook page?
I use Photoshop a lot. My graphic designer will use Photoshop and other adobe software to do high end graphics. We take a lot of our own photography and she will edit those pictures some. We’re using iframes and some static HTML apps for our graphics on our custom pages. I use North Social’s apps as well, although I haven’t been very consistent utilizing North Social’s potential, as I probably should. One of my goals is to really take advantage of what they have to offer. My goal, in the next 6 months, is to be using some of their apps on a more consistent basis and to their full potential. We use their First Impression Application and are in the process of using their Sign Up App. We use the Facebook insights to look at what types of posts are effective and to gather data like demographics and such that might useful in reporting ROI and making marketing decisions.
5. Do you schedule Facebook posts?
We do not, but probably should. We tend to post content or stories that we hear about during the week. I will have campus departments contact me and ask me to post an announcement from time to time. I guess it evens out to about 2-3 posts per day, but there are time frames in between they we might lag a little without any posts. I’m always trying to gather stories and collect things I think would be relevant and engaging. By not scheduling posts, we’ve probably run into the problem of posting too much about one specific area of the school, i.e. sports or football. Our fans have complained about this some. Our posting, at times might be sporadic, but I really try to monitor that – I check the Fanpage daily and I know if there is a period of time where engagement is low or we have not posted anything. If that becomes the case, I will look for content to post.
6.What are your goals for the main PA Facebook page?
- Continue to research and study Facebook Marketing and other Independent School Facebook pages. We want to stay on top and in front of how to use Facebook to market and especially how independent schools are doing so. We’re always thinking of how we can be innovative and connect with families in new ways and we get ideas and creativity from seeing what other schools are doing. There are some phenomenal independent school fan pages out there right now!
- While our Facebook page has been a key tool for us to do some internal marketing (current families, faculty, etc.), it’s also a place where we want to engage prospective families. We hope that a large demographic of our fans are prospective parents. Our goal is to figure out how we can engage them more – maybe even begin to collect some data on them, like email, name, etc. I want to offer some content that they could download in exchange for contact information, so we can begin connecting with them. I think we can utilize Facebook a lot more as a key inbound marketing tool for us.
- In the short term, we need to update our tabs at the top of the page and update our custom pages with new graphics and links. I’d like to add a page that is sort of a Prospective Family Hub where they can find admission information and links. We need to take advantage of the apps that our out there that will more efficiently help us market and engage prospective families.
- I think we really need to look at how we tie in and connect our social media marketing with our website, email and other forms of inbound marketing. We need a more effective customer relations management tool. We really need to know who is using our social media, website etc. and how we can move people along that continuum from being interested in our school and gathering information to enrolling.
- We want to better collect and present data to our senior team and board. The data is rich and we’ve not really been consistent with that. We need to better communicate the ROI of social media. The data is there, we’ve just not “mined” it or articulated it very well.
7. What type of posts have you found are the most successful?
Posts about student achievements and accomplishments do well. Sports posts tend to do very well. I almost always include a picture with my post. Posts with pictures tend to do better than those without. Post with pics of our students do very well. I think parents want to see what life is like at Pulaski Academy. A current parent or prospective parent cannot be in a classroom all day, so Facebook gives us the opportunity to show life inside the classroom during the day. I think it’s a pretty honest and real look at what life is like at Pulaski Academy. Posts about faculty accomplishments or simply just highlight a faculty member do very well. I think anything that “tells the story” of our school has done well.
8. You have very good fan engagement on your main PA Facebook page. How have you been able to achieve that engagement?
I’m not 100% sure how – we have great fans! I would guess by trying to select content that is relevant and engaging, stories that communicate the value addedness of the school and “tells the story”. If a parent reads a story or sees a picture and it hits home the value of an independent school education at Pulaski Academy, than that really reinforces the decision and I think there is security in the confidence that you’ve made the right choice. There is a synergy created that is contagious as parents read and comment about the school. It’s the same dynamic with alumni and event prospective families. People want to be assured their investment is worth it – whether it’s paying back now or will down the road, at some point. A Facebook post might be one of those small moments that inches a family closer toward making the decision to attend PA – It might be a make/break it moment for a family. I think it really is one of our best word of mouth tools! When we started, we marketed the page and our social media very well. We got the word out that the page was there and we wanted fans to engage with it. We still do that as much as we can. If you market it well and you have great content, people will engage it. For the majority of our families, it’s now become kind of the “go to” place for information about the school.
9. I’m a proponent of having only one Facebook page for your school. You have quite a few PA Facebook pages for PA. Has that worked for your school?
We’ll I am the proponent of only one school page as well. I’m actually not sure how all those other pages got out there. We try to monitor that as much as we can and have been able to delete some of them that were obsolete and out dated. We really try to monitor and control what staff, faculty or students want to create Fanpages, use Twitter or blog. We definitely do not want to detract attention and engagement from the main Facebook page in any way. Alot of the pages out there were created without our knowledge.
10. If you knew then what you know now — what advice can you share for schools just starting out with Facebook?
- Initially, research and study as much as you can regarding Facebook and social media marketing. Make it a goal to become an expert in it! Look at as many independent school Facebook sites as you can – research and study those sites. Ask questions and talk to schools that are using Facebook and doing it well. And continue to do this! Always be a student of social media and social media marketing? I make it a habit to periodically look at independent school websites and Facebook pages. I’m always trying to grab ideas and see what other schools are doing and how they are using Facebook. I guess, in a way, I’m never satisfied with how we are using Facebook and just believe we could be doing things more effective and better. I’m happy with what we are doing, but I know we can improve and innovate. As Facebook continues to make changes, this also gives us the opportunity to evolve some, which I think is good!
- Have a plan, set some goals, and launch! We talked a lot about starting Facebook before we did and finally just went for it! It can be easy to talk about “pulling the trigger” and never actually doing it. Sometimes, you just have to do it.
- Find a few websites and people that are kind of your “go to” places for learning and for questions. I use HubSpot and edSocialMedia as resources where I can continually learn and I’ve grabbed onto a few veterans (Brendan Schneider and Rick Newberry) in the independent school world that I respect and have been in the game a little longer than I have in regard to marketing and social media. I ask questions and follow what they are doing and communicating.
- Stay on top of the Facebook changes! Facebook usually announces when they will be making platform changes well in advance – so stay on top of those and have a plan.
- If you can, have a team of a few people to help you. Create some general Facebook policies for how fans will use the page, what types of content will be posted and policies for how students and faculty will use social media.
11. Can you share one ‘secret’ which has helped your Facebook page to be successful?
We early on had a contest to grow the page some. That was successful and helped us get over the 1000 mark – I thought it worked well. Run Facebook ads!!! This has been hugely successful. My “secret” is really just have fun with it. Don’t stress it too much. It’s simply one tool among many that will help your school. I have found it easy to obsess with it. Obviously, we have other responsibilities and we need to have those priorities set in stone and be clear on how much time and attention we can devote to Facebook. I just try to evaluate that as much as I can and scale back if I sense I’m spending too much time on it. Have fun with it – you’re going to make some mistakes, but you’ll learn from them – gather a team of mentors around you – ask lots of questions and go for it!
Thank you to Pulaski Academy and a special thank you to Matt Pulley for taking the time to share his experiences and tips for using Facebook at PA. I encourage you to check out PA’s Facebook Page and if you have any questions for Matt please post them in the comments section below.