This year, Facebook upped the ante, making it a challenge for brands to reach their followers, and be seen in newsfeeds with organic content. The updated algorithm now focuses on “meaningful interactions” from friends and family over a brand’s Page.
To stay in the Facebook game – and in people’s newsfeeds – schools and colleges need to invest their efforts and content into Facebook Groups. Because Facebook Groups offers an ideal forum to begin and sustain conversations with like-minded followers, Facebook’s algorithm rewards such interactions by showing Group chats in Group Members’ newsfeeds.
In other words, it’s an ideal way for your school to be seen and heard without interference.
How is a Facebook Group different from a Facebook Page?
Your Facebook Page is your official profile. A Facebook Group is the place on Facebook where your alumni, students, parents, faculty and prospects can gather to share and post around a common interest in your school.
Think of all the different aspects of your school or college: STEM programs, athletics, the arts and humanities, social justice and community service, etc. By creating Facebook Groups for the different programs you want to highlight, you better meet your audience’s unique needs and interests.
Creating and managing/moderating various Facebook Groups achieves several strategic marketing goals:
- You improve engagement within your school’s niche communities,
- You attract a prospective audience that doesn’t already “like” your Page via friends of Group members,
- Your members can interact and connect authentically around common interests,
- Your members can rally around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content,
- And, perhaps most important of all, if the conversation is active, a Page can regain its organic reach and awareness in viewers’ newsfeeds that was lost through the new algorithm.
Organize before going live.
Have a plan for each Facebook Group you create and know how many Groups your office can sustain. You need to devote the necessary staff resources to keep the Group(s) active and nurtured.
First, segment Groups by alumni, current and prospective parents and specific interests. Share your plan and Group list with the alumni, development, admissions and other decision-makers on campus. Buy-in is crucial!
Next, assign and train staff (or a trusted member of your community) to moderate the Group. Make updates on Group activity part of regular staff meetings or reporting.
Use Facebook’s Group Insights (available when a Group reaches 250 members or more) to learn which posts are the most engaging along with the types of posts that solicit the best engagement.
Make use of the “Join Group” button. It includes a call-to-action for use on your website or Facebook Page to promote the Groups you want your audience to join. Cross-promote the Groups in weekly or monthly e-newsletters, sports booster communications, open house materials, recital or drama production playbills, etc.
Keep the conversation flowing.
Like anything worthwhile, you need to put in the effort to make it grow. A few conversation-starter tips for Facebook Groups:
- Encourage members to engage by responding to questions, chiming in on posts, publishing questions or discussion prompts.
- Be consistent and engage regularly, whether starting a conversation or jumping into one already begun.
- Spotlight individual Group members, not just your school.
- Upload images and documents (graduation or first-day-of-school photos?) and ask members to do the same.
- Ask Group members what they want to talk about and to share their success stories, host polls to gain insight, gather opinions.
- Answer questions in a timely fashion and back up comments with info and facts on your school.
Keep your Facebook Group safe.
Facebook lets Groups publish rules to avoid unexpected issues with problem posts. Stay on the offensive. Be sure to put those in place before you launch.
Pin Facebook’s on your Group pages. Use Facebook administrator tools to delete inappropriate comments, ban Code of Conduct violators, or even turn off commenting for a post if the subject gets too heated.
Decide whether you want to make the Group publicly available for anyone to join, keep it private (invite only) or require administrator approval to join. But be sure to keep some Groups closed, as needed, to create a safe, positive environment. The conversations will only show up in the newsfeeds of members.
What’s new for Facebook Groups?
Facebook recently rolled out some cool features for Groups, including:
- Group announcements: Admins can now post up to 10 announcements at the top of their Group page.
- Personalization: Admins can brand and choose their own display color for the Groups.
- Facebook Watch Party: This new feature allows Admins to hold a live screening of pre-recorded videos publicly available on Facebook. It’s a great way to influence sustaining conversations within a designated period of time.
Keep your Facebook Watch Party jumping.
Video is the best way to propel engagement and conversation on social media. With a Facebook Watch Party, your Facebook Group members can watch and comment on videos at the same time to create a shared viewing experience with great potential for education, promotion and connected conversations.
There are lots of ways for schools and colleges to use this cool feature:
- Host a movie about summer student travel experiences using school- or student-produced videos.
- After an admission open house, host a Watch Party for a Group of prospective families to dive deeper into the value of your school through a variety of videos you’ve uploaded to your Page.
- Love all the cooking and recipe demos you see in Facebook’s newsfeed? How about a Recipe Exchange Watch Party for parents or students? That will surely get the conversation rolling and boost your presence in group members newsfeeds.
- Is a favorite biology faculty member retiring? If you have a STEM Facebook Group, host a Watch Party of his or her final lecture or lab.
- For athletic-themed Facebook Groups, have a Watch Party on the day of the big game.
Need more information on creating effective Facebook Groups?
Check out Hootsuite’s round-up of great tips and Social Media Examiner’s valuable insights.
Kalix Marketing can help you get your Groups started or jump-start your social media strategy. Connect with us here.>
Be sure to download our free e-book Navigating Facebook’s New Normal.
Gerri Baum is the social media and digital lead for Kalix Marketing.
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