August 16, 2012

A Simple 6 Step Plan for Creating a Facebook Page that Works

We already know that Facebook is crushing it and that schools have an incredible opportunity to use the platform to deepen relationships with families, students and alumni.

But is your school (or nonprofit) getting the most out of the platform? Are you using Facebook to its full potential?

Based on what I’ve seen I’d say there’s a high likelihood that you’re not.

But there is hope!

Amongst the countless schools I found using Facebook poorly there were plenty of shining examples of schools doing really well utilizing Facebook to build lasting relationships with families, students and alumni (both University and K-12).

Here are some of the key findings/takeaways from my recent presentation on how schools can leverage Facebook … (keep in mind that these apply to schools as well as any other nonprofit trying to effectively use Facebook as part of their online strategy).

Make the Most of Your Cover Photo

Facebook Cover Photo for Schools

Your Facebook cover photo is prime real estate. It’s the thing that people will see first when they visit you on Facebook. Think about it like you would that area on your main website – You have two seconds to grab the attention your looking for.

When thinking through your Facebook cover photo make sure you keep your brand in mind, but try to also show off your culture, history, mission and values. You might also try having a little fun with your cover photo. Here’s a few ways you could go about communicating these things

  • Show off your campus
  • Highlight what you’re known for
  • Include your students
  • Show off landmarks
  • Give parents an idea of the community they’ll be joining
  • Promote key Alumni
  • Go off campus

Make sure the photo is high quality and sized correctly (851px X 315px).

Spice up Your ‘About’ Page

Facebook About Section for Nonprofits

One of the first things a new visitor will do on your Facebook page is check out your profile – even if it’s only a quick glance at the small box located right under your profile picture. Make sure you take full advantage of this area.

Here are a few tips to ensure your Facebook about section is filled out in a way that makes it useful to those who check it out…

  • Tell your story (Keep it short, but get the main points accross)
  • Add your mission statement
  • Make sure to include all your contact info (email, phone, etc)
  • Enter your address w/ map
  • Include links to your website and other social networks
  • Include calls-to-action just like you might on your website
  • Add milestones

Tell Your Story by Filling in Your History and Milestones

Facebook Milestone Post for Nonprofits

Milestones give you the ability to tell people more about your history. Most schools (and nonprofits) have a long history of helping the community through impacting the people they serve. Keep that in mind and do your best to tell the world about the work your doing.

If you haven’t yet, think of at least five milestones that help tell your story then hop over to Facebook and fill them in. Use photos as much as possible.

Here are a few quick ideas to get the creative juices flowing…

  • Date when school was founded
  • Significant accomplishments, awards, recognitions, etc
  • Famous or well know individuals/students
  • Launch of new programs, colleges/schools, community work, etc
  • Significant sporting events
  • Graduations
  • New deans, principals, presidents, etc…
  • Significant community outreach/services/programs

Set up A few Apps (the Facebook Call-to-Action)

Facebook Apps for Nonprofits

Apps (Icons you see above highlighted in red box) are Facebook’s version of a call-to-action. Nonprofits (and schools) understand how to use calls-to-action in their appeals and other forms of asking their supporters to mobilize. Think about these “apps” in a similar way. Use them to get your Facebook fans to take the actions you want them to take.

Apps are also a great place to continue reinforcing your brand (see how well LIVESTRONG has done it in the image above?). You have the ability to use your own icons so you’re only limited by your imagination.

What types of things could you do here?

  • Quick links to key resources
  • News / Important info for students/families
  • Social media policy
  • Special offers, discounts, prizes, etc…
  • Custom pages focused on what you know parents/students want
  • Donate, subscribe, register, volunteer buttons

Make sure the photo is high quality and sized correctly (111px X 74px)

Get the Most out of Your Posts

Facebook Highlighted Post for Nonprofits

Before you can engage your nonprofits / schools supporters, students, teachers, families or alumni on Facebook you’ve got to build a relationship with them (on Facebook) – meaning you can’t simply rely on them being fans, you have to get them to engage with your posts on a regular basis.

If your supporters don’t engage with you regularly then even when you do post to your Facebook wall they won’t see what you’ve posted.

So how do you create more engagement?

  • Pin posts you want people to see for a while – Pinning post allows you to keep your more important message at the top of your Facebook page for seven days.
  • Highlight your best posts– Highlighting posts give you the opportunity to make certain things stand out more than others on your Facebook page.
  • Promote posts that need to reach the masses – Promoting posts give you the opportunity to reach a much larger portion of your Facebook fan base. You can easily see a fifty percent increase.

There are a lot more factors that matter when it comes to creating engaged fans on Facebook. Check out 22 Ways to Stay Connected with Your School’s Alumni on Facebook for more on this topic.

Pay Attention to Your Fans (a lot)!

Getting your nonprofits / schools Facebook fans to create content in the form of pictures, videos, status updates, questions, etc and share on your Facebook page is arguably the top thing you should focus on when trying to build an effective presence on Facebook.

But Facebook made that slightly more challenging with the introduction of Timeline.

Timeline for brands (nonprofits / schools) makes it such that fan-initiated engagement and content takes a back seat to brand-initiated engagement and content. Meaning, Facebook no longer puts fan posts directly into your wall now that they’ve rolled out timeline to everyone.

If a fan posts something directly to your Facebook page (i.e. not in response via a like, comment or share to something you’ve posted) it will now show up in a small box that lives below the “number of people who like this” section in the right column.

That means you need to actively monitor what your fans are doing on your page and, when appropriate, highlight their content.

Here’s how to highlight fan content… Go to the Admin bar at top of your fan page (you’ve got to be logged in as an admin). Then hit the Edit page button > Use Activity Log. You’ll see a screen similar to what you see below.

Dig through the activity log to find posts from your fans that you want to highlight. Once you find something you can hit the little circle located to the right of the activity, click on it, and select “Highlight on Page“.

Facebook Highlighted Fan Post for Nonprofits

Bam! You’ve just made one lucky fan very happy!

Facebook for Schools: 5 Strategies for Success
Make sure to check out the full presentation slides from our Social Media for Schools Series. You can view them below or download them from SlideShare by clicking here (look for the download button right above the slides when you get to SlideShare).

This article was orginially published at http://www.netwitsthinktank.com/social-media/6-step-facebook-plan.htm and is reprinted with permission.

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Frank Barry
Frank, does internet marketing and strategy at Blackbaud, blogs at NetWits ThinkTank and guest blogs at Mashable.com, All his efforts are focused on helping non-profits use the Internet for fundraising, marketing, communications and community building. With more than eight years of experience in the nonprofit arena, he has worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Family Life, Darkness to Light, University of Richmond, Big Brother Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, and more. Follow Frank on Twitter.