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5-Minute Survey on Use of Facebook in Admissions
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Started this discussion. Last reply by Mark Rothbaum Jun 24, 2013.

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Mark Rothbaum - Varsity Outreach

The Social Side of Admissions

Facts & Figures: Key Data Points from Our Analysis of 40,000+ Posts by University Facebook Pages in October 2014

We just completed an analysis of 42,982 posts by 1,007 college and university pages. In a previous post, we examined some specific trends we found while analyzing the 500 most-engaging posts for the month.

In this post, we'll dig deeper into the numbers for all the October 2014 posts. We hope our analysis helps uncover some new insights for you, validates some hunches you may have had, and provides benchmarks for your own efforts.

To give you an anchor for the engagement scores that you'll see in our analysis, we've shared a few averages for all 42,892 posts we analyzed:

  • Average Likes per 1,000 fans: 4.52
  • Average Comments per 1,000 fans: 0.15
  • Average Shares per 1,000 fans: 0.36
  • Average Engagement Score: 5.55

Alumni Pages vs. The Rest

We recently updated our Facebook Page Directory to include categorization by audience (General, Admissions, and Alumni). We had long ago hypothesized about the potential for segmentation in engaging your audience. Your prospects likely want very different information from your Facebook Page than your alumni.

The engagement rates of alumni pages vs. general pages seems to support this hypothesis.

Weekend Posts Continue to Be Most Engaging

For the month of October, posts on Saturdays generated, by far, the most engagement. We believe the #1 reason for this is fairly straightforward… it's college football season. We also have a hunch that people have more time to check Facebook on the weekends, which is why posts on Sundays also tend to generate more engagement.

Photos Generate Most Likes, But Not Most Comments or Shares

Looking to get your audience to like your content, then definitely share a photo. They get liked at a much higher rate than any other type of post. However, on average, videos generate more shares, and text-only status posts generate more comments.

Media Type Engagement Score (# of Posts) Likes / 1000 Fans Comments / 1000 Fans Shares/ 1000 Fans
Photo 7.08
23,396 posts
5.96 0.19 0.37
Link 3.37
13,849 posts
2.56 0.09 0.32
Status 4.07
3,096 posts
3.23 0.21 0.21
Video 5.18
2,547 posts
3.60 0.15 0.64

Engagement Score by Post Frequency

We grouped pages into tranches of 50 based on their post frequency so we could look at the relationship between post frequency and average engagement scores. The 50 pages that posted the most in October 2014 are in the 1-50 tranche, averaging 147 posts for the month. The next 50 most frequent posters are in 51-100, averaging 95 posts for the month. And so on.

As with past analyses, we again see a general trend that engagement score per post tends to increase as the frequency of posts decrease. We included a chart with the raw data as well as a graph on the engagement score by tranche, which makes this trend a bit more noticeable. The green line is the average number of posts for the school in the tranche and the blue bars are the average engagement scores per post for the schools in the tranche.

Post Frequency Ranking Engagement Score Avg. Number of Posts Avg. Number of Fans
1-50 3.456 147 50,579
51-100 4.281 95 59,378
101-150 4.830 76 43,336
151-200 4.466 65 70,384
201-250 5.888 58 59,850
251-300 4.405 51 120,152
301-350 6.120 46 32,015
351-400 6.352 42 61,945
401-450 7.455 38 23,075
451-500 5.417 35 66,371
501-550 7.273 32 40,498
551-600 7.255 30 51,327
601-650 6.079 28 73,737
651-700 7.694 25 18,215
701-750 7.375 22 22,274
751-800 9.780 20 24,610
801-850 9.834 16 21,490
851-900 7.947 13 15,117
901-950 11.231 10 10,008
951-1004 11.225 6 6,203

Most Engaging Pages for October 2014

Size Categories

XX Large (75,000+ Facebook fans)

Rank   School Engagement Score
1 Colorado State University
(Fort Collins, CO)
65 posts
2 Georgia Tech
(Atlanta, GA)
25 posts
3 West Virginia University
(Morgantown, WV)
60 posts
4 Texas A&M University
(College Station, TX)
31 posts
5 Mississippi State University
(Starkville, MS)
150 posts
6 University of Virginia
(Charlottesville, VA)
42 posts
7 Michigan State University
(East Lansing, MI)
50 posts
8 Georgetown University
(Washington, DC)
44 posts
9 Oregon State University
(Corvallis, OR)
15 posts
10 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
(Champaign, IL)
36 posts

X Large (20,000-74,999 Facebook fans)

Rank   School Engagement Score
1 Siena College
(Loudonville, NY)
4 posts
2 The University of Arizona Alumni Association
(Tucson, AZ)
44 posts
3 South Dakota State University
(Brookings, SD)
20 posts
4 Berry College
(Mount Berry, GA)
26 posts
5 Ohio University Alumni Association
(Athens, OH)
21 posts
6 Ole Miss Alumni Association
(Oxford, MS)
59 posts
7 Abilene Christian University
(Abilene, TX)
10 posts
8 Soka University of America
(Aliso Viejo, CA)
83 posts
9 Stanford Alumni
(Stanford, CA)
22 posts
10 Purdue Alumni
(West Lafayette, IN)
32 posts

Large (10,000-19,999 Facebook fans)

Rank   School Engagement Score
1 Taylor University
(Upland, IN)
9 posts
2 Susquehanna University
(Selinsgrove, PA)
15 posts
3 Trinity University
(San Antonio, TX)
15 posts
4 University of the South
(Sewanee, TN)
32 posts
5 SUNY Oswego
(Oswego, NY)
31 posts
6 Union College
(Schenectady, NY)
31 posts
7 Luther College
(Decorah, IA)
36 posts
8 St. Olaf College
(Northfield, MN)
28 posts
9 St. Lawrence University
(Canton, NY)
42 posts
10 Heidelberg University
(Tiffin, OH)
25 posts

Medium (5,000-9,999 Facebook fans)

Rank   School Engagement Score
1 Mount St. Joseph University
(Cincinnati, OH)
20 posts
2 Buena Vista University
(Storm Lake, IA)
8 posts
3 Marquette University Alumni Association
(Milwaukee, WI)
16 posts
4 DePauw University
(Greencastle, IN)
9 posts
5 College of Charleston Alumni
(Charleston, SC)
12 posts
6 KU Alumni Association
(Lawrence, KS)
25 posts
7 Bethel University
(Saint Paul, MN)
11 posts
8 Covenant College
(Lookout Mountain, GA)
9 posts
9 Hollins University
(Roanoke, VA)
47 posts
10 Transylvania University
(Lexington, KY)
54 posts

Small (<5,000 Facebook fans)

Rank   School Engagement Score
1 Saint Francis University Alumni Association
(Loretto, PA)
3 posts
2 Grambling University National Alumni Association - GUNAA
(Grambling, LA)
30 posts
3 Morgan State University National Alumni Association
(Baltimore, MD)
2 posts
4 Biola University Crowell School Of Business
(La Mirada, CA)
8 posts
5 McNeese State University Alumni Association
(Lake Charles, LA)
2 posts
6 Jackson State University National Alumni Association, Inc.
(Jackson, MS)
60 posts
7 South Dakota State University Alumni Association
(Brookings, SD)
19 posts
8 University of Idaho Alumni Association
(Moscow, ID)
23 posts
9 Presbyterian College Alumni
(Clinton, SC)
12 posts
10 Alabama A&M University Alumni Network
(Normal, AL)
15 posts

Generating Engagement on Social Media: Lessons from the Most Engaging Posts by 1,000+ University Facebook Pages

We recently added several hundred alumni Facebook Pages to our directory and thought it'd be a good time to do another analysis of posts by college and university pages.

We analyzed all the posts for the month of October (42,982 in all) for every page in our Facebook Page Directory (that's 1,007 pages). For detail-oriented folks, we've shared our methodology and an explanation of our engagement score.

We wanted to highlight a few trends that we noticed while reviewing the top 500 posts from the month. In our previous analyses, we've shown again and again that a photo of your campus at sunset and a final score from a big win over a rival are almost guaranteed to get engagement. Don't worry, these still work, but we won't rehash them here unless it's a unique twist on one of these old standbys.

Piggyback on Major News Stories

October is playoff time for Major League Baseball. Several Kansas schools capitalized on the excitement of the Kansas City Royals' surprising playoff run to the World Series to rev up their fan base. Our favorite was probably Rockhurst University sharing a bet between its university president and the president of a fellow Jesuit university in San Francisco. KU turned its Rock Chalk chant into an easily shareable graphic supporting the Royals. Pittsburg State University announced the broadcast of a World Series game at its football stadium. And Eastern Mennonite University and Kutztown University touted alums on the field.

Altitude + Camera = Surefire Engagement

Many colleges transitioned from the sunset photo to the aerial photo. A number of the 500 most engaging posts involved sharing a bird's-eye view of a school's campus. A few examples from Brown University, Hope College, Cornell Alumni Association, Smith College, and Kent State.

We're #5! We're #5!

Every sports fan knows that rankings are the lifeblood of most great sports debates. Take an opportunity to show off where your school stacks up… and, as these examples demonstrate, it doesn't always have to be about your academics and you don't always have to be #1:

Get in the Holiday Spirit

Sharing some holiday spirit is usually a safe bet for engaging your fan base. Here are a few Halloween-themed posts that cracked the top 500 for October:

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Facebook Pages are often competing for eyeballs in the News Feed with Top 10 lists from Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post. Why not take a page from their playbooks and do your own list?

Milk Historic Sports Achievements for All They're Worth

This is a common theme. We saw it with Wichita State's run to the Final Four in 2013 and Union College's hockey title earlier this year. These are rare gold nuggets that can be mined for significant engagement. October was kind to a couple schools in Mississippi whose football teams were having historic starts.

Sharing Heroic Acts of Everyday People

Once in a blue moon, all that has to be done is to simply spread the word about a truly special story that speaks for itself. The fulfillment of a terminally-ill teenager's dream to play college basketball spread like wildfire (watch an ESPN piece on Mount St. Joseph's Lauren Hill):

Top 500 Posts by Content Type

For you data-focused folks, here's a high-level look at the top 500 posts by content type. No surprise here... photos was the most popular content type. October seemed to have a larger share of Stat / Fact / Ranking / Infographic posts among the Top 500 than we've seen in previous analyses. We didn't see nearly any weather-related posts, but we're guessing that will pick up as winter arrives (I'm sure there have already been several for Buffalo-area schools this month after the recent snowstorm).

Content Types

Photo– A post where the photo itself is the primary purpose of the post (e.g., photo of campus, an event, or alumni), not a supporting piece of content for the text
Announcements / News / Shout-Outs – Announcing upcoming events, achievements by faculty or alumni, important dates, or general news about the university
Score / Result / Pre-Game – Relating to a school's athletic teams, whether it was a score, an upcoming game, or a big win over a rival
Stat / Fact / Ranking / Infographic – Highlighting a school's inclusion in a ranking list (e.g., US News) or sharing a fun fact / infographic about the school
Video –Sharing a video
Contest – Offering a prize if fans like or post a comment
Question – Posing an open-ended question or a prompt ("Tell us your favorite...")
Offer – Utilizing Facebook's Offer feature
Miscellaneous – Catch-all for posts that did not neatly fit into one of the other categories

A Quick Look at Our Methodology

We pulled every post available via Facebook's Graph API for every school in our directory of college and university Facebook Pages (1,007 pages were used in our analysis). We only analyzed posts made by the Facebook Page itself, not the fans of that page (42,892 posts). We made an attempt to remove any duplicate posts from this data to provide as accurate a picture as possible. We collected the count of likes, comments, and shares for each post. The data pulls were done during the first week of November 2014. We also pulled the fan data every week for each of the Facebook Pages in our directory, giving us a ballpark approximation of the fan count for a given page when a post was made.

Online Community Building - Recording of our May 29 Webinar

Couldn't make our webinar "Moving from Broadcasting to Community Building"? No worries, we recorded the May 29 version.

Learn how to:

  • Be a Conversation Starter, not just a Broadcaster
  • Engage your audience on Social Media
  • Encourage participation and interaction among your followers

Watch the Recording

Learn More about Varsity Outreach

If you want to learn more about how Varsity Outreach helps colleges and universities create private communities for their future students, current students, and alumni, we encourage you to watch our short product video or request a demo.

Free Webinar: Moving from Broadcasting to Community Building

Summer time is just around the corner. The May 1 deposit deadline has come and gone. The academic year is winding down. And college graduation ceremonies are happening across the country.

Many of you are looking ahead to next year and starting to map out your strategies. We've got a great opportunity for you!

Join us for a free webinar on online community building in higher ed, entitled Moving from Broadcasting to Community Building.

You'll learn how to:

  • Be a Conversation Starter, not just a Broadcaster
  • Better engage your audience on Social Media
  • Encourage greater participation and interaction among your fans and followers

You'll have two opportunities to catch this live webinar:

  • Wednesday, May 21 at 2pm ET
  • Thursday, May 29 at 1pm ET
Reserve Your Spot

To Post or Not to Post, That is the Question

A surprisingly common refrain we hear from admissions offices is "We take a hands-off approach when it comes to social media". We most often hear it in reference to Facebook Class of 20XX Groups.

The Logic of the Hands-Off Approach

The logic of the Hands-Off Approach goes something like this:

  1. We want the Facebook Group to be a place where admitted students can meet and get to know each other.
  2. We'll listen to the conversation and intervene when absolutely necessary (e.g., misinformation).
  3. If we post, we might stifle conversation or make them feel like we're monitoring the conversation (which we are, anyway).
  4. Therefore, we take a hands-off approach and rarely post in the Facebook Group.

Ok, that actually makes some sense.

Imagine being a teenager again. If you were talking with your friends, the conversation would probably change or stop when your parents entered the room, right? You might even groan "Mom, will you leave us alone?"

Don't Be the Parent

However, I believe you're missing a huge opportunity if you take the Hands-Off Approach. You don't have to be the parent crashing the party in this story.

If all you post is official announcements or correct misinformation, then you may well be viewed as the "parent" of the Facebook Group.

But what if you were the matchmaker or the icebreaker instead? What if you imagined the Facebook Group as a party you were throwing for admitted students, and you made it your goal to introduce people to each other. I'll come back to this in a second.

This Isn't Your First Rodeo

You have an ace up your sleeve and may not fully realize it. You've seen this story unfold many times before. Each year, you get to see a new crop of prospective and admitted students go through the admissions process. For them, it's completely new, often daunting and exciting at the same time. For you, it's business as usual.

You have the benefit of experience. So take advantage of it!

Ok, you may not know which TV shows are big among this year's incoming class (Seinfeld may seem like a timeless classic to you and mean nothing to them) or what music they listen to (Pearl Jam still tops your favorites list), but you do probably know some of the things that are important to them.

Can incoming freshmen pick their roommates or state their preferences on residence halls? If so, then I'm guessing you see tons of posts in your Facebook Group that look something like this every year "I'm still looking for a roommate. Message me if you're interested."

You've probably noticed every year that admits from nearby high schools or international students from the same country often bond over these connections, right?

Be the Matchmaker

You may not be able to predict all the conversations that will happen, but you can definitely predict a few that will be popular.

Why wait for some brave admit to start the conversation? You can have it ready for them as soon as they start joining the Facebook Group. Throw up a "Where is everyone from?" post. Or maybe even focus a little more with "Any international students in this group yet? What country are you coming from?"

You can even make the conversations better by providing some structure. Take the roommate example I gave before. How helpful is it to another admit looking for a roommate if all I say is "Still looking for a roommate, hit me up"? They don't know anything about me... except what I look like from my profile picture. So what are they basing their decision to message me on? Not a whole lot.

Now, what if you shared a post like this:

Still looking for a roommate? Answer the following questions:
Are you a morning or night person?
Are you clean or messy?
Which residence hall do you prefer?
Are you looking for a social room or a quiet room?
What's one fun fact about you?

Now, if I'm an admit looking for a roommate, I'll have some useful information to go off of.

Notice a common thread in these two examples? They're both questions. They encourage participation. You're not stifling conversations. You're creating jumping-off points for conversations. You're encouraging introductions. If this were a party, you'd move on once the conversation got going and do it all over again with a new audience.

Data from Our White Paper

In our White Paper Facebook and Admissions, we actually asked admissions professionals how they viewed their role. Guess who was most satisfied with Facebook as a tool to yield admits... the people that viewed themselves as Conversation Starters. The least satisfied... the Observers and the Broadcasters.

So instead of a Hands-Off Approach, it might be worth getting your hands a bit dirty. Use your knowledge and experience to help them connect with each other and forge new friendships.

Profile Information

Varsity Outreach, LLC
Personal Website:
List three areas of expertise or specialization.
Social Networking, Facebook, Web Strategy
What department or office are you in?
Primary Job Responsibility
Helping colleges and universities create a community on Facebook for prospective and admitted students

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