The Social Side of College Admissions

How Much Is Too Much? A Closer Look at Post Frequency

January 23, 2013

This is the final post in our 4-part series A Look Back at 2012.

One of the biggest challenges that many colleges and universities face is determining how frequently they should post. In our research, we've continually encountered an interesting phenomenon… an inverse relationship between how frequently a Facebook Page posts and the average engagement score of that Facebook Page's posts. In general, the more an institution posts, the less engagement they garner per post. You can see this illustrated in the graph below. We basically grouped pages into tranches of 50, based on how many posts the page made in 2012. For example, the first tranche of pages (i.e. the 50 pages that posted the most frequently out of the 628 pages analyzed) averaged 1,125 posts for 2012 and had an average engagement score of 1.8 for their posts. The second tranche averaged 674 posts with an engagement score of 2.3, and so on.

Post Frequency Ranking Engagement Score Avg. Number of Posts Avg. Number of Fans
1-501.8451,12565,934
51-1002.32067479,732
101-1502.87255328,051
151-2003.58446941,970
201-2503.53339049,304
251-3003.67433336,653
301-3503.59528935,454
351-4004.19424847,424
401-4504.84521518,418
451-5004.72218323,860
501-5506.00813818,063
551-6007.523885,912
601-6286.7863210,042

Finding the Right Balance

There's obviously a trade-off that a college or university needs to consider. Each institution is leveraging Facebook to build and maintain relationships with their various audiences (prospects, admits, current students, alumni, sports fans, parents, staff, and more). If you're only posting once a month, how much are you strengthening that relationship, even if those posts are generating more likes, comments, and shares? On the other end of the spectrum, if you're posting 3 times a day, are you over-saturating your fans and risking them tuning out your message altogether? When we talk with colleges and universities, we encourage them to think of themselves in terms of being a friend of your Facebook fan. If someone is a good friend of mine, I'm probably willing to tolerate more posts from her in my Newsfeed. I'm probably more interested in the details of her life and more apt to like and comment on her posts, thereby increasing the likelihood that future posts appear in my Newsfeed. If you're someone who happened to have gone to elementary school with me, my tolerance level is going to be much lower. A college's Facebook Page probably falls somewhere in between.

Obviously, the content of the posts is going to play a big role in what I'm willing to tolerate as well. Even if you're my best friend, I probably don't want to see the details of every meal you eat (unless we're both foodies) or a play-by-play of the sports game you're watching (unless I'm a rabid fan of the team as well). If my elementary school classmate happens to be a world-class travel photographer and shares amazing photos from her trips to exotic locales, I'd probably be a lot more interested in seeing posts from her, even though we may not have talked in the last 15 years.

2012 vs. 2011

When we look at the average posts per page for 2011 and 2012, we see that it has increased in every size category, with the biggest jump (percentagewise) among pages with fewer than 5000 fans.

Average Posts by Page – 2012 vs. 2011

Size Category 2012 2011 % Change
XX Large (75,000+ Facebook fans)5274947%
X Large (20,000-74,999 Facebook fans)4594317%
Large (10,000-19,999 Facebook fans)3883841%
Medium (5,000-9,999 Facebook fans)35232110%
Small (<5,000 Facebook fans)28224614%

Post Frequency of Most Engaging College and University Facebook Pages

Now, when we look at the top 10 most engaging pages in each size category, it's pretty clear that the most engaging pages are posting less frequently than the average institutional page.

Average Posts by Page (2012) – All in Size Category vs. Top 10

Size Category All Top 10
XX Large (75,000+ Facebook fans)527287
X Large (20,000-74,999 Facebook fans)459286
Large (10,000-19,999 Facebook fans)388239
Medium (5,000-9,999 Facebook fans)352192
Small (<5,000 Facebook fans)282105

In fact, of the 50 Facebook Pages that made the top 10 list in each size category, only three posted more frequently than the average for that category. These rare schools were Soka University of America (Medium), Smith College (Large), and Florida State University (XL).

Ultimately, the question boils down to how frequently can a college or university Facebook Page post compelling enough content that will generate strong engagement. We don't have a hard-and-fast answer for you, but we'd highly recommend you taking a look at the college and university Facebook Pages that made our top 10 lists and compare them to your own. You might even consider focusing on the three schools mentioned above. They seem to be uniquely able to keep the engagement high while posting more frequently than pages of comparable size.

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