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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The 500 Most Engaging Facebook Posts of 2012

January 21, 2013

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

We wanted to focus one of the posts in this series on the best of the best, those posts that generated the highest level of engagement among fans. We took a closer look at the 500 most engaging posts from the entire pool of 236,060 posts for which we calculated an Engagement Score.

Top 500 Posts by Media Type – Photos a Clear #1

Of the 500 most engaging posts, the large majority (74 percent) contained photos. We've emphasized in our blog a number of times the power of photos to foster engagement. They tend to stand out in the minimalist design of Facebook's Newsfeed, and we believe they are given greater weighting in Facebook's EdgeRank formula, which determines what you see in your Newsfeed.

Top 500 Posts by Media Type

Top 500 Posts by Content Type – Photos, Sports Scores, and Announcements, Oh My!

As we've done in the past, we tried to categorize each post into a Content Category. We saw a lot more sharing of photos this year – a beautiful picture of campus or a fun / whimsical picture of a mascot or fan. We saw a significant decline in the use of contests to generate engagement. This is probably a good sign since many of these were probably in violation of Facebook's policy for promotions and sweepstakes.

Top 500 Posts by Content Type

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—Highlighting a school's inclusion in a ranking list (e.g., US News) or sharing a fun fact / infographic about the school
Contest—Offering a prize if fans like or post a comment
Question—Posing an open-ended question or a prompt ("Tell us your favorite...")
Video—Sharing a video
Weather / Closure—Alerting students to important weather updates or to the school's status as open or closed due to inclement weather
Miscellaneous—Catch-all for posts that did not neatly fit into one of the other categories

Some Top Posts Worth Sharing

We pulled out a few examples that we thought were worth sharing. Hopefully, these will help you as you try to boost the engagement on your institution's own Facebook Page.

Tap into Your Institution's History and Bring Back a Photo from the Archive

Smith College dug into its photo archive to find this black-and-white photo from 1931. They even had a little fun with the caption.
Smith College post

Court a Little Controversy or Debate

This post is a little riskier, soliciting the reaction of fans on the results of the US Presidential election. If you page through the comments, you'll see some heated posts. This strategy is not for the faint of heart.
University of Denver post

Highlight a Sports Achievements and Make it Worth Sharing by Adding a Picture

Unfortunately, we can't all have a Heisman Trophy winner to post about. What we really like about this post by Texas A&M, though, is that they created a quality graphic to go with it. Look how many shares this post had! I bet if they'd just written a status update with the same text, it would not have generated as many shares.
Texas A&M post

Make a National Story Relevant

Morehouse College didn't just post "Go Out and Vote!" They made a national news story relevant to their audience by sharing a post of students in line at the polls.
Morehouse College post

St. Lawrence University marked the anniversary of 9/11 in a more meaningful way for its audience by sharing the names of alumni lost in the tragedy along with a photo of their annual commemorative tradition.
St. Lawrence University post

Showcase a Beautiful Picture of Campus

We're seeing more and more of this on college and university Facebook Pages. So many institutions have beautiful buildings on campus that make great backdrops for photos, especially if the lighting and weather are right. These two photos from Colorado College and Miami of Ohio are both postcard-worthy. No surprise that both generated lots of shares.
Colorado College post
Miami University post

Solicit Their Opinions

A tried and true way to get your fans to comment... just ask them to share their opinions. Northern Arizona asks for feedback on a graphic for their mascot Louie the Lumberjack, while Saint Vincent College encourages fans to share their favorite professor.
Northern Arizona University post
Saint Vincent College post

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A Review of When and What Colleges Posted on Facebook in 2012

January 17, 2013

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

In our first post in this series, we shared a list of the most engaging college and university Facebook Pages. In this post, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the data and share further insights we were able to glean from our analysis of more than 230,000 posts.

Best Day of the Week to Post

This has been a consistent finding every time we've run analyses on college and university Facebook Pages. The best days to post seem to be Saturdays and Sundays. Not surprisingly, these are also the days on which college and university Facebook Pages post less frequently (Who wants to worry about posting on their days off?). We believe this is probably a mix of a couple factors:

  • More time and opportunities for fans to check Facebook, many workplaces and schools block Facebook
  • Weekends are often when major college sporting events occur, especially big-time college football

An Increase in Engagement in the 2nd Half of 2012

We noticed a steady increase in the engagement per post over the second half of 2012. This was mostly due to an increase in the rate of likes and shares per 1,000 fans. This is a trend we'll be keeping an eye on. We don't have a strong rationale for why this growth has occurred, but a few possible explanations (these are just educated guesses): an increase in mobile usage of Facebook, the mandatory shift to Timeline for pages, which occurred in March 2012, or maybe Facebook tweaked its Newsfeed algorithm increasing the exposure of pages.

MonthEngagement Score (# of Posts)
January1.487
29,075 posts
February1.768
23,420 posts
March2.435
17,770 posts
April1.889
19,914 posts
May2.672
15,715 posts
June2.822
15,645 posts
July3.482
14,970 posts
August4.842
20,340 posts
September4.391
22,398 posts
October3.971
27,051 posts
November4.604
23,357 posts
December4.916
6,405 posts

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words... Or At Least More Likes and Shares

Photos still hold the top spot for most engaging type of media on Facebook. Photos are liked more and shared more than any other media type. However, status updates generate more comments per 1,000 fans than any other media type (30 percent more than photos and 190 percent more than videos).

Media TypeEngagement Score
(# of Posts)
Likes / 1000 FansComments / 1000 FansShares/ 1000 Fans
Link1.53
108,406 posts
1.150.100.08
Photo5.15
76,239 posts
3.890.330.30
Status4.18
37,266 posts
3.170.430.07
Video2.45
13,598 posts
1.660.150.25
Question0.00
506 posts
0.000.000.00
Music / Audio0.73
38 posts
0.610.040.01
Offer2.65
7 posts
2.060.200.09

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Most Engaging College Facebook Pages of 2012

January 15, 2013

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

We wanted to highlight those colleges and universities that were the most successful at consistently engaging their fan bases on Facebook this past year. We let the data speak for itself, ranking institutional Facebook Pages based on the average Engagement Score across all of their posts in 2012. Find out which colleges and universities topped our lists!

In our rankings, we've grouped each page into a size category based on the number of fans/likes the page had at the end of 2012. We thought this would provide a more apples-to-apples comparison. You can see the top 10 in each category, along with the total posts and average engagement score for each page. We've also limited these lists to those Facebook Pages with a minimum of 12 posts for 2012. We considered an average of one post a month to be the baseline for whether a college or university was actively leveraging Facebook. As a point of reference, the average engagement score across all the posts analyzed (more than 230,000) was 3.16.

Find out how we calculate the Engagement Score.

Size Categories

XX Large (75,000+ Facebook fans)

RankSchoolEngagement Score
1Texas A&M University
(College Station, TX)
11.689
327 posts
2Oregon State University
(Corvallis, OR)
9.528
134 posts
3Mississippi State University
(Starkville, MS)
8.084
262 posts
4University of Wisconsin-Madison
(Madison, WI)
7.031
270 posts
5The University of Kansas
(Lawrence, KS)
6.390
231 posts
6Indiana University
(Bloomington, IN)
6.264
191 posts
7The University of Texas at Austin
(Austin, TX)
5.635
182 posts
8University of Georgia
(Athens, GA)
4.734
335 posts
9West Virginia University
(Morgantown, WV)
4.555
439 posts
10The University of Oklahoma
(Norman, OK)
4.269
494 posts

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

RankSchoolEngagement Score
1Utah State University
(Logan, UT)
14.490
77 posts
2Marquette University
(Milwaukee, WI)
11.178
18 posts
3Montana State University
(Bozeman, MT)
9.859
233 posts
4University of Nebraska-Lincoln
(Lincoln, NE)
9.476
223 posts
5Florida State University
(Tallahassee, FL)
8.642
506 posts
6University of Mississippi ~ Ole Miss
(Oxford, MS)
8.552
415 posts
7University of North Alabama
(Florence, AL)
8.252
450 posts
8Capella University
(Minneapolis, MN)
7.943
390 posts
9University of Nevada, Reno
(Reno, NV)
7.837
119 posts
10North Carolina State University
(Raleigh, NC)
7.093
429 posts

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

RankSchoolEngagement Score
1Siena College
(Loudonville, NY)
24.443
67 posts
2Berry College
(Mount Berry, GA)
23.222
207 posts
3University of Portland
(Portland, OR)
11.276
376 posts
4St. Olaf College
(Northfield, MN)
9.731
214 posts
5University of Dayton
(Dayton, OH)
9.544
131 posts
6Wellesley College
(Wellesley, MA)
9.121
291 posts
7University of St. Thomas
(Saint Paul, MN)
9.116
254 posts
8Smith College
(Northampton, MA)
9.064
511 posts
9Marist College
(Poughkeepsie, NY)
8.657
210 posts
10Longwood University
(Farmville, VA)
8.199
127 posts

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

RankSchoolEngagement Score
1Taylor University
(Upland, IN)
14.690
133 posts
2Prairie View A&M University
(Prairie View, TX)
13.154
325 posts
3California Lutheran University
(Thousand Oaks, CA)
12.083
69 posts
4Kenyon College
(Gambier, OH)
11.652
152 posts
5Susquehanna University
(Selinsgrove, PA)
11.275
142 posts
6University of the South
(Sewanee, TN)
11.195
298 posts
7Merrimack College
(North Andover, MA)
10.937
83 posts
8Soka University of America
(Aliso Viejo, CA)
10.449
563 posts
9Simmons College
(Boston, MA)
10.269
113 posts
10Bethel University
(Saint Paul, MN)
9.954
37 posts

Small (<5,000 Facebook fans)

RankSchoolEngagement Score
1Buena Vista University
(Storm Lake, IA)
39.034
67 posts
2Tuskegee University
(Tuskegee, AL)
26.025
199 posts
3Regis University
(Denver, CO)
22.041
132 posts
4The Citadel Alumni Association
(Charleston, SC)
16.699
78 posts
5Saint Joseph's College
(Rensselaer, IN)
14.473
99 posts
6Shaw University
(Raleigh, NC)
13.386
115 posts
7Capitol College
(Laurel, MD)
11.686
112 posts
8West Liberty University Gary E. West College of Business
(West Liberty, WV)
11.166
59 posts
9Willamette University
(Salem, OR)
10.688
101 posts
10Lasell College
(Newton, MA)
10.556
87 posts

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