The Social Side of College Admissions

The 500 Most Engaging Facebook Posts of 2013

February 11, 2014

This is the second post in our 4-part series A Look Back at 2013.

This post focuses on the cream of the crop, the best of the best... those 500 posts that generated the highest engagement score among the entire pool of 301,897 posts that we analyzed. What do these posts have in common? What made them stand out? What lessons can you apply to your own college or university Facebook Page? Well, let's dive right in.

Top 500 by Media Type

More than four-fifths of the top 500 posts contained a photo in them. Want to grab the attention of your fans? Clearly, adding a photo helps your post stand out in a fan's News Feed.

Top 500 by Content Type

We do our best each year to categorize the top 500 posts into Content Types. We tried to pick the most appropriate Content Type for those posts that may fit into more than one category so each post only is counted once.

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

The top 3 Content Types were:

  1. Photo
    Sharing a beautiful photo of campus is clearly something that can engage your audience. Sunsets and snow-covered buildings were pretty common in the top 500 posts.
  2. Announcement / News / Shout-Out
    A number of top posts included a shout-out to incoming first-year students or outgoing graduates.
  3. Score / Result / Pre-Game
    A surefire way to energize a Page's fan base is to share an accomplishment by a sports team (a big win over a rival or success in a conference or national tournament). Even better if it's an unexpected or historic result.

What Does an Engaging Post Look Like?

In addition to sharing some of our data, we wanted to provide some examples from our list of the 500 most-engaging posts by college and university Facebook Pages. Hopefully, you'll gain a better understanding of how to make your posts stand out and capture the attention of your audience.

Photos of Incoming Classes

A number of the Top 500 posts highlighted an institution's incoming class. This definitely wasn't a one-hit wonder by a single college. We've shared examples from six colleges and universities below. As you'll notice, having them spell out your institution's name or initials seems to be a popular strategy.

A Sports Season for the Ages

The social media teams at a couple universities were blessed with lady luck this year: sports teams making historic runs in national tournaments – this is an engagement gold mine for a Facebook Page.

Multi-Channel Social Media Efforts

While they didn't quite crack the top 500, we wanted to highlight an interesting initiative by Illinois State that spanned multiple social media outlets. Their ISU 365 initiative shared a picture each day on Instagram and Facebook capturing the daily life of ISU. Here's Day 59 on Facebook and on Instagram, which just missed our Top 500, coming in at #741. They ultimately turned this initiative into a YouTube video and even sold it as a poster.

It Never Hurts to Ask

A tactic we believe is under-utilized is incorporating questions into posts. Don't just share a picture, solicit feedback and comments. Here are a couple of good examples from the Top 500 where questions increased engagement and provided some interesting content as well:

Flattery Never Hurts

Well, this may be our favorite from the Top 500... Buena Vista sharing a shout-out after topping our list of 2012's most engaging college and university Facebook Pages. Highlighting your institution's accomplishments can be an effective engagement tool. It's just gravy when it relates to our own research.

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