How many social media accounts is too many?

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too many social accounts

You know the drill. You’re humming along, minding your own business in Marketing Land, when it happens—a student or colleague emails you to ask if their club/department/sports team/annual event can have its own social media account. You break into a cold sweat and begin to panic. Should it? What’s the industry standard? What are other schools doing? Does that even matter?

When these requests inevitably come up, what’s a marketer to do? Separate from the process of determining whether to adopt a brand new platform, thinking about creating new, niche accounts on channels your school already uses requires a bit more nuance. In this post, we’ll look at things to consider before you respond to these requests and how you can encourage your community to think more strategically about them in the future.

Too Many Accounts Can Hurt Your Brand

While schools approach this challenge in a myriad of ways, the “standard” rule of thumb to know is that generally, having too many social media accounts can hurt your school’s brand. One challenge is the risk of overexposure to members of your community who follow multiple accounts associated with your school. Another is that the more accounts you have, the more difficult it is to ensure that a consistent brand narrative is being projected across your school’s social media accounts and channels. Rather than diluting your school’s brand with social media accounts for every course or club, instead, tell a cohesive story about how those elements connect to a broader value proposition for your families.

Who is the account for?

Just like anything else in marketing, you have to start with your audience. Who is the target audience for the new channel and what’s important to them? The answer to this question will help you determine 1) whether a new account is warranted and 2) what the appropriate channel will be. If the target audience consists of current and prospective families, ask why the communication need can’t be met by an existing account. If the account is for alumni or another, more targeted audience (e.g., prospective families only, or class/grade-specific groups), that’s a different conversation. Your alumni and alumni parents are likely to be interested in different information and engagement opportunities than the students and parents who are currently enrolled at your school, so it makes sense to adjust your social media content strategy accordingly. Similarly, admissions-specific social media channels are on the rise among private schools, particularly on Instagram, but they don’t always make sense. If you have the internal resources to manage a separate account for admissions and the content to support it, it’s something you can consider. We’ll talk about the content piece next.

Do you have enough content to justify a separate social media account?

Requests for new accounts typically start with a call or email along the lines of, “Hey marketing friend! I’d like to talk about starting an Instagram account to promote the Chess Club!” What a well-meaning colleague or enthusiastic student might not realize is that social media isn’t just about promotion anymore. When it’s done well, social media marketing tells a story, encourages engagement, and “stops the scroll” by drawing an audience in. How? With a steady drumbeat of high-quality, channel-specific content and engagement. Like all other brands, schools can no longer use social media to broadcast messages; you have to respond to and engage with your audiences too. 

So what does a “steady drumbeat” of content look like? The short answer is that it’s probably more than your colleagues realize, and it varies by channel. For example, schools should aim to post to Facebook at least once a day but twice is ideal. For Instagram on the other hand, the recommendation is 3-7 times per week with a solid mix of in-feed images and stories. That’s a lot, especially when you consider the annual social media content void that occurs during the summer.

In my previous life as an in-house school marketer, this was the lens that we looked through when we decided to create a separate Instagram account for the athletics department. Note, I said “department,” not each individual team. For one, the goal was to engage students and encourage school spirit, which made Instagram an obvious choice from a platform standpoint. And with more than 50 teams and an enthusiastic crew of students and coaching staff on hand to capture videos and photos from games, student-athlete interviews, and behind-the-scenes practice footage, there was more than enough content to justify a separate channel—even during the summer. Major updates like National Signing Day and championship wins were cross-posted to the school’s institutional channel. Given the volume of available content, this was a better approach than spamming followers of the school’s institutional channels with athletics-oriented posts. 

Now, because you catch more flies with honey, when you have to say “No” to a student or colleague, it’s always helpful to offer an alternative. A favorite suggestion of mine when I had to decline requests for new accounts in the past was the student takeover. While they have become fairly common for admissions purposes, student takeovers can play an even bigger role in allowing schools to highlight different programmatic areas using student voices without unnecessarily diluting your audience. That might look like a weekly takeover from members of your Black Student Union during Black History Month, or a week-long takeover from the cast and crew of your fall play leading up to opening night.

Who is going to manage the new social media account?

Maintaining the kind of engagement and post frequency that I mentioned above means having eyes on a social media account at all times, and those eyes don’t necessarily have to belong to you. This is a tough one, because in most schools if it involves words, pictures, or graphics of any kind, it belongs to “communications,” right? As you talk through these requests, ask about plans for posting to and maintaining a new account. The social media graveyard is filled with dormant school accounts that seemed like a good idea at one time but were abandoned due to turnover, loss of interest, or lack of bandwidth—don’t let that happen to your school. 

“Managing” also means more than posting. Content strategy, publishing, and audience engagement represent the more visible components of social media marketing, but using social media effectively is also about what you don’t see. That includes the necessary measurement, reporting, and optimization that happen behind the scenes. Schools must consider the implications of trying to measure reach, engagement, and traffic and make necessary strategic refinements for every new account that’s created. And don’t forget about the constant changes and updates to keep track of for each individual platform. Every time Facebook removes a feature or Instagram changes its algorithm, someone has to be paying attention to that too.   

Preserve Your Sanity with a Policy

While the steps above can help you think through how to respond to requests for new social media accounts when they arise, there is a way to reduce the volume of requests you receive in the first place—have a social media policy for student organizations and school departments. In addition to having a separate social media policy related to employees’ personal use, having a policy for student organizations and school departments can manage expectations for accounts that are more directly affiliated with your school and keep you sane.

Here are some things to include:

  • A statement of purpose. In addition to explaining the policy’s purpose, this is also a cue to students and colleagues that your school’s social media presence is an important part of your institutional brand.
  • Pre-approved platforms. If your school isn’t already on Tik Tok, an account for the math department probably isn’t where you’d want to start. This is your chance to provide guardrails around the platforms that are on the table for consideration and filter out the ones that aren’t.
  • The process for requesting a new account. This is a big one! Here’s your opportunity to design and document the formal process for these requests, including who should be contacted to review the request. For example, in my previous role, student requests went to the dean of students before they made it to my desk, while faculty members and administrative leaders reached out to me directly. 
  • Expectations for content. If a request for a new account is granted, this is really important for accounts that will be run outside of your office. Provide guidelines for the types of content that students and employees are permitted to post, including any restrictions that might exist due to your school’s media/photo release policies. This is also a good place to include language regarding school logo use and the use of third-party copyrighted material.
  • Expectations for management. This is the part where you can document guidelines for how accounts should be set up and run, which is really important for things like succession planning and monitoring. Good rules of thumb include: having a naming convention for account names, only using school email addresses for account log-ins, and storing account names and their associated email addresses and passwords in a centralized location. If you’ve ever had an employee with social media access leave a position “unexpectedly” you know why that last part is important!

Social media can be extremely powerful when it comes to telling a school or district’s story and celebrating the incredible things happening in schools every day, so it’s no wonder students and employees get excited about using it to promote the things about their schools that are important to them. Hopefully, these tips can help you turn their requests into teachable moments and opportunities to partner strategically with your office to share what makes your school unique. 

Angela Brown

Angela Brown

Angela Brown joined Niche in 2021. Before joining Niche, she was director of marketing and communications at Flint Hill School in Virginia. In her role at Niche, Angela creates content, research, and insights to help PK-12 marketing, communications, and admissions professionals refine their strategies, hone their craft, and elevate their roles in schools. In addition to creating content for Enrollment Insights, Angela is a regular presenter, writer, and podcast guest. She is a member of the National School Public Relations Association, American Marketing Association, and The Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP), and serves on the Advisory Board for the Marcom Society, an exclusive online community for independent school marketing and communication professionals. Since November 2020, she has served as a judge for the Brilliance Awards, which honors marketing and communications work from PK-12 private schools around the world.

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