School Spotlight: Sewickley Academy

Note: In the first of a series of post spotlighting schools and their use of social media we will take a look at Sewickley Academy.


Sewickley Academy is located in Sewickley, Pennsylvania and is Pittsburgh’s oldest co-educational, college preparatory, independent schools.  Serving students in grades PK-12 on a single campus they use social media to tell their story.


Through the leadership of their Director of Admissions and edSocialMedia contributor, Brendan Schneider, they have become a leader in social media use in independent schools. Brendan not only writes for ESM he also maintains his own blog where he talks extensively about the use of social media and inbound marketing.


We want to thank Brendan for taking time to answer these seven questions as they should help you as you consider your used of social media in your school or institution.


Describe your institution’s social strategy.

Our social strategy has evolved over time. We now think of our social media efforts as a trailing indicator. While we still promote our own content, e.g. blog posts, through social media we feel that most people form a relationship with our school offline and then they will like, circle, or follow us online. As a result, we believe our social media channels play a role in retention.


In addition to retention we also think of our social media efforts as helping our search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. We focus our work naming images, post descriptions, and links on the keywords we want to target.


What has been your institution’s greatest social success(es)?

We use social media as part of a larger inbound marketing strategy and our greatest success was increasing enrollment last year as a result of our efforts. While the number of fans, likes, tweets, etc… are fine, people need to tie those metrics to ones that you currently use at school and not to forget that most of us are evaluated on those metrics and not the number of fans on our Facebook page.


What wouldn’t you do again or what has been you hardest lesson learned?

Don’t try to manage all of the social media channels yourself – recruit help from unlikely sources in your school including students and faculty members.


What do you find drives engagement? 

Driving engagement continues to be a challenge for us but we know that posting photos with fun descriptions drives the most engagement. We’ve tried posting open-ended questions to mixed success but the item that actually does drive the most engagement is when we post that school is closed for a snow day.


What is the one tool/site/service you couldn’t live without?

I enjoy testing and using many different tools and my current favorite tool is Sprout Social. It isn’t free but they offer an educational discount which makes it more affordable. Sprout Social is great for me because:

  • they offer a web and mobile version
  • it handles Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin
  • their reporting is simple and informative
  • their smart inbox allows me to save time because I can log in quickly and see if there is anything I need to respond to then log out.

What was your biggest hurdle or stumbling block?

Our biggest challenge remains consistently creating content. We try to post on our blog at least once a week, post to Facebook 2-3 times day, tweet 3-4 times a day, post a video to YouTube every couple of weeks, post to Instagram once a week, pin on Pinterest multiple times week, and finally post to Google+ at least once a day. Although we’ve seen the benefits of our efforts it’s a lot of work!


What words of advice would you like to share?

I would encourage you not to be afraid of social media and just start. When you start don’t feel like to have to jump on every social media channel. Pick one channel and do it really well – start small and be successful.


Sewickley’s Social Channels

Blog –
Facebook –
Twitter –
Google+ –
Instagram –
Pinterest –
YouTube –

William Stites

Director of Technology at Montclair Kimberley Academy

Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy (, "Blogger in Chief" for, consultant for Educational Collaborators, husband and father of two crazy boys. All that and still trying to find time to write and share as much as I can with you here and at