Higher Ed and Facebook: It’s not about the fan pagePosted: October 5, 2011 | |
Facebook is getting a facelift, and the implications for colleges who rely on fan pages as their primary method of outreach on the social network are grim.
The two most dramatic changes are the introduction of Timeline and an overhaul of the news feed. The Timeline reimagines the traditional Facebook profile and will give users a way to highlight significant life events.
Changes to the news feed are significant. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm will now determine which stories are “Top News” and place those prominently in a user’s news feed, while relegating “unimportant” news to the fast-moving “Ticker” in the upper right corner. EdgeRank emphasizes relationships and prioritizes content from close friends over that from brands or fan pages.
What does this mean for colleges? Well, if you rely on your fan page, your content may not even reach your fans anymore. That’s right — it may never show up in their news feeds! Early results show a significant drop in impressions since the changes to news feed rolled out.
Chasing after fans is no longer relevant — and even before the changes, most brands were only reaching between 3% – 7.5% of fans. What’s now key is getting your stakeholders to share your branded content in their own news feeds. This gets your messaging in front of their “social graph” and builds awareness of your institution, without relying on a fan page at all. More than 80% of high school students find out about colleges from someone they know — and the people that they know are on Facebook. Imagine if your students were constantly posting to Facebook about the opportunities and activities they’re participating in at your college — all in a way that included your branding and messaging — and their younger friends still in high school were seeing this content, just as they’re deciding where to apply?
Getting Ahead of the Changes
The 400 colleges using readMedia’s platform are doing exactly that, and they’re ahead of the game when it comes to Facebook. Our clients are recognizing the achievements of their students with visual badges that are easily shared to Facebook and that link back to stories on readabout.me. These stories contain content and messaging from their universities.
This type of content is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the revamped EdgeRank algorithm — the stories are personalized about each student, so they’re relevant and more likely to be shared (versus generic stories, like breaking ground on a new campus building). EdgeRank is driven by people engaging with content — and student achievements get lots of attention, engagement, and comments.
These achievements and badges become the digital equivalent of a student affixing a college window sticker to the back of their car, or walking around wearing a college sweatshirt — students are affiliating themselves with their university in a positive way, so that all their (Facebook) friends can see.
And, with the Timeline’s focus on life events, what are the most significant events for college students that are likely to make it onto their timeline? Enrolling in college, studying abroad, being inducted to Phi Beta Kappa, graduating — student achievements are key life events and memorializing those with badges and stories increases your college’s chance of a student including the event on their Timeline.
We’re continuing to compile research and best practices from our clients and beyond as to how these new Facebook changes will impact higher ed communications and marketing. (If you’d like to receive a free briefing on what we’ve discovered so far, sign up here: http://bit.ly/FBbriefing). But one thing is clear: if fan pages are your institution’s only foothold on Facebook, it’s time to rethink your strategy.