The Social Media Blog

Your source of university social media information

The Face in Facebook

Everyone needs a Facebook strategy. Depending on the organisation you work for, you’ll need to tailor yours for different business goals. At times, difficult conversations need to be had with higher-ups (who perhaps understand the platform less than you do) to ensure hard-selling is kept to a minimum.

During these conversations, there’s just one thing you need to keep in mind: the human factor. No matter what it is you’re marketing, human stories are consistently the most engaging. According to our stats at the School of Land and Environment’s Facebook channel, when the focus became about events or announcements (as it was for us in August 2013), fans began to drop off at an alarming rate. When the focus was shifted back to the human factor (in our case, student and alumni profiles) engagement and traffic increased again.

That’s not to say announcements and events shouldn’t be incorporated. As a marketing tool, Facebook can be exceptional at getting bums on seats. You just need to ensure that the predominant focus always reverts back to the humans that make up the success of your organisation.

Put simply: a student sharing their campus life experience will always be more engaging to a prospective student compared to the faculty telling them (from a corporate voice) what campus life is like. No one wants a stream of corporate-speak in their newsfeed.

MSLE’s example: student and alumni profiles

Over the course of the last year, we’ve developed over 120 student and alumni profiles, and taken most of their photos. This has seen the Facebook page grow from almost nothing to over 4,000 fans. Separate to just increasing fans however, what are the benefits of profiles and why do they work?

There are four demographics that profiles predominantly target:

  • Current undergrad and postgrad students
  • Research students
  • Alumni
  • Prospective students (which for a faculty, is most important)

Current undergrad and postgrad students

You’re engaging the current cohort, and they’re tagging themselves in the pic. There’s a sense of pride that the University of Melbourne is asking for their participation and profiling their experience. Their friends, family and fellow students see the profile as well. Everyone gets involved.

Research students

You’re helping to give research students and their work some exposure. They’re also tagging themselves in the picture. Their friends, family and fellow researches get involved – and sometimes if you’re lucky, their professors!

Alumni

You’re also potentially helping them with exposure. You’re providing a platform for the alumnus to thank the university and showcase their success post-graduation. Importantly, you’re helping connect them with other alumni, further building the sense of community and attachment they have with the University.

Prospective students

You’re showcasing how happy current undergrad students are, and what they think of the course/subjects/academics/campus life; how driven post grad students are; and the expertise of our researchers (and therefore the University). Alumni profiles provide them with an idea of the kind of success they may reach by completing a course at the University of Melbourne.

Having the actual people benefiting from the programs you’re marketing telling their story can do a lot more for your brand than the old-school advertising approach. And what’s excellent about Facebook is you can include as much content as you like. Facebook provides a preview to your audience in their Newsfeed (decreasing the chance of spam); a user can simply click on the post for the full piece if they’re interested.

Post data

Each post you create on Facebook is monitored by Facebook’s Insights. This is how you can prove to your manager that the strategy is working. Among other things, the stats show:

  • how many people were shown your post
  • how many likes/comments/and shares the post received
  • how many people clicked on the post to read it in full (which can sometimes be more than those that 'liked' it)
  • how many people clicked through to your website as a consequence of reading your post.

This last stat contributes to your Google analytics and justifies spending time on Facebook.

Click on 'Insights' then the 'Posts' tab for this information.

So how do you find students/alumni to take part?

First of all, you’ll need a list. In our case, the Student Centre staff can take care of that via ISIS. We simply ask for a specific list, i.e. all second year Master of Urban Horticulture students, or all graduates of the Bachelor of Agriculture from 2012. Then we contact the individuals one by one via a personalised email. With alumni, it’s good practice to first look them up on Linkedin or Google so you can mention where they work and ask about their success.

If they’re agreeable to a profile, ask whether they prefer a phone interview, a face-to-face meeting or a questionnaire. You’ll need a general list of questions that you can edit based on their background. If you’re speaking to an individual live, you’ll find that you can ask questions that bounce off their answers. General questions are: what did you think of the course, the learning environment, the campus, the academics and where do you see yourself in the future?

In the beginning, we didn’t offer anything in exchange for the profiles -- just exposure. Now that we’re offering a mug and USB stick, we still seem to be getting the same number of participants as we did previously. This implies that students/alumni really value the University contacting them to chat about their experience and the potential exposure they may receive. In any case, it’s nice to give participants something for taking part.

Promoted posts

Facebook also allows you to 'boost' your posts by adding a budget. The amount you wish to use is completely up to you (minimum amount is $1). The more you spend, the more people will see the post. Facebook provides you with a quote as to the amount of people your post will reach before you click submit. A key feature of promoting posts (and this is very much recommended if you’re going to embark on promotions) is the targeting feature. You can target specific demographics based on the information users have provided to Facebook about themselves. This includes gender, age, location (countries, states, cities or towns) as well as interests.

If you were promoting a student profile about a forestry course for example, you might add a $20 budget and choose to target ages 17+, both genders, a handful of countries (which may be part of your organisation’s strategy) and then add keyword interests like: 'forestry', 'ecosystem', 'science', 'university'. Keywords are great, because even if an individual hasn’t listed they’re interested in 'forestry', the system monitors their conversations (private and public) and will target them regardless.

The more you refine the targeting, the more likely you’ll reach the right audience in your promotions. And that’s key. If you’re not careful with promotions, you may be exposing your Facebook page to people that may not be engaged with your content, which is a waste of effort and money.

If you’d like instructions on using this feature, click here.

Before and after publishing

Before publishing, you need to ensure that you have consent to publish the picture and profile of the individual by having the participant sign and send you a consent form. After editing the piece down, you need to send it to the individual for approval – this is good practice anyway, as you’ll find they often add something worth noting.

It’s important to (as often as possible) have a close-up shot of the individual looking straight into the barrel of the camera. In our experience, Facebook users are captured by human eyes and will want to know more.

Ensure there’s a link to your website on the post (related to the content of the post), because when reporting to your manager, leading people from Facebook to your website is key.

After publishing, ensure you send a link to the student/alumnus or individual in the post so that they can tag themselves in the picture (and to keep it for their records). As always, monitor comments to ensure no spam or mockery of the participant is taking place – this is your responsibility. And finally, if you promised a gift in exchange for the profile, make sure you deliver!

Conclusion

From our experience, no matter what it is you’re marketing, a focus on people with vivid colourful pictures and engaging personal accounts is far more engaging than announcements, events or the sharing content from other channels. You’ll need all of the above incorporated into your page to ensure there’s enough content, but we’ve found that we reach the greatest success and audience reach when the backbone of our page is people focused.

It wasn’t called Facebook for nothing.