According to Social Media and College Admissions: The First Longitudinal Study, 61 percent of four-year colleges have a social networking presence. I definitely believe that social networking, specifically Facebook, is a golden marketing opportunity for colleges and grad schools. There are very few places where you can reach such a large population of prospective students without paying for that access.
Why Are You on Facebook?
However, having looked at dozens of Facebook pages (now Public Profiles) for colleges, I'm sometimes left wondering what their goals are. Creating a presence on a site like Facebook is not the end goal. It's a means to an end. You'll have a lot more success if you have a clear goal in mind.
Are you really getting much out of your experience? Do you have metrics in place to measure success? These are questions every admissions office should be asking regarding their Facebook presence.
Keep Your Facebook Presence Fresh and Focused
Creating a presence on a social networking site can seem very easy, but keeping it fresh and up-to-date can seem incredibly daunting. It may only take you 5 minutes to set up a group or create a Facebook page, but just being there is unlikely to provide much impact for you. The other end of the spectrum is to start pulling in feeds from all over the university, posting pictures, videos, and more with no clear strategy in mind. Again, you may not get much of an impact heading down this path either, except for creating a lot of work for you and your team.
How Do You Define Success on Facebook?
The task of maintaining and updating your social networking presence will become much more straightforward if you define some goals ahead of time.
Do you want it to be an outlet for news on campus?
Then pull in RSS feeds and monitor which stories generate clicks. Adapt the mix of stories based on this information. Create a mechanism for students, staff, and alumni to submit their own interesting news and events.
Do you want it to be a place for discussion regarding college admissions?
Then promote your Facebook presence in your admissions brochures, on your admissions homepage, and in your admissions e-mails. Encourage a few current students to be active in engaging and responding to prospective student questions. Divide up the task of checking your discussion boards and walls so that someone is monitoring activity and answering questions on at least a daily basis.
Do you want it to be a media center?
Then post videos and pictures from around your campus. You may want to start recording lectures from popular professors and upload these to Facebook. You may even want to encourage submissions by current students and alumni.
Let Your Facebook Strategy Lead the Way
Defining what you want your Facebook presence to be about may seem limiting, but it will actually end up feeling liberating. Once, you have a strategy in place and clear metrics for success. It will be much clearer for you and your colleagues what sort of content will help you achieve those goals and how you can put in place a process for keeping your Facebook presence engaging and fresh.