The Social Side of College Admissions

The Facebook Opportunity Pyramid: A Framework for Thinking about the Facebook Opportunity in Admissions

September 17, 2012

We just released our annual Facebook and Admissions white paper. We shared several recommendations in this white paper, but we wanted to highlight one of those recommendations in a blog post.

The Facebook Opportunity Pyramid

We wanted to propose a Facebook Opportunity Pyramid to help admissions offices think about how best to leverage Facebook. The ideas for this framework have been circling around in our heads for a while. We've been refining them as we've worked with dozens of colleges to create and manage communities for prospects and admits on Facebook, as we've combed through the data from our annual surveys, and as we've analyzed more than 200,000 posts by the Facebook pages in our directory.

The Facebook Opportunity Pyramid basically lays out various activity groupings that admissions professionals can engage in on Facebook in a hierarchical manner, with those at the bottom representing unidirectional dialogue and those at the top representing multidirectional dialogue and feedback loops. In our opinion, the most impactful opportunities for leveraging Facebook to help with recruitment and yield occur as an admissions office moves up the pyramid.

Measuring Results /
Collecting Feedback
Enabling Connections
among Audience Members
Sharing "Authentic" Perspectives /
Unofficial Voices
Interacting in a
Reactive Manner
Disseminating Information

The Levels on the Pyramid Explained

Disseminating Information

Using Facebook as another avenue for sharing information with prospects and admits

Examples: Sharing upcoming deadlines, posting links to forms, announcing events

Interacting in a Reactive Manner

Using Facebook as a customer-service tool to address questions and concerns shared by your audience

Examples: Answering questions posted on your wall, pointing students to the correct resources and people when they raise issues

Sharing "Authentic" Perspectives / Unofficial Voices

Leveraging Facebook to enlist others to help you tell your story in a less formal, more authentic manner (i.e. unsolicited customer endorsements)

Examples: Integrating current students and alumni into the experience, posting video and pictures of campus events

Enabling Connections among Audience Members

Creating a community environment where your audience is not only building relationships with your school, but with fellow audience members

Examples: Creating and aggressively promoting targeted communities for your audience, seeding conversations, encouraging ice-breaker games

Measuring Results / Collecting Feedback

Tying activity on Facebook back to larger departmental and institutional goals and using this data to inform future decisions and strategy

Examples: Surveying admits about their Facebook experience, mapping fluctuations in activity on Facebook to specific content and initiatives that drove these changes

Our Rationale for the Facebook Opportunity Pyramid

First off, let me make one thing clear... pursuing activities at the bottom end of the pyramid is not a bad thing. Facebook can be a great place to keep people up-to-date on upcoming deadlines, on events in their area, etc. It can be an effective tool for addressing concerns and answering questions. What we're proposing with this pyramid is that you're only scratching the surface when it comes to the potential of Facebook in your recruitment and yield efforts. You're not fully capitalizing on the strengths of Facebook: it's social and it encourages conversation and sharing. These are strengths that your postcard mailings, your e-mails, and probably your website do not have.

Facebook offers a unique opportunity to bring other constituents of your college or university into the conversation, maybe it's current students or alumni or even some faculty. These constituents can present a viewpoint that prospects and admits will likely perceive as more authentic. The great thing about Facebook is that your current students and alumni are probably already visiting Facebook on a regular basis. And I'd be willing to bet that those most enthusiastic about your school are going to be the ones most willing to participate in conversations on Facebook.

At its best, though, Facebook can help people build and strengthen relationships with each other. It seems reasonable that the more a prospect or admit feels connected to the people at your university and with her potential future classmates the more likely she is to attend your school and to have a positive experience once on campus. Basically, the more you make them feel part of your university's community the better.

So why is Measuring Results / Collecting Feedback at the top of the pyramid? For two reasons. First, your admissions office isn't on Facebook just because it's fun. You're there because you believe it's a useful outreach tool. However, it's competing against lots of other activities you could be busying yourself with on any given day. If you don't have a sense of how Facebook is helping you, how do you justify spending time on Facebook instead of calling prospects, sending e-mails, preparing for college fairs, or the fifty other things you could be doing? Second, Facebook requires, and even encourages, an iterative approach. The better sense you have about what types of posts and what pieces of content work best, the more efficient and effective you can be with your time. You can really hone in on what initiatives will drive the strongest results. One unique feature of Facebook is that it emphasizes recency. If an initiative doesn't catch hold, no problem. It'll eventually be pushed down the wall or newsfeed and you can try something new. It's a lot less effort to post a status update than send off a postcard or make a change on your website. And you tend to get feedback much more quickly as well.

We hope you now have a better understanding of the thought process behind our Facebook Opportunity Pyramid and that it can serve as a useful framework for you when thinking about your office's efforts on the social network.

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