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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Everything you know about your Facebook page is wrong

30 Sep 2011

written by Karlyn Borysenko

Everything you know about Facebook page is wrong

Traditional best practice in higher ed with regards to Facebook pages is one page to run them all – you have one main “official” page representing all of the stakeholders at your institution – prospective students, parents, current students, alumni, etc.

Facebook has just thrown this practice on its head.

There were lots of great talking points in this week’s special edition of Higher Ed Live about what the changes on Facebook mean for marketers, but the critical one for me was this: There is no longer any guarantee that your page posts will even show up in your user’s “Recent Stories” stream.

Let me say that again: There is no guarantee that your posts will even show up in your users’ stream under “Recent Stories”, let alone make it to the sweet spot of “Top Stories”.

Whether or not you show up will be a factor of your EdgeRank score, which is Facebook’s algorithm for how objects appear in the news feed. What is your EdgeRank based off of? Engagement. If you are consistently putting out stories that people won’t like, comment on and share, you are putting your page at risk of being hidden altogether. The days of putting out boring press releases on your Facebook page focused on all audiences are over – schools must implement an “engagement first” strategy.

(And if you need to learn more, or check, your EdgeRank score, is a great resource).

Now, what does this mean? I would argue that the traditional tactic of one page to rule them all needs to get tossed out the window entirely. Why? Because when you have a broader audience on your page, it is near impossible to create content that will consistently engage those audiences. Different niches care about different things – alumni want nostalgic things, current students want information on events on campus, prospective students want updates from the admissions office. If you want to get into the real nitty gritty, you’re talking about program-specific pages for academic majors or departments to really focus in on topics people are interested in.

I’m going to make the arguement that the changes being made to Facebook means a major change in the way that colleges approach Pages – it’s time to initiate focused, topical pages for specific audiences. That way, you’ll get higher engagement levels and make sure you are showing up in not only “Recent Stories”, but making it to “Top Stories” as well.

What do you think?

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About the author

Karlyn Borysenko

Karlyn is loving life as the marketing manager for Eduventures and as a staff writer for .eduGuru. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University, a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University.

To quote a friend of hers: "Karlyn is a super rad ninja marketing genius who will make your target demographic submit to your every whim through sheer willpower. Oh, and she's smarter than you."  We're not sure about the smarter part, but "super rad ninja" is true enough.

Compulsory disclaimer: The views expressed in Karlyn's posts are hers and hers alone, and do not represent those of anyone she earns a paycheck from. Yes, it's true - the girl has a mind of her own. 

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post, Karlyn. I’ve heard a few things anecdotally from Facebook page admins at big schools that their total number of impressions was down and the recent newsfeed changes, and I knew that there was never a guarantee that a page’s posts would hit the “sweet spot” of the top stories feed. But not even in recent stories? Where do they go?!

    I am — or I used to be, or I still am, not sure anymore — a proponent of the “one page to rule them all” approach. The idea that alumni can get a glimpse of the current student life on campus, and that prospective students can benefit from the wisdom or alum is maybe more compelling in theory than it ever actually happens in practice. But when it does happen, it feels like magic. The people who are not physically here can stay connected to a place they care about (and by extension to each other) through the people who are still physically here. It would be a little bit of a shame I think if changes like this just perpetuated the larger drive toward ever smaller niche audiences. 

    • Karlyn Morissette

      Hi Lori, 

      I’m with you…and I’m struggling with this. I built my approach to Facebook at SNHU around a consolidation strategy (that hasn’t quite panned out the way I wanted, but nonetheless…) and this revelation is really throwing me for a loop. And I love the idea of all the groups interacting with each other….but if it comes at the expense of people having to go to our pages to see our posts, instead of them showing up in the feeds, I have to step back and look at the greater good and the goals we were trying to achieve with the venture in the first place. I’m not quite sure what to do yet, but there will be changes for sure. 

  • Mike Petroff

    After participating in the #higheredlive backchannel discussion and reading more about possible upcoming changes to Facebook Pages in the future, here’s the reaction (mini-rant) I had last night on Twitter:

    - With all FB is changing in the newsfeed, I’m feeling it’s WAY more important to make good sharable content, less on building Page community. 

    - Market your content, encourage sharing, build brand ambassadors. Posting statuses from your FB Page won’t cut it. Less views, interactions.

    - Online structured communities are falling apart. They exist now in personal connections and the social graph. Facebook changing the game.

    Community-building around Groups will still exists for alumni classes, incoming student groups, departments, etc. But, if you want your marketing messages and content to hit the masses, asking them to “Like” your Page for updates will not work as well in the future. That content needs to be sharable and exist on multiple platforms, and spread organically between USERS, not by your Page (out to many). 

    • Rick Noble

      I agree. Facebook should be about sharing good Knowledgable, helpful information, Not a popularity contest. Rick

  • RB

    I think it’s important to note that there are institutions that use Facebook in ways different than the traditional, mass market approach that you suggestion here which I think applies to most people. Another thing is, how dependent we’ve become on Facebook as a social medium and when it changes how it ends up creating work for us. I imagine in places that are more gunshy about using it actively, it might give them pause as to how much they decide to invest in a platform that they don’t own or pay for. 

  • Aaron H

    Really intriguing, Karlyn — I’ve passed this along to my team for consideration.

    Gestalt >> Omnibus, it seems.

    I wish Facebook allowed individual pages to be tied / associated with one another so that users can build their own custom-tailored presence for a given institution, while still allowing the institution to more easily maintain their own presence.

  • Neah Monteiro

    I like that your argument for moving away from one official page brings
    some resolution to the diffusion debate (does having multiple pages
    dilute an institution’s Facebook presence?). And I agree that more
    focused, program-specific pages allow you to focus on content that
    interests a particular group. But what I’d like to know is whether
    anyone has seen high interaction rates on that content; does a more
    topical page come with more interactivity, or just more likes for the
    page? Are people interacting with that kind of content, or just wanting
    to sit back and absorb it?

  • Chris Syme

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say that there is a possibility that with one page to rule them all, there is a greater possibility your piece will show up high in the timeline. Stay with me. Your general page will have more fan numbers, and according to HubSpot’s latest data, more fans increases the possibility of shares. Edge Rank loves shares, comments and likes. The more comments and likes of any post, the higher the possibility it will show up in the Timeline, and it will get shared to friends. Here’s something to consider about changes: Now, whenever someone interacts with your page, that interaction will show up as an “activity” in their Ticker, provided they haven’t blocked the activity posts from their friends. This is something exciting that opens up a whole new avenue of exposure. People can click on that activity line and actually see your post right from their page, without liking you or subscribing to you.  Worst case scenario of not showing up in Timeline: your posts will still show up in the real-time Ticker on the right side, but there will just be a lot of clutter there as well. Not 100% sure yet, but it may just show up as an activity line they will have to click on to see the post.  Your post on the Ticker may get pushed out quicker if they have active friends who are posting every little interaction with every game and app they have.  Emphasis with the new changes: Facebook will reward sharing. To get your posts shared, you need to be more savvy about content–pay attention to data on what kind of posts get shared (check your Insights), what times of day posts do well, on what days. If you go to one general page, you will need to do more cross-promoting of all interests on campus and be careful you don’t deluge people. Even if you stick with many different pages, those pages still need to be seen as well. The data number you need to look at on your posts is Feedback %, not impressions. Keep track of that number. It’s going to become a numbers game now whether you have one page or 100. I recommend following Mari Smith on Facebook to keep up with all the ramifications of the new changes. Good luck. 

  • Anonymous

    If your page is hidden in the feeds because you currently don’t have a lot of likes or comments on your content, how in the world do you become visible in order to gain those interactions? Sounds like an endless loop to me — you’re hidden because no one is interacting, and no one is interacting now because you’re hidden.

    • Chris Syme

      This is not a new concept, thinkhmm. Facebook’s edge rank has been in effect since the inception of fan pages. The only difference now will be that fans have many more options for how they will see your content. They can basically dictate to their pages how they will see your stuff.  I think the wake-up call is that now we will be forced to know how to put together good content that invites interaction and new fans. We will have to pay attention to how many times we post, what we post, what day of week we post, etc. if we really want to do this well. We’ll have to become informed, savvy users.   Facebook is helping people weed out content that is trivial to them. The good news is that people can mark all your content to show up in their timeline if they like, but the changes may force us to re-look at how we use Facebook. I think the biggest losers will be people that just use Facebook to push out their news and have the same exact post across all their channels– just broadcasting stuff without thought to any interaction or relevance to the audience.

    • Ryan Johnson

      Try to elicit some response from those who are looking at your page to build engagement.  Ask questions, ask for submissions or hold a contest.

      • Sirinya Tritipeskul

        I think questions are good — so long as you can get people to respond to them. Be cautious about suggesting contests — Facebook has so many rules in its Terms of Service with regards to the use of their service for running promotions. Basically, contests need to be run through a third-party app, which itself can be an obstacle to running a successful contest.

  • Eric Olsen

    Wow. What a buzzkill. After Zuckerberg got me excited about Facebook for the first time in 2 years, you had to ruin it for me :) But seriously, thanks Karyln. Great and important thoughts.

  • Sean Duke

    Thanks for sharing Karlyn. I would agree. In fact, the approach you describe is kind of arising organically at our college. Different programs have been interested in starting up specific pages for their area. Their fans, however few to start, tend to be loyal and engaged because these “niche pages” are about a topic/subject the fans are specifically interested in. Our “communications office” role has simply been to facilitate their activity and provide pointers, development and management assistance or “training” as needed. For that reason, we do retain admin access to all of them, particularly for contingency purposes, but also to bolster and link their efforts.

  • Talmadge Boyd

    makes sense for us to segment Facebook pages. I would add, however, that there are three things that you need in order to make it a successful endeavor.

    1) Content — every content marketing project whether it be Facebook, Twitter or blogs should have some map for calendar for posting.

    2) People — obviously social media isn’t free and requires that we have somebody to manage the community. Without the people your page or blog is going to sit and lack engagement.

    3) Tools — even though social media are just that, media, in order to manage the accounts of a large organization like a school it makes sense to use a tool that will allow you to have multiple users, manage multiple pages and provide robust reporting.

    I’m sure that there are things.  What else can you think of?

  • Anonymous

    We currently use our FB Page for school news, events, sports and some fun photo, video and survey  posts. The events and sports are automatically pulled in with RSS Graffiti. While those posts always have much less engagement than our fun posts, they do offer real content. And, having all that information in one place provides a nice service to our users.

    Photos of rainbows and sunsets over campus always draw a lot of likes and comments but don’t offer any real content. So, it seems to me that these changes in FB will really have the opposite effect on our page. What we want to do is provide real content about what is happening on campus but if each post has to have a lot of engagement then we’re left with fewer posts and posts with little actual content. This is a disservice to our community and our current and future students.

    To be fair, we probably do post too often right now and could stand to work on our story and event titles to prompt an emotional reaction but we will still have to scale way back on what and how often we post. And, we’ll have to find another medium for posting all our news and events and figure out how to drive people to that.

    Job security…

  • ivoblogs ivoblogs

      I think this is very creative Web 2.0  Facebook is the changing the Social Media.

  • Dr. Jawwad Saif

    Very very interesting. There were many things i am learning now. Thanks for sharing..

  • SEO Company India

    Hey thanks for telling me about edge rank. I didn’t have this information about facebook’s algorithm.

  • Blumenversand

    Wow, in Germany Universitys don`t use facebook at all (except Humboldt-Uni)

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