For higher education web marketers Facebook is a very important social network for engaging with your audiences. Whether you are marketing to prospective students, current students or alumni, by now your institution probably has an active presence on Facebook. My friends Alison and Dan Zarrella recently published a new book called The Facebook Marketing Book. Keep reading to find out how you can win a free signed copy of the book. Alison was nice enough to answer a few questions related to Facebook marketing in higher education, and I wanted to share them with everyone.
Q: So Alison, you have basically been on Facebook since the beginning right? How has the evolution of the website changed the way you market through Facebook?
A: I’ve been using Facebook personally since early 2004, when I was a freshman in college. Back then you could only poke and browse through photo albums. It was kind of hard to find people and there was very little interaction. Then Facebook opened up to more schools and brands started creating Profiles and Groups, before Facebook created Pages for them. Dan and I started working on Facebook marketing projects when it was still OK to use a Profile. We were actually in the middle of a project when they made the switch, so I’ve seen it from both sides. Facebook has come a long way for sure.
Q: Over the last few years we’ve seen a transition in the decline of importance of groups and increased importance of fan pages. Are there still ways that you recommend marketing through groups?
A: I’m not a huge fan of Groups personally, and overall I’d say Facebook Pages are where it’s at for brands, especially those just starting out. But if you’ve had a Page for awhile and are comfortable with it, Groups can provide another level of engagement for fans. You could create a secret Group for a small, elite selection of fans and use that to foster your biggest brand advocates. Or you could have one main Page and use Groups to regionalize content or segment by interest. For a college or university, they might have a main Facebook Page for the school but Groups for each department.
Q: The Facebook “Share” and “Like” buttons are everywhere. What exactly is the difference between the two and where would you recommend using each?
A: A lot of people use them pretty interchangeably. For me, it makes sense to “like” a tangible thing, like a sweater. At a school, this might be a course selection. But I’d rather share a piece of content, like a blog post or news article, because I can add my own commentary. It could be a really great piece, but if the title sounds negative I might feel weird “liking” it. High-end brands often prefer sharing to liking as it feels more on-brand for them as well.
Q: Facebook apps are extremely popular, but with the early buzz on all things mobile would you recommend a college with the proper resources spend time developing a Facebook or Mobile app?
A: It depends on your goals and the value it will provide to students or potential students. Facebook apps are less restrictive for you to build, because you’ve got a larger area and functionality to use. But for a user, they’ll need to be near a computer to take full advantage of the app. A mobile app needs to be simpler, but when well-done can be exceedingly useful. If you’re going for fun, try Facebook. But if you want to make something useful, mobile is probably the way to go.
Q: Finally, do you have any amazing Facebook Marketing tips that you would say are must do things for a college?
A: Don’t be afraid to have fun and try new things! Interview the mascot, or the man behind the mascot. Post links to the best pizza places around campus. Engage in friendly debates and contests with rival schools. School is a place to learn, but Facebook is about fun. On Facebook you have the opportunity to be a student’s best friend, academic advisor and local guidebook. Experiment and break outside your comfort zone every once in awhile.
Thanks to Alison for taking the time to answer these questions. The Facebook Marketing Book is now on sale everywhere. You can learn more about Alison Zarrella on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Do you have a specific Facebook Marketing question? Leave your question in the comments below and .eduGuru will ship the people with the best three question, as decided by Alison, a free signed copy of the book.