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Why you should have one Facebook Page — take 3

March 3, 2020

In 2014, I did a talk at a regional Higher Ed Web conference on why schools should only have one Facebook Page. I was high on the fact that I had closed down the Admissions Facebook Page where I was employed, and I was moving in on the English Department page, and feeling the power of being the “shut down” guy.

Then, I did a presentation in 2016 about a giving day. One of the questions I got was about how we used Facebook to drive the gifts. I pointed out that the school I worked at only had one Facebook page and people lost their shit. How did you do that, they wondered.

Now I do 3E Digital Roadmaps for clients, and each time, I recommend shutting down Facebook pages. Each time people say, “how did you do that?”

I have a list of arguments. Back in 2013, there were 13 reasons to shut down a page, but I worked at a school that really liked 13. Now it is just 10.

In some instances, new “likes” and “follows” might come in via content. But most new likes and follows will come in via other marketing, either on the website, the Search Engine Results Page, school visits, or emails to prospective students.

If one agrees that other marketing will get people to like or follow a page, then marketing one page is obviously easier. An alumni page, for example, needs other marketing to drive “likes.” Those are resources that could be applied to other efforts.

Here are 10 reasons why that decision to use finite marketing resources might not be the best move for the school.

#1: A prospective student = a student = an alum. 

A school does not need an admissions page, a school page and an alumni page because the person is the same person, just at different times in the journey. When a school attracts people to the page, they become students and then alums. Schools with separate pages need to waste marketing energy attracting people – again – to a page.

#2: Confusion.

Go listen to this episode of RadioLab on “choice.” If you listened and you’re still not convinced, then okay, here goes: if the school has a Facebook page, an athletics page, department pages, a career services page, a page for the food…it confuses people. If people don’t know what to follow, the school is probably doing it wrong. At many schools, a first-year student has way too many things they could like and follow. Simplicity is better.

#3: Algorithms.

Each organic post on a Facebook Page at your school goes to about 1% of the people who like or follow the page. The reach of the page is based on engagement. That means all content created at the school is in competition with each other’s content for the attention of that student or alum. Content on the Career Services page competes for attention with content on the main page, the athletics page, and that person’s friend and family group. If there are 10 student-based pages, and each one makes 10 pieces of content a week, that is 100 pieces of content a week that the Facebook algorithm is going to deliver to people. It will deliver probably 1 or 2 of those posts. The English Department Facebook page is probably not one or two of those deliveries.

#4: Bad copy.

The reason is mostly bad copy. With a Facebook page to manage, an admin school ends up with the desire to feed the beast. “I need to post on Facebook.” Facebook is a marketing platform, if you only need to market 3 times a year, only post 3 times a year. More posts doesn’t mean more reach, it means more noise. I swear. You don’t have to post. In fact, posting bad content HURTS your next post.

#5: Reach.

The English Department Facebook page has 150 likes. The main page is on the first page of a Google Search for the school and has thousands of likes. Why not work with the people who have access to thousands of people to market your thing to more people? Caveat: a department tea, posted on Facebook, will not get people to your tea. It isn’t a magic platform, it is a marketing platform with billions of pieces of content it can send to students. Your tea will NEVER be one of them.

#6: Location. 

Prospective student check in on Facebook when they tour campus. At this point, there isn’t anything we can effectively do with checkins, but events on the main page to prospective students could get them to like the page. Events by career services on the main page could get traffic to those events. One page means less confusion on where to check in, especially tours. One page means that data is taken into consideration when determining who to deliver content to. Facebook is more likely to deliver content to people who have checked in, and less likely to deliver that career services content to new students.

#7: The good times are over. 

There was a time on Facebook where your English Department Tea could get people to your tea. It was the early days of Facebook, and people at conferences talked about the power of “conversations” and “engagements.” Those days are over. Facebook is approaching 3 billion people. There is an unimaginable amount of content posted on Facebook every second. While it is true that Facebook pings page admins all the time reminding them to make content, it is not true that said content will get to fans. Facebook still wants your content, but only because it needs a lot to sift through the find the best. The old days were incredible, and will never happen again. It takes work now. If you have more than one page, it takes number of pages more work to get less returns.

#8: There are already too many pages.

The Facebook Pages app helpfully says: “Pages Manager lets you manage up to 50 Pages from your smartphone or tablet.”

Oh. My. God.

#9: Analytics.

Facebook Insights are amazing, but very detailed. The csv page download has more than 50 tabs. To download a year’s worth of data is 4 page downloads (50 tabs each), 4 post downloads (10+ tabs each) and 4 video downloads. That’s 12 csv documents with more than 250 tabs. Trying to analyze the success of 10 Pages is a dystopian nightmare, so no one does it. No one looks at the best performing post, or the worst performing post. No one can really tell what that is for a school because there are so many pages. No one can really identify a strategic goal for a Facebook page other than “get the word out” which is like doing an honor thesis on “Things on the Internet.” It isn’t remotely specific or strategic. So it isn’t “getting the word out” it is getting in the way of the institutions strategic efforts to convince prospective students to visit, apply, and enroll.

#10: Facebook is becoming a better content management system.

Higher education is cyclical. Each fall, a new batch of undergraduates seek the “word” of the school. School’s can create “why visit”, “why apply,” and “why attend” posts that include the gym, career services, athletics events (spirit) and academics. Pacing those things on siloed Facebook pages that don’t get prospective student traffic means you’re trying to distract people who the enrollment department seeks to nurture.

Facebook is a good keeper of content. Posts can be reused, reappropriated, and/or repurposed. You can talk to the people who manage the Page and ask for your content to be placed in front of prospective students and students and that content can be reused at strategic times in the year. You can go back to doing what you do, instead of trying to get the “word out” on Facebook about what you do.

The reasons to attend your school are the same things that generate nostalgia from your alumni.

Get your enrollment content in the place where alumni are going to engage with it. Use Facebook Events for prospective students, and use Facebook Live to get additional viral reach. All those goals are impacted when there is more than one Facebook page.

What do you think?


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