At this point, it almost feels like Facebook has been around forever. Since its launch just over 13 years ago, the social media site has become ingrained in the very fabric of mainstream society, seeing off a host of competitors and establishing itself as the most ubiquitous, dominant presence in the sector.
As a result, most schools have been active on Facebook for a long time, and tend to have a far clearer and more established strategy for using the platform than they do for newer sites like Snapchat and Instagram.
But while this can be advantageous, it can also lead to complacency. Because Facebook is constantly tweaking its features and business model, recruitment professionals need to keep up to date with the latest developments in order to remain visible on the site and take advantage of any new opportunities to attract and engage recruits.
If you’ve been using the same Facebook strategy for a while, you could be missing out. Read on to find out about some of the features you should be prioritizing in 2017.
Facebook Live Is Now Essential for Higher Education Social Media Marketing
Of all the features and updates the site has launched in the past few years, Facebook Live has arguably been the most successful. The company’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox stated in October that usage of the feature has grown by over 400% since it became available, claiming that even Facebook itself was surprised by its adoption among younger users.
The company clearly sees live streaming becoming a huge part of its service, and have run a number of print ads on billboards and buses across various countries encouraging users to try it out. The site’s algorithm also boosts the ranking of Facebook Live posts, and notifies all of your followers when your stream is online.
As a result, incorporating Facebook Live offers into your higher education social media marketing strategy has a number of advantages. Increasing organic reach on Facebook has been a problem for many schools over the past few years, and live streaming could provide you with a much needed boost. Not only that, but it’s also a relatively new and unique social tool, and one that users see as authentic, spontaneous, and fun.
So what should you stream? Here are just a few approaches that have brought schools early success with Facebook Live:
Live Q&A Sessions
Hosting live question and answer sessions with faculty members, students, or even notable alumni is a natural choice for schools looking to get started with Facebook Live. You simply invite prospective students to post questions in the comments section during the broadcast, and then put them to the interviewee for an informative but informal chat.
Example: The University of Michigan regularly use Facebook Live to host panel discussions on various topics.
Another great way to encourage questions and real-time engagement from users, a campus tour can be particularly useful for international students, who may not be able to visit your campus in the flesh before making an application.
Example: The University of Essex ran this tour of their campus and accommodation for incoming students, with student’s union reps acting as guides to give the video a more relatable feel and encourage engagement.
Broadcasting Live Lectures
You can give prospective students a taste of what they’ll learn at your school by occasionally broadcasting lectures, seminars, and classes on Facebook Live. This can be particularly effective if you have any well-known guest speakers coming to your school, allowing you to leverage their status to boost your visibility.
Example: Unity College regularly broadcasts fishbowl seminars with guest speakers. This particular seminar is given by Visiting Assistant Professor of Ecology Heather Arnett.
Go Live from Events
Got a conference, social event, or any other major date on your calendar coming up? Take prospective students to the heart of the action with a Facebook Live post showing them around the event.
Example: Concordia University in Montreal posted a series of videos from their open house event in February 2017 for prospective applicants who couldn’t make the trip.
Candid Updates from Campus
It’s important to remember that the appeal of live streaming for many users is its spontaneity, so some more candid, informal videos could help you generate more engagement. Quick updates about the goings on around your campus, humorous clips, or any visually arresting scenes your team happens upon over the course of your day can all help to give your live feed a more personalized, informal feel.
Example: Trinity College Dublin posted this live video from the campus’s celebrations of the Holi Festival- a Hindu spring tradition. Posts like this are great for showcasing the cultural diversity of your student body and increasing engagement with international students.
Because the format champions spontaneity and candidness, Facebook Live videos don’t have to be elaborate productions, and are easy to film without too much planning. Nonetheless, it is always better to be as prepared as possible, and give your school the best possible chance to be seen by students. Here are just a few tips to help you maximize engagement:
- Promote your live sessions– Letting your followers know in advance that you’ll be posting live in the lead up to your broadcast will help ensure that you get a good audience. Try posting on your other social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram as well to maximize awareness.
- Interact with Your Audience– Make sure you ask for comments and questions from prospective students, keeping them engaged and making the most of the interactive element of live streaming.
- Have a clear call-to-action– Whether it’s encouraging viewers to visit your website, download your app, or simply follow you on Facebook, make sure to include a CTA in your broadcast to take advantage of the increased visibility you will enjoy.
- Edit Your Post– Unlike other streaming apps like Periscope, Facebook Live videos will remain on your timeline after your broadcast, and you can even edit them after they have finished, allowing you to remove any mistakes or dead air time, or simply shorten your video to make it more digestible.
- Add Captions– A number of publishers estimate that as much as 85% of their videos on Facebook are viewed without sound. Fortunately, you can add captions to your video after it has been broadcast, which Facebook themselves estimate can increase view times by as much as 12%. This can be done by creating a subrip text (srt) file for your video. Here’s a handy guide to the process.
With live streaming likely to become even more prevalent on Facebook going forward, including it in your overall strategy will become increasingly essential. Following these guidelines will help ensure you get the best possible return on your efforts, increasing the likelihood of your posts generating real engagement and inquiries for your school.
Using Facebook’s 360 Video for Student Recruitment
Another Facebook feature which is slowly gaining popularity among the education community is 360 video. The tool, which was launched in late 2015, allows viewers to explore a panoramic view of their surroundings as a video plays, giving them an immersive experience that almost mirrors virtual reality.
So far, 360 video has been most popular for schools looking to create virtual tours, with the format lending itself naturally to the experience and providing prospective students with the closest possible experience to a real trip to campus.
Example: This 360 video featuring snippets of EF Language Centers virtual campus tours is particularly well shot, with well-chosen scenes featuring plenty of action everywhere you turn, and showcasing the richness and diversity of life at the school.
However, many schools are finding more imaginative uses for the tool, using it to shine a spotlight on special events such as graduations, sporting occasions, and other memorable moments in the campus calendar.
Example: Cardiff University shot a Facebook 360 video of the Queen’s visit to the opening of their new Brain Research Imaging Centre last June. Highlighting the opening and unveiling of new facilities is a great way to promote what your school has to offer.
Shooting 360 videos require special cameras which capture footage from a number of different angles simultaneously, which can be expensive, and also hard for beginners to operate. However, the format is definitely worth persevering with, especially as people continue to explore the storytelling possibilities it provides. The immersive feel of the technology can make it far more absorbing and compelling than regular video, allowing you create emotive clips that speak very directly to prospective students. This can work particularly well if you involve current students and alumni in your videos.
Example: Harvard University created a series of ‘Harvard students say farewell’ videos using 360 shots. The panoramic view of the halls and campus really underscore the students’ sentiments perfectly, heightening their impact and showing the enormous potential of the technology.
Facebook has also begun rolling out 360 for live video, with selected well-known organizations such as National Geographic and ABC testing out and showcasing the technology before it is made available to all users later this year. And as 360 technology and cameras become more common and affordable, you can expect the amount of people using the feature to increase dramatically over the next few years.
Using Facebook’s Improved Video Analytics: A Guide for Schools
In addition to providing your school with increased exposure on the site, creating posts with Facebook Live and 360 video also gives you the opportunity to make use of Facebook’s new and incredibly extensive video analytics tools, which were added late last year.
Through your Page Insights and Video Library, you can now access a host of information about how viewers are engaging with your content, including:
- Minutes viewed by age, gender and top geographic locations– This view is available in the ‘Audience and Engagement’ card in Video Insights, and can help your school to measure how your content is being received among your main targeted personas. You can also compare and contrast them with typical viewers, which could be particularly useful for international student recruitment, giving you a sense of how well your content is connecting with audiences abroad in comparison to domestic students.
- Track viewer engagement at specific points- This tool allows you to track reactions, comments and shares in real-time, and pinpoint where in your video they are occurring, helping you to gauge what parts of your content are prompting prospective students to take action.
- Isolate viewer engagement by reaction- This interesting feature lets you see the points in your video when viewers clicked specific reaction buttons, so you can find out what prospective students loved, what made them laugh, or even what made them angry (hopefully not too often!). Facebook also recently revealed that its current algorithm rewards posts that get more varied reactions, rather than just traditional ‘likes’, meaning these metrics could be extremely helpful in boosting your visibility.
- Compare views of original videos with shares– According to Facebook, 48% of its video views comes as a result of shares from other users. Comparing the differences in engagement between videos posted on your own page to those shared by other users will give you a good understanding of how important shares are to spreading your message.
Coming Soon to Higher Education Social Media Marketing: Facebook Stories
When discussing newer Facebook features, it would be remiss not to mention one of the most widely covered and controversial recent additions to the platform. Facebook Stories was launched in Ireland in January, and is slowly being rolled out to other countries around the world.
The feature allows users to create ‘Stories’ which disappear after 24 hours, using video and images that incorporate custom filters and overlaying text. If this sounds a little familiar, it’s because it is almost identical in functionality to Snapchat Stories, one of the most popular features on the upstart platform which has increasingly become Facebook’s main rival.
The company has introduced similar features to its other apps over the past year too, such as WhatsApp Status, Messenger Day and Instagram Stories. While the Snapchat and Messenger versions have been slow to gain popularity, Instagram’s effort was a resounding success, gaining over 150 million users since its launch last summer. Now, Facebook are hoping to repeat the trick on even larger scale by introducing it to the 1.7 billion people worldwide using its main platform.
While some have criticized the lack of originality of Facebook Stories, this could actually work in the favour of marketers. The feature looks and functions almost exactly the same way as Instagram’s version, making it easy to transfer your content from one to the other. As a result, it’s likely that many schools who have seen success with Instagram Stories will welcome the introduction of the feature on Facebook.
This also means that the best practices for posting stories on both sites- and Snapchat- should be broadly similar. Schools should be prioritizing informal, fun, and highly visual content that makes full use of the graphics and filters available, using the tool to subtly increase engagement and awareness of their brand rather than overtly encourage new applications.
Example: Fun, engaging content like this snippet from Brown University’s Snapchat Story should be easily transferable into Facebook’s version of the feature.
However, it’s worth noting that Facebook’s main audience is far different from both Instagram and Snapchat’s, which tend to attract younger, more tech-savvy users. Facebook’s much larger, broader user base is far more diverse in its tastes, demographic makeup, and online habits, so how they will use the feature is much harder to predict.
It may also be a while before it becomes apparent just how successful Facebook Stories is, and where the site sees it in their overall priorities. Nonetheless, with many predicting that 2017 would see a battle between Instagram and Snapchat over users, Facebook’s belated entrance into the expiring content game should make things even more interesting.
The Importance of Keeping Your Higher Ed Social Media Strategy Up to Date
These are just a few of the newer Facebook features which could make a difference to your campaigns. The site is also constantly updating its advertising suite with new options for PPC marketing, while its newsfeed algorithm continuously evolves to account for changing user habits.
With that in mind, it’s vitally important that anyone involved in social media marketing for schools works hard to keep up with the latest developments on the site. Marketing and social media news sites can serve as a great source for the latest news in the area, while keeping track of what your competitors are doing can also help ensure you don’t fall behind.
Once you keep informed, however, you will find that it is easy to modify your initiatives in line with the latest best practices, and maintain your presence on the site without having to perform any massive overhauls of your Facebook strategy.