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Important Changes to Facebook and Google: Is Your School Ready?

Date posted: February 25, 2015

Students investigating schools' social media accounts

Education marketers are constantly looking for new ways to maximize traffic to their websites from organic search and social media. Students turn to search engines like Google to research academic programs, colleges and universities long before they narrow down their options to your particular institution. And we also know that they’re turning to schools’ social media accounts in greater numbers than ever before (over 68%) to evaluate your brand and make enrollment decisions.

So, there’s no question that standing out in search results and developing a strong social presence go hand-in-hand with any effective student recruitment strategy.  This week we bring you news of recent changes to both Facebook and Google that your institution can leverage to increase traffic to social platforms (and potentially school websites) and promote richer engagement with prospective students online.

Your School’s Social Accounts Now Visible in Google Search Results

Since November 2014, Google has begun showcasing brands’ social media profiles in the Knowledge Graph that appears on the right hand side of the search results page. The Knowledge Graph presents a snapshot of your school, including important facts, images, and links to relevant information. And now it includes links to your social media accounts, so students can see where you are in the social space and navigate directly to those communities:

Lund University

This new feature is great because it offers prospective students easy access to your school’s profiles, which can help boost referrals to your website. However – and this is crucial – inclusion of social accounts in the Knowledge Graph can hurt colleges who are not present on many (or any) networks, or don’t update their accounts regularly. Suddenly, they will appear less authoritative, engaged and relevant than institutions with a varied and thriving online presence. It’s more important than ever to establish accounts on platforms your student personas visit – and contribute to those accounts in meaningful ways.

Schools Active on Google+ Get Special Attention on Knowledge Graph

It’s not surprising that Google would favor its own social platform on the latest edition of the Knowledge Graph. If your school updates its Google+ account regularly, Google will feature your latest post in the knowledge graph, like this example from York University:

York U

Featured content like this can help draw prospective students toward your social platform, or inspire them to research further into one of your programs by visiting your website. Knowledge Graphs with highlighted Google+ posts stand out on the search results page, and provide higher ed marketers with ways to connect with and engage personas before they’ve even visited your school’s pages. The only catch is – you must contribute new content to your Google+ account on a regular basis in order for the Knowledge Graph to feature your latest post. A dormant Google+ account will not make the cut. And because this content will be prominently displayed in search engine results, schools must consider carefully what they will say and how.

But this is something higher ed marketers should be doing anyway. Maintaining engaging, persona-oriented platforms is an essential content strategy for schools who want to attract and convert students on social media.

Which leads us to our next update on new ways to captivate your future applicants on Facebook…

Facebook Explodes with New Video Marketing Potential

Whether you’re a language school, career college, university or K-12 institution – there is little doubt that your target personas are increasingly drawn to video content on social media.  And it is very likely that Facebook is their platform of choice for viewing and sharing it. Bloomberg reports that as of January 2015, Facebook video views topped 3 billion per day. Native videos on Facebook are steadily squeezing out both YouTube and Instagram, in terms of shares, likes and other interactions:

Video Interactions on Facebook

                                                                                                              Source: Socialbakers

Use Facebook “Featured Videos” to Promote Your School

Facebook’s recent upgrades to its video section are creating even more opportunities to connect with a growing base of visually-driven fans. Branded accounts can now activate the “featured video” option, along with tools to organized video libraries into playlists (like YouTube offers).  Featured videos are prominently displayed at the top of the page alongside a tally of likes, shares, views and comments. This is an excellent way for schools of all shapes and sizes to target messaging toward specific student personas, encourage engagement, and attract new followers. Here’s an example from Sprott Shaw College – notice how they leverage the video description area to promote their school brand and training programs:

Sprott Shaw

Here is another example from Columbia – but they have not deployed the video playlist option that allows schools to organize videos by topic or theme:

Columbia University

Leverage Playlist Feature to Target Your Content

Playlists are valuable for segmenting your video content by message and target audience. Schools can boost engagement by categorizing videos around persona interests, motivations and concerns. Marketers can also craft and promote a unique academic brand by organizing playlists around campus events and community involvement. While the old Facebook format lumps all videos together, new features allow schools to streamline the user experience by connecting the right content with the right visitor – an essential element of effective social media marketing. This is how Brock University uses playlists to promote school culture and increase the visibility of their business programs:

 Brock University

To encourage views, playlists should have thoughtful titles that align with branding goals and persona interests, as well as mini-descriptions that will provide context and spark interest.

Activate and Measure Facebook’s New Video Features

Higher ed Facebook accounts have automatic access to the new design – but social media managers will need to select featured videos and create their own playlists to fully leverage its marketing potential. And don’t forget to measure the impact of your new videos using Facebook’s recently launched metrics, which will help schools track total number of views, number of people who watched the videos, and for how long they remained engaged:

Video Views

metrics

Engagement

engagement

Higher Ed Takeaways

  • Prospective students can access your school’s social media accounts directly from Google search results pages, so it’s important to ensure that these links lead to relevant, thriving communities

  • A regularly updated Google+ account means more chances to promote your institution or program in the Knowledge Graph – so contributing great content is worth the effort, and will help set your school apart

  • Facebook video is better and more powerful than ever: activate the featured video and playlist options to capture prospective students’ attention and encourage next steps toward enrollment

Is your institution taking advantage of these updates to Google and Facebook? What results have you noticed so far?

Learn More About Attracting Students On Social Media