In the last year or so, I’ve seen tons of career colleges and trade schools flocking to Facebook, all hoping to garner their share of the social media phenomenon’s prospective student population. With nearly 140 million Americans over the age of 18 on Facebook, it’s no surprise why these schools are turning to it as the “hot, new” lead source. What is surprising, though, is the overall lack of success these schools have had there.
There are “experts” in the field, speaking at various career college seminars touting the importance of this and the importance of that. Having read dozens of lengthy dissertations by such experts, all culminating in a halfhearted sales pitch for ongoing services, I have yet to come across a single social media guru who actually gets it.
Think for a moment about the inherent functionality of Facebook. The ability to “like” other people’s posts, pictures and videos. The ability to comment on them. The ability to “share” their friends updates with their own network of friends and family. Nearly every aspect of the daily actions one sees on Facebook are all mechanisms for giving and receiving affirmations, interactions and conversation.
In fact, Facebook users are more inclined to be social on that platform than they are in real life.
When is the last time one of your casual friends or distant relatives picked up the phone and asked you what you had for dinner? When was the last time that same person called to tell you they liked that you went to the coffee shop and got the best latte ever? I doubt you could answer that question.
The ease of commenting, liking and sharing encourages more of it. There’s also a certain sense of comfort associated with the fact that you can think through your responses, and in some cases edit them or delete them altogether. I mean, seriously, in what circumstances in a physical interaction can you take a comment back without an accompanying apology?
Yes, I still believe that there is value and substance in face-to-face interactions, more than can be found online. But these types of interactions are growing scarcer every day, and it could be argued that Facebook has actually made us more social as a society than we have been in decades.
Now we introduce the Fan Page. Naturally, marketing experts immediately view this as a vehicle for disseminating information about their companies’ products and services. They buy ads, run promotions and contests all hoping to help grow their fan base. Then they bombard their “fans” with public relations fodder, broadcasting information about this upcoming event or how this product or service can help people accomplish this.
They dump tons of man hours into marketing to this crowd of digital socialites, but still can’t seem to figure out why all this time, money and effort isn’t allowing them to effectively inject advertising into the online interactions.
Let me answer that question for you. It’s Not About You. It’s Not About Your Programs. It’s Not About Your School.
It’s about the social experience that people are searching for by signing up for Facebook in the first place. You have to become a part of that experience. If you are failing to socialize your brand with your prospective students then you are failing to convey your ultimate message, which is come to my school.
Now, I know it’s been a lengthy journey getting this far with me so far, but stick with it a bit longer. I’m going to tell you how to do Facebook the Fan’s Way.
1. Publish content at least once per week, but never more than once a day.
Yes, you have a good school. No, really, I do believe that open house is going to be a blast, especially with the juice and cookies. But seriously, how much of your school’s stuff do you think people want to be exposed to?
If you publish too frequently, people will get tired of your posts and either choose to hide all future posts from you (Facebook makes this very easy to do) or “unlike” your page altogether. A big cause of this I see often is people having a lot of things to share and choosing to log in once every week or so to publish all of their updates at once. Never, never, never publish multiple updates at once.
Also, publishing too seldom can decrease your ability to draw interest from prospective students. I’ve even seen instances in which people forget that they became a fan of a business and after seeing their first update in a month, decided they were no longer interested and “unliked” the page.
2. Publish content that’s not about your school.
Again, it’s important to remember that people aren’t on Facebook because they only want to keep up with others, they’re also looking for people to be interested in and interact with them.
Anytime you can gather content about your fans or other Facebook users, publish it. You can gently bend the rules about frequency when it relates to sharing things about other people. This can be a list of recent graduates, someone who recently started work at an internship or even just a list of students starting a new class.
People get excited about seeing themselves and their friends/family being talked about (in a positive light) online.
3. Like, Comment and Share
When it comes to what a career college’s Facebook interactions should look like, I always recommend following the 80/20 rule. 20% of your updates and content should be about you, and the other 80% should be interactions with your fans and other Facebook pages.
Facebook allows you to “use Facebook as” your school’s page. Just login to Facebook as your fan page and get to socializing.
Look for other page’s that relate to your demographic and like them. Engage with the fans on their page. Go to your own fans’ walls and look at their recent activity. See any pages they like that you could like and engage with? Comment on their posts, like their updates and share their updates with your fans.
Also, encourage interaction and participation on your own fan page. Find something that relates to your programs or demographic and let users take part in it. Are you offering a graphic design diploma program? Pick a fun image of something from current events or pop culture, post that image on your fan page and encourage users to Photoshop it into something funny (and clean). Do you have a hair stylist program? Encourage users to post the funniest or worst haircuts they can find pictures of.
In the end, you have to remember your place as an advertiser when interacting on Facebook. If you can learn to interact as a business while subtly spreading your own message then you will be successful. If you think that Facebook is just a place for you to post updates about your products or services then you will join the growing list of career college fan pages that fail.