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Why Higher Education Should Have Only One Facebook Page

Most institutions of higher education have one website. They often have one LinkedIn Company Page. One YouTube channel. And then… many, many Facebook Pages. 

Facebook was responsible for some it. They made it really easy to start a new page. Now, Career Services has one. So does student counseling. All athletics teams. The English department. 

It is really easy to start a page. It is harder to achieve your business objectives (enrollment, fundraising) with many pages. 

If you’re on Cabinet, you should merge and close down Facebook Pages. 

That includes Duke Basketball (700K likes). The story of Duke Basketball is the story of Duke (350K likes.) Duke is a world-renowned research university with a basketball team. It is not a basketball team with a university attached to it. So the argument is “Like us on Facebook to get a sense of student life—except basketball: you’ll find that over here.” 

As the number of pages you have increases, for a CTA of “get a sense of how you’ll fit in,” a student needs to follow the Facebook pages of Residential life, Admissions, Athletics, clubs, groups, outdoor education, etc. A sense of fitting in is a digital jigsaw. When one part of your marketing is here, and another is way over here, you’re not doing marketing. 

It is difficult to achieve the business goals of the institution with 75 Facebook pages. For your Cabinet, who have the power to set policy, here are 10 reasons why multiple Facebook pages negatively impact your business goals.

#1: You waste resources marketing to the same people. 

An institution does not need an admissions page, an institution page, and an alumni page because the person following is the same person, just at different times in the journey. When you attract people to the page, they become students, and then alums. Schools with separate pages need to waste marketing energy attracting people—again and again—to a page. That includes Duke basketball. It has attracted 750K likes. How many of them are getting a look at why someone should attend Duke? 

Marketing is simple. The hard part is keeping it simple. 

#2: The management of a crisis.

If you have a main Facebook page, an athletics page, department pages, a Career Services page, a page for the food…it confuses people in a crisis. Where should they go? What is being said on those other pages? If a school is using Facebook to tell people about a crisis, it is a confusing cacophony of content to crib together to get a sense of what is happening. Many go dark, which can make you look unresponsive. 

Two or three weeks into the COVID-19 crisis and people are probably beginning to add content again. Is it right? Does it get the facts right? How do you know? 

#3: Artificial intelligence limits who sees your marketing content.

Each organic post on a Facebook Page at your institution 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 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 creates 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 probably deliver one or two of those posts. The English department Facebook page is probably not one or two of those deliveries. Why are so many pages competing with each other? 

#4: Bad content results in a bad impression of the school.

With a Facebook page to manage, an admin at a school ends up with the desire to feed the beast. “I need to post on Facebook,” says the person running the Career Services Facebook page. Facebook is a marketing platform. If you only need to market three times a year, only post three times a year. More posts does not mean more reach, it means more noise—and more bad noise, not because the person intended to make a bad post, but because the person thought they had to post. You don’t have to post. In fact, posting bad content hurts your next post. An organic post that gets little engagement negatively impacts the reach of the next post. 

#5: It is hard to reach prospective students with one page. Impossible with many pages.

The main page—which is on the first page of a Google search for the school—has thousands of likes and growing. The school is aware of the enrollment cycle, and can get tour, apply, and enroll messages around content about why someone should attend. People on campus can make the argument for why someone should attend, for example: 

Attend our school and Career Services will have your back. 

Attend our school and enjoy live sports 

Attend out school and find clubs and groups and your fit. 

When the argument to attend is all in one place, the people you want to see it have a better chance of seeing it.  

#6: Facebook has data about prospective students on the main page. 

At some point, prospective students will be back on your campus, and when they are, they will “check in” on Facebook. Right now, there isn’t anything we can effectively do with check-ins, but events on the main page targeted to prospective students could end up in their news feeds—even if they haven’t liked the page. For example, admissions events on the main page could get sent to prospective students. They might also see career services events. The reason is, events on a page that a prospective student checked in on might be considered relevant by the Facebook algorithm 

#7: Facebook is no longer a magic bean; it is now a harder to use marketing platform. 

There was a time on Facebook where promoting your English Department Tea could get people to your tea. It was in the early days, and people at conferences talked about the power of “conversations” and “engagements.” Those days are over. The platform is approaching 3 billion users. There is an unimaginable amount of content posted 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 to 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 more work to get less returns.

#8: How can a school really have a brand if it has 50 Facebook Pages saying different things? 

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

Oh. My. God. I hope you don’t have to do that. 

#9: If you’re not doing analytics, how do you know what success looks like? 

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 a 4-page download (50 tabs each), 4 post download (10+ tabs each) and 4 video downloads. That’s 12 .csv documents with more than 250 tabs. Trying to analyze the success of 1 page is hard. Trying to assess 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 success looks like 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 honors thesis on “Things on the Internet.” It isn’t remotely specific or strategic. Also, it isn’t “getting the word out.” it is getting in the way of the institution’s strategic efforts to convince prospective students to visit, apply, and enroll. It is impacting getting the word out. 

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

Higher education is cyclical. Each fall, a new batch of undergraduates seek information about the school. Schools can create “why visit,” “why apply,” and “why attend” posts that include the gym, career services, athletics events (spirit), and academics, but not if that content is on siloed pages. 

Facebook is a good keeper of content. Posts can be reused, re-appropriated, 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 current students and that content be reused at strategic times in the year. Career Services can go back to doing what they do, instead of trying to “get the word out” on Facebook about what they do.

Final thoughts. 

The business of the school starts with enrollment management. When a school brings in the class, all the other divisions can do their thing. Their thing is part of the reason to attend. When it isn’t on the main page, it isn’t as easy to find. High school students continually say this is a hard, complicated choice—partly because schools make it complicated by having marketing messages all over the place. Facebook is already a busy platform. Make it less busy for your audience. 

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 negatively impacted when there is more than one Facebook page.

What do you think?

Matt Hames is the Associate Vice President of Social and Digital Media at 3 Enrollment Marketing.