Colleges Relying on Facebook to Identify Donor Prospects?

OK... I'm going to try something a bit different with today's post. I might make this a regular feature, though let's be honest... it's much more likely that I won't.

But it's not every day the New York Times writes an article about higher ed and social media, and with a title like "Your College May Be Banking on Your Facebook Likes" I may as well discuss it a bit, right? Right!

So, first read the article, and after that if you haven't already forward this article to your boss and the boss of the development office at your college, you should really do so now.

As Facebook has steadily decreased the organic reach for brand pages, a lot of social media bloggers and prognosticators have begun to wonder if Facebook is worth it anymore. (A quick Google-search of "Is Facebook worth it?" pulls up all sorts of examples.) Some have even gone so far as to delete their pages entirely and then post boastful - and (shiver) meme-filled - articles about it

I can understand the frustration and I definitely think Facebook pulled an egregious bait-and-switch with brand pages by first telling them endlessly to pay to get more followers, and then telling them that  - surprise! - in order to reach those followers, you have to pay. The whole thing is very annoying, the rules keep changing, we're all at the mercy of Facebook's algorithms, and there's nothing we can do about it. 

But I must admit that I find people who delete their pages, or even seriously consider deleting their pages, to be misguided.

This article argues - and I agree - that we are only just beginning to understand the value and power of Facebook likes. And, hard to believe as it may seem, it's very possible that five years from now we'll all be thinking of Facebook less as a platform for getting information to our followers and more as a platform for getting information from our followers. 

I guess what I'm saying... is the time sooner rather than later that we'll all be thinking about Facebook in the same way we think about LinkedIn?

About a year ago LinkedIn launched university pages - ostensibly to assist high school students in their college searches - which provide an opportunity for social media managers to post updates to all the people who self-identify as alumni, current and former employees, or  voluntarily follow the college. I didn't quite know what to do with my UP LinkedIn page at first, since LinkedIn isn't really a social network and nothing I posted gained very much traction. But I quickly saw the amazing power in the "Students and Alumni" tab (hopefully that link works!), which allows you to sort alumni by class year, location, industry, company... it's astounding, really, how much information is available there. Looking to do a feature about alumni who work in politics? Want to host an alumni event in Chicago? Want to do a networking night for people who work in marketing? Want to search and see who has "Executive" in their title, for development prospecting purposes? It's all there in just a few clicks.

Now, imagine if we could tap into Facebook's incredible data pool in the same way that we can with LinkedIn university pages. In some ways, we already can, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with Facebook's Power Editor ad manager can attest. It's incredible how granular we can get with targeted ads, and I have the feeling that it's only just begun - every passing year Facebook ads more and more robust advertising and targeting opportunities.

And now think about the incredible power in identifying hyper-specific audiences, and custom creating content for them that will show up in their feeds. Will you have to pay for it? Yes indeed. But more and more, it may be worth it - not just for getting information out there, but for identifying, stewarding, and soliciting deep-pocket donors.

I don't think we're quite there yet, but as the social media world continues to evolve, it's important that we don't calcify in our understanding of what each social media platform is good for. Facebook was once incredible as a megaphone. Now, maybe just maybe, it's evolving into a funnel.




Great Social Media Idea: Team Photo

Great Social Media Idea: Hashtag Your Location Tag!