When I announced to friends over four years ago that I was moving to Canada, I was bullied into joining Facebook, as a way to stay connected (as though Canada were Siberia!) and to share my new adventure with everyone. Like cellphones, digital cameras, iPads and Garmins, I came late to the game after everyone else was seemingly already on Facebook. And like all those other technologies, I grew to have an appreciation for their value…once I got there. And also like all those other technologies, I’m surely underutilizing the power of Facebook.
My Facebook page is pretty tame. It will never advise you that I’m sitting bored in the Wendy’s drive-thru lane, share with you that I found dress shirts on sale at Thomas Pink, or that I’ve decided to change dry cleaners. The majority of my Facebook activity centers around sharing great meals and recipes I’ve enjoyed, the many amazing places I’ve been blessed to visit, and inspiring books, newspaper articles, movies and television shows I’ve felt compelled to pass along. Finally, my Facebook page is full of and for my friends. There’s nobody on my Facebook that I’ve never met and there’s nobody who is merely a colleague or friend of a friend. I have tens of friends on Facebook, not hundreds.
So, with my targeted audience of friends and my non-traditional Facebook content, I’m surprised sometimes by the lack of responses I get. I post what I think is a thought-provoking essay and it seems to provoke no thoughts amongst my friends. Curious. I consider the majority of my friends to be rather intelligent, well read, and articulate. Why don’t they care? What’s even more surprising, however, are the posts that generate the most response. They tend to be the more pedestrian, sometimes even ranting, messages that I share.
What I’ve read about social media marketing and specifically about the use of Facebook, is that the metrics you should use to measure success have to do with the number of “likes” and comments any individual post might generate. How many people are “friends” with your school is not a valid measure of your social media success. Close attention followed by active engagement is the indicator that you’re successfully capturing your audience.
Imagine my surprise when, in a moment of frustration, I posted something as inane as the fact that my local grocery store was out of limes and that, of all things, went viral among my Facebook friends. Let’s call it Limegate! To date, it holds the record for generating the greatest number of responses and comments and engagement. Really? Limes?
But it became what my faculty friends call the “teachable moment”. In that flash I remembered the importance of the marriage of medium and message. The lack of engagement on my Facebook page wasn’t a commentary on my friends. It was a commentary on me! People come to Facebook for engagement and entertainment and information, and seek to accomplish all those things quickly and probably on the limited size of their smartphone screen. They’re not coming to Facebook for essays and book recommendations.
All that said, I’m not changing my approach to my Facebook page but I do think we need to consider message and medium with our admissions communications. What might best be delivered by letter or viewbook is probably not right for Facebook. And what you might tweet about your school probably isn’t worthy of inclusion in a glossy four-color brochure or headmaster’s address.
21st century schools have a lot to say and a lot of media at our disposal to say it. Like in real life, marry thoughtfully and carefully.