Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

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Part 2: Facebook is changing: Are you changing with it?

With all the changes going on at Facebook (see Part 1), it can be worthwhile for student recruiters to update their list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to organising efforts and investment in the platform. A recent study suggests that the importance of a good Facebook page is only growing: roughly half of surveyed consumers thought a brand’s Facebook page was more useful than its website.

As promised, this second part of our article offers our recommended list of good Facebook practices for recruiters, oriented toward complementary goals of engaging current fans, extending reach to new fans and prospective students, and providing content that enhances the institutional brand.

For photo updates…

Do add a little text to your images to make their importance and context clearer and to promote sharing. There’s a great post on how to do this at Social Media Examiner.

Do think seriously about photos and begin a library from which you can choose (e.g., of campus buildings, of prominent alumni, of charitable endeavours, of a city’s nightlife). Photos should emphasise the character of the brand and the academic/practical focuses of school (e.g., performing arts, work and travel, practical with industry co-op options, etc.).

Do add photo albums to your page: These increase pages’ visibility, and prospective students love poring over photos to get a fuller sense of the experience they would have at your institution. You could even have a photo contest among current students to have their photos added to the official site photo album! Check out one of the University of Oxford’s albums here.

Don’t make the mistake of getting too casual: Your institution might want to show its fun side, but though its customers are students, photos should not be juvenile or overly casual. Students are choosing your institution for serious reasons (e.g., a degree, a life-changing experience), so make sure photos don’t stray into dangerous, even litigious, territory.

Do invest in some professional photography: Given the ascendance of photos and video on the Internet and Facebook, it’s worth it to have some really striking, well-considered photography of the campus, students, staff, surrounding environment, and local/regional culture.

Best practice Facebook tips

Do leverage Facebook Place pages, which allow students to “check in.” The reason check ins can be so valuable is that when a Facebook user checks in to a specific location, Facebook broadcasts the check in to that user’s friends’ news feeds, who may become interested in that location.

Imagine a student from Sri Lanka studying at a beautiful language school in France who “checks in” (with a stunning photo): some of that student’s friends in Sri Lanka may be prospective students. You can easily see the value, and Facebook is in the process of making checking in a prominently displayed action on the site.

The University of Kentucky was a frontrunner of encouraging students to check in – it actually put giant blue pointers reminiscent of Facebook’s visual brand around its campus as a prompt to check in! The university also has a very nice Facebook page currently – robust, well written, balanced in its coverage of the school’s assets, fresh, and focused.

Do consider adding extra informational resources to your Facebook page, such as a virtual campus tour – available and able to be Facebook-integrated from such sites as YouVisit.

Do post inspirational videos: This Facebook-embedded UC Berkeley video of a paralysed student walking with the help of a robotic exoskeleton developed by UC Berkeley engineers says it all.

Don’t post too frequently: 73% of the consumers surveyed in the study mentioned in this article’s introduction (and highlighted in the infographic below) also noted that they will “un-like” a brand if it posts too often.

Do keep things fresh: As much as students won’t want to hear too much from you, you have to give them a reason to go to the page. Here are just some examples:

  • if the school is business-focused, a link to an important new article in a prominent newspaper or blog;
  • if it’s arts-focused, a video of a new dance troupe;
  • if it’s science-oriented, a funny cartoon or image on science from Pinterest.

Keep posts varied (e.g., between photos, text, video, short quotes) and regular.

Do perform a “value check” with every post: Before each post, ask “What’s in this for students or prospective students?” If the answer is nothing – often because the motivation behind the post is institution-centric – then think of another post.

Do measure your performance: At the very least, look at Facebook Insights to track items such as “People are Talking About” and “Reach.” Over time, you’ll see what kinds of posts generate the most likes, comments, and shares.

Facebook is a worthwhile investment for any organisation or institution for which the target audience is students – but only if it’s done properly … as with all marketing efforts.

Finally, we’ll sign off with the infographic from Lab42 below, which offers insight into how liking a brand on Facebook influences the consumer experience.


In case you missed it, Part One of this article reviews some of the substantial changes Facebook has made over the last year.

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