Colgate University’s Advanced Facebook Targeting

On the latest episode of Enrollment Growth University, Matt Hames, Communications Strategist at Colgate University, discussed how to centralize your social media governance and utilize Facebook’s hyper-targeting capabilities for your enrollment growth initiatives.

This post is based on what he shared in his interview.

Several years ago, Matt embarked on what I would call a “social media governance crusade” at Colgate. He convinced each and every department on campus to willingly give up their individual social pages in a favor of a more centralized, more unified approach, with a much larger reach. I am constantly impressed with the way Matt sees the world and fights for stronger communication on campus.

In this post, we’re sharing some of the wisdom Matt shared about Facebook strategies for enrollment growth departments.

One University, One Facebook Page

As we alluded to in the intro, Colgate basically has one Facebook page, total, at the entire university. According to Matt, there are still some “rogue Facebook pages” out there, but for the most part all communication is run through the one main page.

His argument, when he arrived at the university, was this: if they have one Facebook page, it will clearly win the Google search for “Colgate University.” Instead of starting another Facebook page, and then doing other marketing to try to drive people to that page, why not just create content and give it to Matt?

It’s about the whole communication strategy: instead of thinking about a channel-specific piece of content, think about a story that you want to tell someone, then let the communications strategist put it on the appropriate channel, at the appropriate time. Far too many people create a Facebook page and then start thinking about the kind of content they need to create, instead of thinking, “I have a story to tell people. How can I tell that story to the most people at the right time?”

Matt argued that prospective students were starting to whittle down their top-20 list of schools that they want to go to. They’re going to Google the schools, and the results of that are the way that they’re going to look at each school.

Now their Facebook page comes fifth in a Google search, and so what Matt says to people when they want to start a “department of history” page is, “Would you rather have your content on the page that comes fifth for Google searches for ‘Colgate?’ Or one that comes 150th? Would you rather talk to 25,000 people, or 10?”

In other words, why work so hard to build an audience when the university already has one that you can use?

…But What About Bad Content?

You might be protesting: Come on Matt, you’re not going to post their garbage content are you? That’s why they want their own page. So how do you get over that kind of governance issue?  

Again, it comes down to the story you have to tell. Who are you trying to tell it to? And why?

Why do you want to take a picture of this lecture? It’s not about the lecture: the story is about the access that students get when they come to Colgate. So, take a step back. Give me the picture, Matt says. Let me help you frame the story in a way that is going to make sense to prospective students.

If your goal is to try to get people [00:05:00] at your event, then make a sign. Put it into the class, or the Facebook groups that we all start. There are better ways to drive people. If you just want butts in seats, you don’t want a whole Facebook page for the department, but if you want to tell the story about access within your department, then let’s tell that story.

How Colgate Is Using Facebook’s Advanced Targeting

The really exciting thing for Matt is that they are thinking about different kinds of audiences to match the kinds of people who come to the school. For higher ed, it’s a highly involved, high-consideration purchase decision. Even if a student doesn’t pay the full price, and not a lot of students do, it still costs a certain amount of money.

One of the things that is different about the consideration process for a university in comparison to a house, or a car, or some other high-consideration product, is that you know the exact date by which they need to buy. If the cutoff is January 15th, you cannot buy admissions to Colgate on January 16th. The application is done, and you cannot say, “I would like to buy your product.”

In September, you just want people to raise their hand. In October, you want to get them to keep their hand up. And in November, you want to get them to perform a behavior, such as to apply or visit. Throughout all of that, there are different behaviors that you want to try to generate, such as virtual tours and real tours.

So when you know that you have a certain population that’s already visited this summer, they’re thinking about applying. That’s a custom audience. When you have a region of people where you want to kind of grow, you can use Facebook advanced targeting and say, “I would like to go after 13 to 17 year olds in Texas who are interested in liberal arts and are interested in a school that has spirit.”

Facebook lets you advertise to those interests. You can forge your advertising plan to fit the right kinds of communities.

Why Higher Ed Should Focus on the Facebook Platform

Matt’s advice is to “focus, focus, focus” on the Facebook platform. Colgate doesn’t do Snapchat, and they barely do Instagram. Right now there has never been a better tool in the history of the world than Facebook to hyper-target the kinds of people that you want to go to your school.

Facebook, on so many levels, offers the ability to advertise exactly to those you want to, when you want to advertise to them. Whenever people ask Matt his thoughts on trying out new trendy tools and social media, he responds the same way.

“I fight a continued battle to decrease the amount of content that our prospective student sees, any content that isn’t entirely the right content, at the right time. And if you can nail Facebook, you’re going to start to win more and more. So, my advice to you would be really, truly understand Facebook, and go from there.”

To hear Matt get in-depth about advanced Facebook targeting, check out the rest of our podcast interview with him at one of the links below.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Matt Hames from Colgate University. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.