A snapshot profile of today’s Facebook as a marketing platform

Facebook's High-Wire Balancing Act Continues

Note to marketers who have been investing in Facebook: Fasten your safety belts.

Once again, Mark Zuckerberg is changing the algorithm that determines what users will see in their newsfeed.

Give Facebook credit. They announced some time ago the intent to make social media social again, and the change in algorithm is intended to give more visibility to status updates from friends and family. Positive social engagement should increase as a result.

The ancillary benefit for users is that their newsfeed will not feel bogged down by commercial content. But once again, marketers have to take a hard look at their Facebook spend.

The question: Should brands write off Facebook as a marketing vehicle?

Diosclosure: We make no money off media investments that clients make in Facebook. So our views below are relatively unbiased.

And our view on this is no, marketers shouldn’t abandon Facebook as a means of building brand awareness or community involvement.

Rationale: Mark Zuckerberg is walking a tightrope, balancing a publicly traded company’s need to hit quarterly numbers (which comes from ad revenue), and the largest social media platform’s need to remain committed to being essentially social, not commercial.

We think that Facebook’s decisions will pay off in the long run, and marketers should be reassured by the fact that Facebook literally cannot afford to push out brands altogether. So at least in the short term, there will still be opportunity for brands to market through Facebook.
In the midterm, we continue to watch the multi-year trend of sliding Facebook usership among key demographics.

Advice: Target and Moderate

Our position on Facebook is that while there are excellent targeted opportunities on the platform, our clients should not overinvest in a marketing tactic that fluctuates in reach (and therefore value) and which lacks policy transparency.

If you want to talk further about Facebook or targeted marketing over a beverage, please contact us, and stop by for a beverage.

Think outside the mascot: 5 steps to better academic branding

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Back to school on academic branding

Private prep schools. Community colleges. Name-brand universities. International programs. Vocational and technical institutes. Academic organizations of all stripes are competing harder for business – and looking carefully at their branding practices.

Not just the logo or the ads. Not just the mascots and marching bands. Not the varsity team jerseys. More and more, schools are asking themselves a larger, more critical question: How do we brand the essence of who we are, i.e. our curriculum?

Recognizing the obstacles

Academic environments, generally, are not marketing environments. They are learning environments. So their marketing culture is usually not highly evolved – and is often handled by Admissions, an affiliated but separate discipline.

The other challenge is political. Academic organizations frequently must practice inclusion to secure buy-in at lots of levels and optimize the chances of success for any change in how the school operates. Big initiatives make big targets.

So it’s best to think long-term and include the correct stakeholders early and often.

5 baby steps toward curriculum brand development

Step #1: Step back. Waaaaay back. Look at your curriculum end to end and try to describe it in basic language. Example: A private school client wrestled with the task of how to describe its curriculum, which is evenly split between traditional liberal arts courses and highly creative electives. The course of action became about Balance. The Sorry-But-We- Can’t-Name-the-Client curriculum “strikes the perfect balance between classic studies and progressive, student-driven inquiry.”

Step 2. Consider culture as well as curricula. Sometimes it’s not what happens inside the classroom, but outside it. One private school client has an informal Peer to Peer counseling program that matches underclassmen with juniors and seniors, so there’s always a person to turn to for advice. This is not unique, but no one else has branded it, so an opportunity exists for a P2P initiative that underscores a supportive culture.

Step 3. Brand the faculty. No, we don’t mean that you should assign “superstar” status to any individual. Rather, think about the faculty as a team, which shares a common goal. Consider a faculty t-shirt day when every teacher wears the same shirt with the same message, like: I teach great students great things. It’s a small step toward creating the perception of a unified spirit and standard.

Step 4. Consider brand partners. The Learning Company is not a brick and mortar institution. But check out the alliances they’ve built with Smithsonian and National Geographic. Those associations command a lot of credibility for the courses offered. If you co-brand a course with a local university, 501C3, or other entity, you can begin to brand the curriculum from the inside out.

Step 5. For extra credit: Believe in the blog. The Darrow School, a private high school in New York, has a charismatic head of school who can blog.

We remind clients that blogging takes tradecraft and time and it shouldn’t be done by just anyone. But a blog program that features a rotating field of faculty experts, coaches, guests, alumnae, and other stakeholders can be interesting – and can feed social media channels and site content with fresh images and opinion.

Your turn. Give us a shout and we’ll be happy to buy you a beverage and talk in more detail about your school and its brand.

LinkedIn U: How marketers can benefit

LinkedIn University Pages just launched.

Seems like a great tool for students. They can shop for colleges, network, and gain an edge in preparing for the job market. They can even see what recent graduates are making and see the profiles of alumni working for top Fortune 500 companies. It’s like a Rolodex for the pre-workforce population [Note for Millennials: A Rolodex is a clunky old desktop card file with names and phone numbers.]

It’s a great tool for Universities, too. Besides having yet another point of contact with past, present, and future students, LinkedIn for Universities opens up new ways to support fundraising, promote events, cross-market programs, and reach out to potential speakers, sponsors, and faculty.

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But what about us marketers?

There’s an old saying: “Academia is a dog eat dog world. But in the business world, it’s just the opposite.” So how will LinkedIn University pages put food on our plate? Our initial take:

Demographic insights. College students are consumers. The more we know about them, the better. LinkedIn’s business groups offer some interesting stats on the composition of each member base. If they offer the same reporting on University page usage, it might shine some meaningful light on the makeup of the student user base. The issue: How willing will LinkedIn be to share data without linking it to an ad buy?

Professional networking. University pages enable you to find fellow alums, and view that universe by where they live, the companies they work for, and what they do there. These functions were possible without the University page product, but the new functions make it easier, and organize the content more cleanly.

Recruitment ads. LinkedIn offers to help you “reach the right students,” and “be the employer of choice” as they pitch recruitment ad placement. But it’s not clear yet whether the new U-pages will actually connect employers with qualified candidates. Our advice: Wait and see.

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Research. We at drinkcaffeine have long maintained that social media is as much a research engine as a marketing tool. LinkedIn University pages are no different. Observing the type of content being posted will say a lot about how universities are branding themselves, how students perceive them, and how social and professional networking will converge.

LinkedIn is tapping into a younger market but staying aligned with their initial goals of professional networking. They are also creating huge opportunities to increase their revenue by focusing on an industry (for-profit colleges) that spent nearly $4.2 billion in marketing and recruiting in 2009.

drinkcaffeine will issue a report card at the end of the year.

For more information about this topic, or any of our services, please contact drinkcaffeine-

website: drinkcaffeine.com
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