February 3, 2014 Debbie Misra

Happy Birthday Facebook

Tomorrow is a big day for social media: Facebook turns 1o years old. The social media network has revolutionized web use, connectivity and social interactions. For higher education, Facebook has elevated marketing, branding and recruiting.

As the social media behemoth matures, its audience is growing up too. And while there’s been a lot of press coverage of young adults abandoning Facebook, that hardly means it is becoming obsolete. Rather, Facebook is changing and its users must evolve along with it.

What does all this mean for higher education institutions? Facebook is and should remain a centerpiece of your social media strategy.

The sheer size of Facebook’s audience is reason enough. It is used by 57% of all adults and 73% of all those ages 12-17, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. Facebook users are intensifying the time they spend on the network, with 64% of  users visiting on a daily basis, up from 51% who were daily users in 2010.

Facebook is still a powerful tool to connect with younger users. Teens are active on Facebook and have the largest social networks. Among teens surveyed by the Pew Research Center, 94% of teen social media users said they had a Facebook profile, and 81% said that Facebook is the profile they use most often. Young adults are more likely to participate in multiple social networks (Twitter and Instagram top that list), but that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned Facebook.

Young adults also have the largest social networks, with 27% of 18-29 year old Facebook users having more than 500 friends in their network, compared to 72% of users age 65+ have 100 friends or fewer.

Another sign of Facebook’s staying power is that its engagement continues to grow. This is important for marketers and recruiters trying to cut through the clutter. Even if Facebook users aren’t posting or sharing status updates, they are interacting with content on the network. According to the Pew data, 44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day, with 29% doing so several times per day.

So how should higher ed social media users mark this Facebook birthday? Make sure you’re content is fresh and evolving, and keep your pages updated and rich with photos and video. Come up with fresh, exciting promotions to engage users. (If you haven’t already, check out Idaho State University’s free tuition social media campaign.) Give your young users reason to comment and share, and that will ensure your school a spot on their news feeds.  Constant contact will keep your institution visible on Facebook — and any other social media channel you’re active on — and building that awareness is what social media marketing is all about.

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