On Sunday 8 April 2018, Arjen Lubach once again put himself in the spotlight by responding to the data breach of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. He deleted both his personal and his programme’s Facebook accounts on Wednesday 11 April 2018 at 20:00 and announced it via… a Facebook event.
At Noscura, we work daily with the Facebook pages of educational institutions, as we advise institutions on the use of Facebook as a service channel and train people in writing content for online channels. Personally, I even remember the moment I started the Facebook page (24 January 2011) for our former employer: TU Delft. We, the co-founders of noscura, have actively engaged with that page, the social media team, the webcare team and the content. We managed to create amazing viral content and we saw the number of fans grow quickly
Logically, the question arises: “Should an educational institution follow the example of Lubach?” Given that I think you should not just follow someone, even someone named Arjen Lubach, that question is not very easy to answer with a simple “yes” or “no”.
Target audience, message, means
In the beginning, the goal of the TU Delft Facebook page was to share information with potential international students about TU Delft, the programs, the city and the research. International students were targeted partly because had the university had less resources available to recruit abroad. The aim of the page and the target group was clear. Since that target group was actively present on Facebook in large numbers in 2011, it was a natural choice. The page message was “It is nice, fun, interesting, informative and challenging to be a student here” and “You want to be part of this community”.
A lot has changed in more than seven years.
Are you where your target audience is?
As an educational institution you should regularly re-evaluate your goal, target group, message, means. If your goal has changed or your target group has moved to another platform, you have to move as well.
The generation of prospective students (15-18 years old) that educational institutions are aiming are unique in that this group no longer wants to search for the right information. They want that information to come to them. They do not watch TV, do not read newspapers and only trust their own personal networks. They are blind to most advertising and marketing. Websites often contain too much information for too large a of target group. Yet websites are often an important part of the orientation for a study program.
They want honest, first-hand and relevant information in a narrative voice via channels where they are open to your communication. Those stories must come from people they trust. If they ask you a question, they want quick and accurate information, relevant to them at that moment. They will only ask you a question if they are already interested.
Your online service must be able to answer the questions posed by the prospective students and you have to make sure that the reputation of your institution is good and also in line with your communications, both online and offline.
According to NewCom research, if your goal is to recruit students to your educational institution you should no longer be on Facebook but on Instagram and perhaps on Snapchat. If you want to reach their parents (and thus the students of the future), you can still do that on Facebook. This will change. I can say that with 100% certainty, but when and how it will change is unclear. However, NewCom’s research clearly shows the trends which you can prepare for.
As an educational institution you could make a statement by deleting your Facebook page and going along with the social trend. You could do that because, as an educational institution, you believe that you have a moral obligation towards your real “customers”: the students and also to your future students. You should be aware that you have not lured these customers to Facebook. They were already there and that is why you went there.
To leave Facebook, you can argue that you do not want to have your communication on a non-owned media. I understand that, but I think the opportunity for that has passed. Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and all future “free” platforms have a business model that is more or less similar to that of Facebook.
You can blame Facebook for not having protected “our” data properly. You have to decide if that is your reason to delete the Facebook page of your institution.
So #byebyefacebook or not?
It is strange to think you might have to go along with a trend started by Arjen Lubach. However, it would also be strange if you are suddenly no longer comfortable with Facebook having your data and are concerned that it does not protect it well.
Your online communication strategy, for the educational institution, is about a service-oriented attitude and about the process needed to organise listening, interaction and content creation based on your brand values. That strategy is not about a platform. You have to follow your target group to the platforms where they are which is something different than trying to get your target group to your platform.
You only have to delete the Facebook account if the benefits of giving up data no longer outweigh the aims of the communication goals you have set. This is a good moment to think about your online communication strategy. If we can help you, please contact us.
As for giving up your Facebook page, I advise against it.