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Social Media So Far In 2014

Stephen Biernacki

From big changes to small, the social media landscape shifts quickly. There’s a lot of fascinating data that has been revealed so far in 2014, too. Here’s a snapshot.

Facebook Buys WhatsApp
You’ve heard this one. After being turned down by Snapchat in 2013, Facebook purchased messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in mid-February. It has over 450 million active users. At this point Facebook intends for WhatsApp to act like an independent company and has no plans to begin advertising on the service. So why did Facebook buy them? Here’s a good summary of potential reasons from Time’s Jared Newman but I’ll let this quote from Mark Zuckerberg about WhatsApp’s engagement speak for itself: “WhatsApp is the only widely used app we’ve ever seen that has more engagement and a higher percent of people using it daily than Facebook itself.” Lastly, here’s a graphic that shows how fast WhatsApp grew since their launch:

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Kids Love YouTube
College and universities should pay attention to more than the upper end of the 12-17 age group. Many times, what’s happening at the bottom end is an indication of where the top end is going. Check out this infographic built by the folks at Fashion Playtes and NowSourcing:

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Some of the data unquestionably skews young for our purposes, but the fact only 8% of kids 12-17 ever used in Twitter in this survey is fascinating. Also interesting is that 45% of kids spend more time on YouTube than any other website in this study. According to a different and larger survey from The Intelligence Group, almost 75% of U.S. teens use YouTube “frequently.”

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What’s this mean for your institution’s online marketing efforts? At its simplest, create more video for YouTube and strongly consider advertising there as well.

Digital Ad Spending is Growing Fast
It’s predicted that in 2018 digital ad spending will eclipse TV. Is your institution already spending more in online than TV? Below is a graphic from the Wall Street Journal (two others here). Here’s what EMG’s higher education ad data indicates.

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Strategy Versus Speed
It’s best to know what you’re getting into (and why you’re getting into it) before jumping on new services, but perhaps there should be more emphasis on figuring that out quickly. Getting on social networks early can pay huge dividends in the long run, and the more well-known your institution is the more rewards you can reap. See the graphic below via Business Insider:

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Unless You Pay, Reaching Your Audience on Facebook Is Getting Much Harder
In fact, there is speculation it might be almost impossible. Thanks to algorithm changes organic reach on Facebook is trending in the wrong direction for brands, which is especially disappointing considering we’re talking about an audience who opted in to see your content. Here are some specifics on how it has changed (graphic from that article below). In short, my view is that you should absolutely devote a portion of your marketing budget to online advertising on Facebook. If you want to reach anyone on the service, it’s something you’ll simply have to do. A mix of boosting individual posts and driving traffic to your website is best. Also, consider trying to increase the Likes on your Facebook Page, though this continues decline in importance. The amount of money you invest doesn’t need to be large; this is certainly a case in which something is better than nothing.

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While on this topic, here are some classic tips for increasing engagement with your Facebook posts.

Update 4/3: Below is recent data from the Pew Research Center that looks at how teens ages 12 to 17 use the Internet, social media, and mobile phones:

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