Since becoming an intern at SimpsonScarborough, I have grown accustomed to searching for various articles about marketing and higher education. One particular topic that has caught my attention is this widely-cited 2018 Pew study, as well as similar articles, reporting that teens and college-age students are ditching Facebook in favor of other social platforms. Specifically, the studies report that younger generations prefer YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat to Facebook. And some have been as dramatic as to say, “Facebook is dead.” In my experience as a college student, I disagree. In fact, I see Facebook as the one platform that connects all age groups.
When I was in high school, Facebook was THE social media platform to use. Students could update their status, post photo albums, and keep tabs on all their friends via “the wall.” However, this platform that was once mainly a social media tool has now transformed into an application used primarily for communication. In the past several years, Facebook introduced Messenger, a free messaging platform that offers multiple services: video calls, face filters, stickers, voice recording, and more. And in the latest news, Facebook is now piloting subscriptions for groups. With these recent product features, here’s a look at how Facebook can be used as a valuable higher education communications tool across various key audiences.
- Current Students. Every college student I have come into contact with always mentions Facebook as a key platform in their college experience. Though it no longer represents our number-one form of social media, it is our platform of choice for communicating. Student-run clubs typically create a group page meant specifically for posting meeting locations, providing constant updates, or communicating directly to the entire group. For example, I am a member of 15 Facebook groups ranging from Sociology Society to Running Club. Facebook Messenger also allows students to communicate via the application, thus making it easier for Android and iPhone users to text and video call — some group texts become disorganized with all the various models of phones, but Facebook Messenger streamlines the communication flow.
- Parents. Facebook pages allow parents to come together and offer each other advice. For example, Cal Poly created one page for university parents, students, and volunteers that facilitates discussion among the entire group. This page is essential for parents of prospective students and provides important information that cannot be found elsewhere, such as giving insider tips for parents of incoming students, sharing personal experiences with businesses or products, or generating excitement about upcoming events.
- Prospective Students. When I was looking at colleges, the first thing I did was check out how often the university’s Facebook page was updated. After making sure the posts were recent, I proceeded to join every group created in order to be kept up to date. The admitted student page was particularly good, as it allowed me to directly connect with current students as well as future classmates. Prospective students can also join groups for activities or clubs that may be of interest to them, such as the UCLA Women’s Ultimate Frisbee. These groups allow students to see what the institution has to offer prior to settling in on campus.
- Alumni. Although I am not yet an alum of LMU, I am already a member of the LMU alumni group on Facebook. Many college students are beginning to join their university’s alumni page simply as a way to gain a more established network. I joined the page in hopes of securing an internship through the alumni of both my majors. The page has motivated me to interact more with alumni of all fields as I begin to learn more about what my future may hold. The alumni page allows me to stay connected with recent graduates and see what older alumni are currently doing in their field. Engaging current students with the alumni page is a phenomenal way of cultivating a strong foundation of alums. By starting early, future alums will already be more involved within the broader university community. The LMU Alumni Page not only keeps graduates up to date on what current students are doing and new things being introduced on campus but also provides students like me the opportunity to message fellow group members — students and alums — within Facebook Messenger.
Across all audiences, Facebook groups and pages still reign — though maybe not in the same way they did five or 10 years ago. They allow easy, personalized communication channels and encourage safe and supportive communities for people of all ages. Facebook may have lost some of its popularity, but it still offers benefits that are incredibly valuable for colleges and universities.
Kira Jatoft is an intern at SimpsonScarborough. She is a fourth-year Sociology and Spanish double major at Loyola Marymount University and loves to nerd out over data analysis, binge-eat muddy buddies, and travel (mainly to Disneyland).