Insights — To Boycott or Not to Boycott

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

Weekly Brief / July 13, 2020
Sara Wallace
Sara Wallace

To be honest, that's not really the question.
The question is really about what are you doing to address the issues that students care deeply about?

We're two weeks into July, and the majority of institutions did not participate in the Facebook ad boycott. Considering the relentless budget cuts, the increased demand to minimize melt, and the urgency to launch recruitment strategies to support the incoming classes of 2021 and 2022, that's hardly surprising. Whether you realistically considered participating in the boycott or not, I'm sure the thought crossed your mind that there's an opportunity to be part of a larger narrative. This is a movement that will be in the history books, and the students that you are trying to build connections with right now are overwhelmingly in support of it. 

But regardless of whether your institution opted in to the boycott, you have the chance to strengthen engagement with your incoming class and future prospects by standing up and speaking out. Using your platform for good and helping to drive change is the breath of fresh air we can use right now. But more importantly, it's something your students are demanding.

As if you needed a reminder, here it is: If you're still running paid ads on Facebook or Instagram right now, your MarComm team needs your support right now. There's a 100% chance they're receiving a substantial number of questions about the Black Lives Matter movement, COVID, and how your institution is addressing systemic racism and hate speech, to say nothing of questions (and opinions!) regarding your fall reopening plans. Do they have the resources, information, or support to respond comfortably and appropriately?

71% increase

In social media budget allocation

In a recent Gartner CMO survey looking at FY21 budgets, 71% estimate a rise in budgets allocated to social media. This data — coming off the heels of the ad boycott — is startling. When you dig deeper, you can see that the diversification of social media platforms requires enhanced strategies. For higher ed, we're reaching a turning point where institutions should be looking to expand social media presence to best support recruitment strategies. Gen Zers are largely shifting off of Facebook as a platform (if they were ever on), and there are many options to consider that will support enrollment strategies in the right ways. The challenge is having to upend existing content strategies to evaluate where to plug in new platforms like TikTok, Twitch, and Snapchat. But the goal is clear: meet your students where they're at. Answer the questions they care most about. And lead. Lead with ethical clarity in a world that's overridden by misinformation. 

Most of you are heading into the new fiscal year with greater demands from leadership despite a more limited budget. Taking the time to thoroughly review your enrollment strategies, student personas, and your content strategy will be both time consuming and challenging. But it will yield substantial dividends to be thoughtful in your strategies when you execute on those new plans or enhance existing ones. Our audiences and our platforms are evolving. We must too.

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