From likes to leads: Winning new students with Facebook

 Marcel Creed is a committed educator and technologist.  After a decade in senior management across the ELICOS, VET and Higher Education sectors in Australia, Marcel joined Sky Software as their senior executive – business development. 

Universities often view their Facebook page as a requirement of modern marketing through which they can promote themselves to potential students. But more than another avenue to advertise courses and facilities, Facebook pages can be a highly valuable tool for increasing recruitment of international and domestic students.  Facebook is without question a highly lucrative hunting ground and most tertiary educational providers are acutely aware of students’ prolific use of social media platforms. For example, almost every student outside of China has a Facebook profile and uses the site on a daily basis.  But while every college and university has a Facebook page most struggle to extract its full potential to recruit students, and to do so effectively without adding staff.

In order for education providers to use Facebook to its full potential as a marketing tool, they must consider evolving their corporate Facebook page from a community building exercise to a tangible lead generator, a page with a measurable monetary value and return on investment. This is typically achieved by engaging with (potential) students and, interacting and providing “call-to-action” points. It means moving away from the traditional advertising model. The average corporate Facebook page merely displays how fun it is to study at XYZ, which is not all that far removed from the old school commercials promising students fun times if they drink, smoke or eat ABC, albeit now with videos and real students.

A recent marketing exercise shows how easily a Facebook page can be turned into a recruiting engine. Language travel agents Australia Go and Go Study Australia recruit international students to work and study in Australia. The two agents have established Facebook Pages in their established markets (Go Study targets Italy and Spain, Australia Go focuses on Brazil); however, neither could collect information on the students who visited their Facebook pages. To address these challenges, Go Study and Australia Go worked with LanguageRoom to set up a free “Test your English” Facebook app, a simple tool that helps organisations measure the reading, listening, grammar and communication skills of potential student recruits.

LanguageRoom also set up a photo competition app for Australia Go, which was branded with the agency’s logo and translated for the appropriate market. Essentially, the competition invited Brazilian youngsters to submit the best surfing photo and win the chance to learn a 12 weeks stay in Queensland to study English in a local Queensland college. For Brazilians who enjoy surfing and want to learn English – Queensland is the perfect location. The competition was run on Brazil’s biggest surfing website and attracted more than 10,000 leads from people voting for the best picture.

Through this Facebook app, Go Study and Australia Go were able to capture and convert relevant student information –  including a participant’s name, nationality, country of residence, academic history, age, test results and email address – from Facebook’s data layer.  With this comprehensive data at their fingertips, Go Study and Australia Go were then able to quickly determine whether a student who visits their Facebook page ticks all the right boxes and is worth pursuing.

After running the English test for six months, Go Study generated nearly 6,000 leads, 3,500 Likes and 2,000 inquiries to study.  Australia Go enjoyed even greater success with its photo competition with the app collecting over 10,000 leads, 7,000 Likes and 177 inquiries to study in just four and a half months.

One of the striking features of Facebook initiatives is that they can be used and supported from anywhere; LanguageRoom, an online application currently operates in Australia, Brazil and Europe.
The examples also show how the right tool can turn Facebook traffic into valuable leads without increasing the number of staff to monitor conversations and engage one-on-one with visitors.   By using a Facebook app, Australia Go and Go Study were able to send automatic notifications and updates to people who had liked their Facebook page.

Educators and agents who view Facebook and social media as one-way communications tool are missing the bigger picture. The clear trend is towards a more direct marketing approach to student recruitment through social media. This includes giving potential recruits on Facebook a clear call to action – whether it’s asking them to share the app with friends or taking part in an online survey –  which then provides universities with data which can be shared with their sales, customer service and marketing teams.

Six ways to generate tangible leads from your Facebook page:

  1. Aim to convert your Facebook visitors into sales – Measuring the amount of users that ‘like’ your page is the first step, but you need to convert them in order to achieve and measure real Return on Investment. Therefore:
  2. Post relevant content frequently – With your potential leads checking Facebook constantly throughout the day, it’s important to keep uploading fresh content onto your page and cross post on Twitter, your website, etc
  3. Creating recurring visitors, either through content updates, games, video series or other.
  4. Engage with your Facebook page members – More than just talking about what services your university provides, broaden the discussion with topics that are of interest to your audience.
  5. Offer incentives in exchange for lead information – Whether it’s a chance to study abroad or a free eBook only exclusive to Facebook fans, users need to be incentivised if they are to share personal details.
  6. Use proper database and data mining techniques to use the leads your FB pages are creating.

 Marcel holds a Bachelor of Education and Master of Education and is passionate about the future of education in an increasingly complicated sector.  Marcel’s insights have been widely sought and he has participated in a number of panels and advisory committees and sessions to both Queensland State and Commonwealth Government.