The New #highered Digital Advertising Order: Does it make sense to pay to play on Facebook?

November 2nd, 2012 Karine Joly 3 Comments

My latest University Business column is now available in the November issue as well as online: “The New Digital Advertising Order: Using online advertising to reach target audiences”

This column is a primer about the new trends at work in digital advertising, a primer that can help you explain this new digital order to decision makers.

There’s been a lot of talk about social media advertising these past few weeks in the higher ed community.

The reason?

Another more drastic change in Facebook Edgerank (the algorithm determining which of your page posts (if any) will make it to your fans newsfeed) that was implemented a few weeks ago.

As I explained in my article, Facebook now wants to make sure you’ll buy sponsored stories or other social ad products, because that’s what will make its shareholders happy.

In this context, ads are the way to go to get your message across – at least for Facebook :-). Or, as I tried to put it Wednesday in 140 characters:

@ oh, I’m sure you got great results with FB advertising – they made the free way worst, so the paid way looks really great @

This week, we are also focusing on social media advertising in my 8-week online course on social media marketing for higher ed. So, my students (professionals like you working in universities and colleges around the country) have been asked if it makes sense to pay to play on social media platforms, discussing the benefits and risks of social media advertising.

Want to hear something funny?

The “right” answer for this specific class discussion has changed over the past few months. Not even a year ago, my recommendation to students was to shy away from ads (or maybe play a bit with a very small budget) and work harder publishing more engaging content.

Today, you don’t really have a choice anymore.

Despite what Facebook would like us to think, your FB audience is as much rented as the audience you rented from TV networks, newspaper or magazine publishers when you made traditional ad buys.
With one exception though: you’ve worked very hard to build this targeted Facebook audience.

And, it’s perfect for your institution. That’s why this tactic is still more powerful than others thanks to the engaging nature and smart reach of Facebook.

But, we all need to remember that Facebook can change the rules whenever it makes sense for its bottom line. Facebook has always been a for-profit company. So, it follows the… money!

Right before and after Facebook went public, there was a lot of talk on the fact that its ads didn’t work as well as other type of digital ads.

This probably explains why Facebook made sure in its recent algorithm change that ads work much better than any free updates you post.

Down the line, it means that you will have to use your credit card to keep up playing there.

The time of the free lunch on social media is indeed over.

  • Has your institution started to pay to play?
  • If you’re advertising on Facebook, what are your goals?
  • Does it make sense to even develop your Facebook audience when you don’t know how much it will cost you in the future to stay in touch with it?

Let’s talk about this!

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