This post was originally published on Medium on February 16th, 2016.
It is no surprise that FaceBook, having started on a college campus, has a massive presence on college campuses today. To see for yourself, sit in the back row of a university lecture hall where you’ll see the dark blue of FaceBook occupying the majority of laptop screens. Over the past few months I have observed some important firsts in my use of FaceBook in a university setting.
I am currently attending Bond University in Australia on a semester exchange from my home university in the United States. While FaceBook Groups and FaceBook Events existed at my home university, it does not compare to how deeply FaceBook is integrated into student life at Bond University. Below you’ll see a weekly newsletter all Bond University students receive from the the Student Life office.
These events range from small club gatherings, to large university-sponsored events, to campus parties, and sporting events. In these email blasts you’ll notice these events feature a name, a time, a location, and little blue link. Each and every one of those links is attached to a FaceBook event. The above photo of the email blast is a very average week featuring ten events. Eight out of the ten events feature links to a FaceBook event.
You can get the sense from the above screenshot of a particular FaceBook event that this strategy is very successful. Likely due to this immediate massive exposure through this e-mail, these events become very popular and thrive through FaceBook. When I look around at students computers in my classes at Bond University, a plethora of them have FaceBook up, but more specifically they have these very events up. They’re looking at detailed event description, judging the popularity of the event based on the number of people going, and discovering if any of their friends are interested in attending the event as well. There’s been many occasions where someone has attempted to explain an event to me before they pause and just say ‘I’ll invite you to the event on FaceBook’. Even if you’re almost certain you don’t want to attend an event, but don’t completely rule it out, students will choose the ‘Interested’ option. This essentially sets a reminder for FaceBook to notify you the day of the event, while simultaneously letting all of your other FaceBook friends now you’re willing to be convinced into going.
At my home university that is Carnegie Mellon, events are not handled the same way. Sometimes the event is explained entirely in the e-mail blast and sometimes the event links to an external webpage featuring more information. There is no ‘Interested’ button that automatically reminds you of the event and there is no social-ness that allows friends to see you’re somewhat interested in going to the events.
Forget e-mail lists, campus clubs are entirely run through FaceBook groups at Bond University. When I attended Club Sign-On Day and showed interest in various clubs, I expected to write my email down as I’ve done with Carnegie Mellon’s Activity Fair in the past. Instead, I was repeatedly told to, “just join the group on FaceBook”. So I did, and when I joined these groups I saw the benefits of running a club through FaceBook. Messages spread much quicker as students are much more likely to check a FaceBook notification than a new e-mail. Club leaders gauged interest for various things by simply demanding members to, “comment on this post if you can attend”. Below you can see the ‘Bond University Soccer Club’ FaceBook group; the only form of communication between the organization and its members.
And last, but not least is that for the first time, I am watching FaceBook monetize the growing importance of FaceBook at universities. No campus organization would self-declare as a FaceBook advertiser, but when FaceBook simply suggests for you to ‘Boost Post’, that doesn’t suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. For the first time earlier this month, I was shown a sponsored post from the UNICEF branch at Bond University where they promoted an important, upcoming event. Similarly, I was also shown a sponsored post from a local rapper promoting his music video. The importance of this can not be understated. This is FaceBook at its finest, providing an advertising solution that can not be found anywhere else in the world. Without FaceBook, the campus UNICEF and the local rapper would likely have advertising budgets of $0. Instead, they have an advertising budget, solely devoted to FaceBook.
Currently, FaceBook has around two million different advertisers on its platform, while Google has four million, and Twitter for comparison sakes has about 60,000. Due to new advertisers such as the one’s I have just described, FaceBook is slowly, but surely closing the gap on Google.