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I am not a social media expert. I am not a techy, although our (technology) solutions architect gives me the thumbs up on knowing enough about technology to make me dangerous. I do not have a marketing degree. So, why am I interested in whether Facebook metrics can predict program enrollment?

According to MMS Education (2012), educator membership in social networks grew by 34% from 2009-2012 representing 82% of K-12 educators. They are joining both general social networks and education-focused sites (p. 7).

Given that funding for most university academic programs is calculated using formulas based on enrollment, I am interested in measuring as well as evaluating the potential benefits of connecting individuals in a social media environment with (a) individuals they might not otherwise come into contact, and (b) stories and information that might be of interest to them.

Recent articles and blogs discuss whether or not Facebook insights/metrics are a valid measure of marketing strategies (Miller, 01.28.2013; Baar, 02.19.2013Epstein, 02.21.2013; Linn, 11.05.2012)

In one of these blogs, “Building a Kick-Ass Social Media Dashboard” Miller suggests that “tracking followers, fans, sentiment… [are] vanity metrics [and that] these type of metrics are great indicators, but they don’t really tie back to your business bottom line: driving revenue” (here). Does Miller’s comment align with educational programs whose “bottom line” funding is often based on a formula which includes the number of enrolled students? Consider findings from a J.D. Power and Associates study:

[There exists] a correlation between a company’s overall social communications and a consumer’s liklehood to purchase and overall perception of the company. Among highly satisfied consumers (those with satisfaction scores of 951 or higher on a 1,000-point scale), 87% said their online interaction with the company “positively impacted” their likelihood of purchase from that company.

Nearly a third of consumers ages 30-49 and 38% of those over 50 interact with companies via social marketing…

What do these findings suggest for education programs?

They suggest that programs must use social media platforms to not only present meaningful information/material in the environment, but they must also proactively engage users who arrive in their social media platform. It also means programs should connect their online presence and their communication so that traffic from various avenues (e.g., website view, blog view, article view, inquiry email) is routed to the social media environment.

Now I get to play Monday Morning Quarterback! Check out the following graph. The graph below includes 3 different Facebook metrics measured over a one year period for TeacherReady, an accredited online alternative professional teaching certification program that is the Educator Preparation Institute for the University of West Florida.

TR Facebook Metrics

There are several takeaways from this graph some of which are evident by knowing that this educator preparation program offers cohort enrollment three times per year – Feb, July, and Oct – which have application deadlines the first of the previous month (identified in the graph with the vertical dashed lines) and the associated enrollment for each of the February, July, and October 2012 cohorts (identified in the graph by circled number).

In 2012, the increase in the number of engaged users associates with an increase in enrollment. The mean number of engaged users increased 275% from January to September and the respective enrollment  per cohort increase between these two classes is 139%.

During the same time period three times more stories were shared and almost five times more stories were created/posted on the page.

The average number of individuals viewing page content quadrupled to over 400 views.

What is not evident in the graph is the number of individuals engaging. Including January 2013 in the comparison, the mean percent total of actual users increased by 4.5%. This means that this education program’s Facebook page is becoming an effective online environment for serving currently enrolled individuals in addition to individuals seeking more specific information about its program, and for presenting content of interest to “fans” of its page and their friends. That is, their 2012 metrics show the program was successful in using its page as both a “marketing outlet and as a place for consumers to solve service issues.”

So, back to the original question about using social media metrics to predict educational programs’ (enrollment) bottom line? CMI states “the end goal is action, not eyeballs. Measuring page views is only a place to begin” (p. 3). In addition, it is important to remember that correlation does not mean causation; with that stated, the numbers suggest TeacherReady’s continued commitment to students (customers) with renewed focus on communication connected to purpose, contributed to increased enrollment of almost 100 students for their January cohorts (Jan 2012 v. Jan 2013); and 80 students across their July and October cohorts (2011 v. 2012).

More about “renewed focus on communication connected to purpose in a future blog. Share your thoughts about how TeacherReady did it (in addition to having quality, evidence-based content for delivery). We look forward to hearing from you.

TeachReady

 

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Baar, Aaron. (02.19.2013). Social Interactions Affect Brand Perception. Marketing Daily. Available online here.

Content Marketing Institute and Convince & Convert. (11.05.2012). A Field Guide to the Four Types of Content Marketing Metrics. Available online here.

Linn, Michele. (11.05.2012). A Field Guide to the 4 Types of Content Marketing Metrics #eBook. Available online here.

Miller, Jason. (01.28.2013). Building a Kick-Ass Social Media Dashboard. Marketo. Available online here.

MMS Education. (2012). 2012 Survey of K-12 Educators on Social Networking, Online Communities, and Web 2.0 Tools. Available via http://www.mmseducation.com.

TeacherReady is state approved and NCATE accredited and upon completion of TeacherReady earn a professional teaching certificate from the State of Florida. alternative certification program that is affiliated with the University of West Florida. Visit the website or connect on Facebook for more information.