This post will be the first of several summarizing best practices for using Facebook Pages as a higher ed marketing tool. (Something I should have written about awhile ago, I suspect, but better late than never.)
Michael Fienen (@fienen) got me thinking earlier this morning when he asked the twitterverse to fess up about which higher ed institutions were putting Facebook Pages to best use. @tsand ran a Google hunt for University Facebook and got Union University on the top of his list - so Union wins in the SEO department. Let's take a deeper look:
Above: First screenlength of Union University's Facebook Page - click for live Page.
Union's Page models several of what I consider Facebook Page best practices. The header image uses the full width of the column, and is bright and engaging. The header image is also sized so that location and phone information can be seen on the first screenlength - as opposed to a header image that extends below the cut line. Union has 1,820 fans, which is very respectable - but low considering how high its search visibility was (many pages have several thousand fans, and presumably more traffic and more inlinks). The Union Page integrates flickr to pull in photos from their flickr account over to Facebook - adding content to the Page and pushing traffic back and forth between both properties (Facebook and flickr).
So that's Union. The rest of this post is going to focus on the first screenlength of a strong Facebook Page, with special focus on the display image.
Your choice of display image is strong determiner of your Page's success as a marketing tool. Unlike MySpace, Facebook profiles and pages are still fairly limited visually - your display image is your built in opportunity to push out some fantastic creative. Your logo *might* do here, but:
- How does it look when stretched to capitalize the full column width? You want to get as much as possible into this opportunity.
- Is your logo visually engaging?
- Is your logo the best visual for your goals?
I'll pick a bit on Ohio State
as an example - please note that all the Pages I'll be talking about in this post are among what I consider the strongest in higher ed - for one reason or another.
Above: Screenshot of Ohio State Facebook Page, first screenlength. Click for live
Ohio State's Page is great for a lot of reasons (campus radio track listing, photo/features RSS), but the display image does not meet my criteria for this best practice. They have a great logo, and it could potentially still work, but currently it looks a little awkward and out of place, stranded in the middle of a much wider column. A new logo banner, built with this width in mind, would boost the page's overall appeal in a big way. Lehigh
does a great job of incorporating the official brand, as well as a great campus photo and even some marketing text:
Above: Screenshot of Lehigh University Facebook Page, first screenlength.
As far as first screenlength goes, I think Lehigh weighs in as my favourite. It has almost everything: Logo, Photo, Colours and snazzy copy - all the right size to make up a tight little first screen.
One more example of logo use: the University of Michigan
Above: University of Michigan Facebook Page, first screenlength. Click for live Page.
The University of Michigan's Page is another example with a logo as banner. The bright and recognizable school colours of dark blue and maize are a great choice - eye catching as well as meaningful, especially to alumni. The logo is broad and fills almost the entire column, which looks great in my opinion. My only beef here is that the image is just a little too long - pushing the university's basic information off onto the second screenlength.
Sometimes a photo or illustration is the way to go when choosing your display image. Here are a few that are very visually effective - perhaps more so than the school logo would have been ...
Appalachian State University
Above: Screenshot of Appalachian State University's Facebook Page, first screenlength. Click for live Page.
I'm including Appalachian in this category for the strength of design in the display image - and its good use of the full width of the column. Like the University of Michigan, it is a bit too tall. What is particularly nice about Appalachian's banner, is that they have the wordmark worked into the image - best of both worlds.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Above: Screenshot of UC Santa Barbara Facebook Page, first screenlength. Click for live Page.
UC Santa Barbara's choice of display image has a lot to say - and in a much more dramatic way than perhaps the school logo would have been able to:
The school logo would have been overwhelming if extended to the full column width, or even just three-quarters. And while sunshine is in the logo, the image communicates the school's attractive location much more effectively.
Some more schools using alternate visuals, rather than official logo:
To sum it up, here is my Facebook Page Display Image best practices:
- Use at least 75% of the column width.
- Avoid images that extend below the first screenlength.
- Evaluate whether the official logo will be your strongest foot forward. (Would you let the logo take up 75% of your www homepage? Same thing in my opinion).
- Have graphics staff create a custom banner image that is the correct dimensions, and combines engaging visuals with the official brand.
- This is your space - get as much out of it as possible! (Such as Lehigh's incorporation of visually appealing sales copy).
More tomorrow (or soon thereafter!)
eStrategy Consultant, Education Marketing
Academica Group Inc.
Full Cycle Marketing for Higher Education™
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