Facebook Flyers Worth It?

A few months ago, Valleywag posted a brief discussion of the supposedly dismal clickthrough rate of Facebook flyers: .04%. Clicktrough rate is a measure of the percentage of viewers/visitors that click on a particular ad or link and a .04% rate is indeed miserably low by most measures. For some reason, this discussion was noticed and discussed by a few more folks last month, including Fred Stutzman.

As is often the case with “research” discussed online, the methodology and other important details are not discussed in sufficient detail to evaluate the usefulness, applicability, and rigor of the research. In particular, I would like to know more about exactly what was being advertised. I would like to know this because I assert that services, items, and events advertised by colleges and universities differ significantly from those advertised by others. I would hope that not only would we know our students better than others but we also would be advertising things of particular interest to our students.

I recommend that institutions making use of Facebook flyers ensure that those using the flyers coordinate or, at a minimum, communicate amongst themselves. Not only are there the usual issues of consistency of message, appropriateness of tone, proper use of institutional marks (logos, graphics, etc.), and the other issues related to mass media advertising but a lack of communication may lower the effectiveness of the medium. In other words, if every department and student organization on campus is posting Facebook flyers with no quality control then students may simply phase them out much like they have e-mail spam and banner advertisements on webpages. I do not intend to make that (getting heterogenous groups to communicate or coordinate, particularly student organizations) sound easy and I suspect that on many campuses the “watering down” of Facebook flyers is already happening. However, I don’t know if many institutions would allow departments to advertise via mass media to every student and alumnus without any guidelines, approval, or minimal levels of communication and coordination.

Before I left Sewanee, we used Facebook flyers as part of our marketing campaign to advertise our Residential Computer Consultant (RCC) student employee openings. The campaign was a success despite the significant increases in the application requirements. We made many changes to our advertising process so it’s impossible to tell if the Facebook flyers played a huge role in the campaign but we did receive several positive comments from those students whom we interviewed, particularly those who were applying for the marketing/education position. Several of the students seemed to view our use of the flyers as indicative of our knowledge of and commitment to student culture and practices and at least one student liked that we had launched a coordinated campaign spanning multiple media. We did not measure the clickthrough rate but our impression was that the flyers were well worth their very low cost.

We also noticed one minor issue: my default Firefox settings with the AdBlock Plus plugin blocked the image we used on our flyer. If we had elected to host the image ourselves, this issue would have been avoided (and we could have also used the stats thus generated by our server hosting the image). We did not troubleshoot this extensively so I do not know if this problem is widespread.