“See First”: An Alumni Engagement "Holy Grail"

You may have heard that Facebook is rolling out a new feature – the ability for users to personalize their news feed by selecting which users and pages they “see first.” While a user's newsfeed was previously based entirely on a curation algorithm that considered interest, post performance, creator, type, and recency, users now get to manually choose what content takes the highest priority. This move is intended to make Facebook feel more interesting and dynamic, and will allow users to more deeply engage with people and causes that they are most passionate about.

This update is a double-edged sword in marketing. Being selected as a “see first” page would carry huge marketing visibility benefits, because EVERY post would be seen by a user at the top of their news feed – even overt advertising or fundraising pitches. However, NOT getting selected for this designation would push marketing posts even further down in the newsfeed. With more users than ever on Facebook, content that isn’t selected for “see first” may get lost in an endless sea of seemingly irrelevant acquaintances and spam.

That being said, alumni engagement pages have a unique edge over other marketing pages. For the most part, alumni are profoundly connected to their alma matter. Communications from alumni engagement offices see higher open rates than most industries, and in a world where 71% of online adults use Facebook, the fact that Facebook automatically prompts you to list your educational affiliations creates a strong initial tie. Institutions are a common “like” on Facebook, and you can prompt users to like your page through your alumni engagement app/portal or email marketing communications.

But how do you make the jump from “like” to “see first”? Keep in mind some basic alumni engagement principles. First, you can try to prompt users to set your page as a “see first” through either Facebook’s advertising campaigns, your app, or email communications. Some of your most engaged users who WANT to see your school’s content will be inclined to set your page as “see first” but may require prompting to become aware of the feature.

For those who aren’t hyper engaged with your institution, you can use peer-to-peer tactics. If an alum clicks through your email link and sets your page as a “top like”, send them a follow up email that compels them to invite 10 friends to do the same in exchange for some incentive. This incentive can be tickets to an alumni event, a gift card, some alma matter apparel, or really anything – be creative! Peer to peer outreach is substantially more effective than organizational requests – in the case of fundraising, it leads to a 300x greater donation rate, and this general tactic can be applied to most forms of requests.

For those who don’t get reached by peer to peer requests, and who aren’t receptive to your initial outreach, pure incentivization may be an effective tactic. The marketing benefits of having every post seen greatly outweigh any marginal cost, so think of a creative incentive that may pull otherwise inactive alumni to list you as a "see first" page.

When it comes to alumni engagement, it is critical to keep an eye out on developments within social platforms that may allow you to have a greater impact on your alumni base. Being listed as a “see first” page means that all of your content will be viewed as soon as a user opens Facebook, resulting in substantially higher alumni engagement. Though it may take some time and resources to get alumni to flag you as a “see first” page, it is definitely worth resource expenditure now in exchange for long run marketing visibility.

Rachael Stein