Many people start a social media project with lofty goals. Some think it’s ‘easy’ to ‘do social media’ but using technology to communicate is not new, it has just evolved. The game is bigger now and potential reach of a campaign is virtually limitless. The Internet is no longer new and novel; users are savvy and have a critical eye toward information that is pushed to them. Organizations must consider social media channels with the same strategic public relations approach as with traditional media. While the growth of social media and mobile application use is exploding at a pace, we can’t ‘market to’ audiences; we must connect and ‘converse with’ our target communities.
Where are they hiding?
When I began my research, I thought it would be relatively easy to find a way to pin down numbers on McMaster University related social media identities; but I found no quick (free) tools to measure Facebook groups or Twitter accounts with specific content. (I stopped counting manually after 150 Facebook groups. There is no way to separate out the ‘official’ sanctioned groups from personal or even the non-maintained accounts.) I also thought I would easily find statistics on Canadians who use social media. Then I could look for ‘my audience’.
I thought: Where are they? What platforms do they prefer? Where do high school students research what schools they want to go to? How can McMaster meet (and greet) them online?
My discovery? Social media as a topic is not only ‘hot’ but a Goliath! There are thousands of ‘social media experts’ with many opinions, tips and statistics. You can research yourself into a panic attack.
I also discovered it can be overwhelming to stay focused when you travel down that rabbit hole. I needed to know what information was required for McMaster University to more effectively reach prospective students where they would want to interact with us.
But WHO are they?
Luckily, Facebook provides a targeting tool for advertisers to estimate the reach of their ads before launching them. According to socialbakers.com , there are approximately 17,190,240 Facebook users in Canada. I realized my original plan to look at attracting students from across Canada was unrealistic for this project, so I’ve narrowed my focus group to 16-18 year olds in high school in Ontario.
Nearly 74,000 Facebook users in my target demographic might be interested in hearing about the programs and student life at McMaster University. That’s a good place to start!