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One Million ‘Likes’: What Can The Sector Learn From Oxford University?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Apr 2013

One Million ‘Likes’

Oxford University on FacebookOn Thursday 18 April 2013 the University of Oxford’s Facebook page reached one million ‘likes’. The University took this opportunity to promote a video they had made when it became clear that they were approaching this figure:

Wow! Our Facebook page has more than one million likes. Many thanks for following us! Have you seen our Twitter page @UniofOxford too? Here is a special thank you video from us – why not share this video with your friends and see how quickly we can get to two million!

Monitoring Weak Signals

As part of my work for the JISC Observatory I have an interest in observing weak signals which can help to spot technological developments at an early stage which may turn out to have a significant impact across the sector.

It was back in May 2007 when I wrote a post entitled Something IS Going On With Facebook! which highlighted “the announcement of Facebook’s F8 platform – a development which lets users embed other services inside their pages in Facebook“.

In November 2007 I post entitled UK Universities On Facebook described how “Facebook search for organisations containing the word ‘university’ revealed (on Friday 9 November 2007) a total of 76 hits which included, in alphabetical order, the following UK Universities: AstonCardiffKent and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)“.

For a period of several years I monitoring growth in use of Facebook, focussing on the Russell Group universities in order to have a manageable sample to analyse. The accompanying blog posts were Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities (January 2011), Is It Time To Ditch Facebook, When There’s Half a Million Fans Across Russell Group Universities? (September 2011) and Survey of Institutional Use of Facebook (May 2012) with the final survey in August 2012 which recorded Over One Million ‘Likes’ of Facebook Pages for the 24 Russell Group Universities capturing a snapshot the day after the numbers of Russell Group universities had grown from 20 to 24 institutions.

It was the final post in which I realised that the most significant growth in Facebook likes was taking place at the University of Oxford, as can be seen from the accompanying image.


What are the implications of the popularity of Facebook at the University of Oxford for the wider community?

I hope we have moved away from the instinctive dismissive of Facebook for reasons such as “It’s not open source“, “It’s a walled garden” and the strange arguments that we sometimes encounter in the sector: “It’s popular but so is the Daily Mail” and “It’s popular, but so was MySpace and look what happened to it“.

Some questions which may be appropriate to ask include:

  • What benefits can be gained by institutional use of Facebook?
  • What level of resources should be allocated to managing institutional use of Facebook?
  • What ROI can be gained from institutional use of Facebook?

I appreciate that some people feel very uncomfortable with the notion of ROI in an educational context? But since students are now paying £9,000 per year we need to acknowledge that going to university is a significant financial investment for students, with the provision of the leaning experience also clearly having significant costs. Understanding cost effective ways of engaging with students, listening to students, supporting informal learning, etc. will therefore be important.

Facebook fan valueThere is also a need, I feel, to embrace what could be regarded as a ‘post-digital’ perspective on social media, in which the important issues shouldn’t address the technical aspects of services, but their relevance as part of the accepted infrastructure.

Issues such as the institution’s brand value on such services then become relevant. It is then appropriate to see what can be learnt from the commercial sector’s valuation on Facebook.

A post entitled “Facebook Fan value rises 28% since 2010” was published yesterday by BizReport which described how:

Fans of brands on Facebook have significantly upped their worth over the past three years, according to new figures released by social media marketing firm Syncapse, with some brands averaging Fan values in the thousands of dollars.

and went on to provide estimated values:

Fashion brand Zara’s Fans are worth over $405.54, found the research, followed by Levis at $312.01. Meanwhile, the value of Coca-Cola Fan is relatively low at $70.16.

Analytics for Oxford University's Facebook pageIn his tweet which alerted me to this people Dion Hinchcliffe gave a caveat:

Tho’ fans are just 1 measure of #socbiz value & not a good one.

How then can we measure the value of an institution’s Facebook page? What should we make of the (public) analytics for the University of Oxford’s Facebook page which tell us that as of Monday 22 April 2013 there are:

  • 1,002,967 like for the page. 
  • 7,794 people are talking about the page.
  • 9 December 2012 was the most poplar week (why was this?).
  • The most poplar age group are 18-24 year old.

In order to enable others with responsibilities for managing institutional Facebook presences to be able to compare their experiences, discuss operational practices and, perhaps, develop mechanisms for helping to measure ROI and allocate appropriate levels of resources, at this year’s IWMW 2013 event there will be a birds-of-a feather session on “Institutional Use of Social Media Services“.

I hope this session will be of interest to those who, perhaps quietly, are using Facebook to engage with potential students, have conversations with current students (and staff) and, perhaps, looking at enhance use of Facebook.

In order to inform the session a simple survey has been set up which aims to gain feedback on respondents views on institutional use of Facebook. The form is embedded below or can be accessed on the PollDaddy Web site.

The “A million likes: how big is a million?” Video

The video produced by the University of Oxford is available on YouTube and is embedded below.

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: [TweetReach] – []

One Response to “One Million ‘Likes’: What Can The Sector Learn From Oxford University?”

  1. […] One Million 'Likes' On Thursday 18 April 2013 the University of Oxford's Facebook page reached one million 'likes'. The University took this opportunity to promote a video they had made when it bec…  […]

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