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February 14, 2017

How Temple University used BuzzFeed as an effective marketing tool

Advertising Higher Education
Stock_Carroll -  Temple University Campus Liacouras Walk Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Students walk along Temple University's Liacouras Walk.

Sometime over the course of the past year and a half, you may have been enticed to click on a BuzzFeed listicle titled, "13 Reasons You Should Live In Philly At Least Once In Your Life."

The article, despite being published by Temple University, makes no mention of the school — at least not until the very end — instead serving as an advertisement for the city as a whole. It focuses on Philly's history, eats and other perks.

That's intentional, according to a Tuesday report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Temple was one of the first schools to partner with BuzzFeed in 2015, publishing sponsored content on the site in an effort to lure prospective students.

BuzzFeed's marketing strategy for colleges and universities is essentially the reverse of typical advertising campaigns, Stephen Loguidice, the website's vice president for brand development, told The Chronicle. Instead of trying to appeal to a broad base of potential students, the website targets a small subset with "shareable content," like the listicles, that is hyper relevant to that group.

And in Temple's case, the strategy has been a smashing success. Per The Chronicle:

Temple was one of the first universities to start using sponsored content at BuzzFeed. Now the institution is listed as a case study for success in BuzzFeed marketing. According to BuzzFeed’s numbers, the Temple content has gotten nearly 800,000 views, and for every 10 views that it paid for, three users saw the posts because they were shared by someone they know — a metric BuzzFeed calls "social lift." The number speaks directly to how people share a story they see, just as Mr. Loguidice’s mom sent him a listicle about the struggles of being left-handed.

The Chronicle highlights a 2016 BuzzFeed assessment of Temple's success advertising on the site. The assessment claimed that on top of Temple getting bang for its buck in terms of spreading online awareness of the university, the sponsored content led to 600 users registering to start the school's online application process.

Again, what's notable about Temple's strategy (like other schools that have worked through BuzzFeed) is that none of the articles explicitly mention Temple until the very end — making them feel less like advertisements and more like the same listicles that you see posted on your Facebook timeline every day, therefore making other users more likely to share them as well.

You can read the full Chronicle report here.