The University of Kentucky has adopted Facebook Places for a marketing campaign encouraging undergraduate recruitment.
Advertising Age reports that the southern college is encouraging students to check-in to Facebook Places while on campus. The university has planted giant, wooden pointers – like the tab that marks the map in the Facebook Places logo except in the university’s signature blue – around the campus as a reminder.
The thinking is that college students will check in and their high-school friends will see the updates on Facebook, helping to boost recruitment efforts. The campaign was designed by Lexington-based ad agency Cornett-IMS and did not involve Facebook.
Marketing director Kelley Bozeman said the university did think about privacy. “But this is about check-ins during the day, when you’re on campus, in the classrooms and going to athletic events,” she said. “Adults use good judgment. It’s not about checking in at home.”
It seems like a clever marketing campaign that could well reach the target audience with the right message. However, I can’t dismiss the privacy concerns quite so easily. Incidents of sexual assault and date rape are already high enough on university campuses, especially when combined with drinking, whether underage or not. Students might be adults but that doesn’t mean they always have good judgment – they are still finding their way in life. I think it would be very easy for an 18-year-old to put too much information about their location data out there and simultaneously become Facebook friends with too many people. This sort of data in the wrong hands could easily encourage stalker-like behavior.
I think Places is a great tool and the University of Kentucky can use it for a fun and effective marketing campaign. It’s just if they are going to encourage students to use Places, they bear some responsibility too. I hope that college staff are putting sufficient effort into educating students about how to use Places safely and also focusing sufficiently on campus safety more generally.