On the Mashable website, there was an interesting article about the friendly Facebook rivalry developing between Texas A&M and LSU for the top spot among college Facebook pages. In the article, there was a great quote that got at the heart of two of the biggest selling points of social media... access and convenience.
Kathryn Greenwade, VP of communications for the Texas A&M alumni association was quoted saying that the university's social media strategy is "to go where the people are rather than creating our own network."
Don't Re-Create the Wheel
Are you going to build a better social network than Facebook? Unlikely. Are you going to be able to keep up with the innovations that Facebook is making on a monthly basis? Also unlikely. Are 250 million people going to have easy access to your social network from day one? Pretty much impossible. Through tools like Groups, Pages, and Applications, Facebook gives colleges and universities a number of options to reach prospects, admits, current students, and alumni on one site. Is it worth devoting your scarce resources to building and maintaining your own Facebook-like site and to driving users to that site?
Minimize Barriers to Participation
If anything, the Internet has made people expect more information and functionality easier, faster, and more adapted to their specific preferences. You can get stock quotes streamed to your Yahoo or Google homepage. You can update your Twitter account and Facebook status at once. You can pay bills with the click of a mouse. Basically, we've been conditioned to expect more while doing less.
A large percentage of your target audience is already on Facebook. Why make them sign up for a completely new social network? Why make them maintain a whole new set of online relationships? Why make them log in to another website to participate?
Convenience is one of the most powerful tools you have to encourage engagement with your school. If it is easy to join and easy to participate, people will do just that... they'll become fans of your Facebook Pages, join your Facebook Groups, and add your Facebook Applications. They'll post on your walls, upload photos, and watch videos. Ultimately, they will build stronger relationships with your school.