I may be a little biased, but I think the Facebook 101 session we put on at NACAC with 3 great admissions professionals went really well. The attendees had some great questions and my fellow panelists offered some valuable tips from their own experiences using Facebook to reach out to prospective and admitted students.
For those of you who couldn't be at the NACAC Conference in St. Louis or were there, but couldn't make the session, I figured I'd share a few of the insights shared by our panelists (from Susquehanna University, High Point University, and Butler University) and from our audience in a three-part series of blog posts. While the focus of the session was on Facebook, I think these lessons apply to community-building in general.
Plant Some Seeds to Grow Your Community
One of the things we heard several times from the panelists was the importance of seeding the community with content. You don't want your first wave of students to join your community with nothing to do. You'll have wasted all that effort getting them to the community with no payoff.
Think of it like a party. You want to welcome the early visitors. Make sure they "feel at home" and have a good time. The more fun they're having at the party, the more likely the next wave of visitors will have fun. If the first visitors start dancing, I bet the second wave of visitors is more likely to dance. If they're sitting bored on a couch, your second wave of visitors may not stay too long.
Some ideas for seeding your community:
- Start a few discussion topics before launching the community
You probably know the types of questions and information your prospects and admits want. Define some space in the community for interacting around those topics. If you've got a great Study Abroad program, start a topic, list the countries where students can go, and ask community members to share which country they'd like to visit.
- Solicit their input
A successful community encourages users to share their thoughts and questions. Provide some easy hooks for getting involved. Ask new members to introduce themselves. Post questions often. I think that a blank wall is an uninviting wall.
- Be Ready to Respond
Have a team of admission counselors and/or current students waiting to answer questions and to post replies. You want to make the community feel lively even for the first 10 members to join.