The Social Side of College Admissions

Be the Catalyst You Want to See in Your Facebook Presence

June 24, 2010

I've decided to butcher the famous Mahatma Gandhi quote "Be the Change You Want to See in the World" and repurpose it for use as a mantra for those of you responsible for your school's Facebook presence.

I've talked to a lot of colleges and universities about how they use Facebook, and it seems that there are two competing urges that they try to reconcile when managing their Facebook presence. The first urge is to push out lots of information about their school, creating a constant stream of content for their fans, group members, likers (is that the right term? I'm going to call them "followers" from here on out). The second urge is to let their followers drive the boat and take a fairly hands-off approach. They don't want their followers to feel like they are being "sold" or that their social space is being invaded.

If you follow the first urge exclusively, you may end up flooding your followers with information. This may drive them away or cause them to tune out your message completely. If you follow the second urge exclusively, you may end up with a lackluster presence, where little conversation occurs and your followers are left wanting more.

The real challenge is effectively balancing these two urges. I like to tell the schools we partner with on our Facebook Application to be catalysts for conversation. You want to keep the community active without dominating the interaction.

Here are some tips for being an effective catalyst:

Seed the Conversation

When you set up your Group, Page, or Application, make sure there is content for those first followers. Have something there for them to react to, whether it's a video, some pictures, or some interesting or informative links. We recommend posting a few simple questions on the wall or on a discussion board that followers can answer. For prospects and admits, you might ask "Where are you from?" or "What major are you interested in?" For alumni, it might be "When did you graduate?" or "Where do you live now?" These are easy questions for people to answer. They don't require a lot of thought, but they can be great jumping off points for interactions. It's easy to see how two people interested in the same major or from the same town could start a back-and-forth on the wall or on a discussion board.

Breathe Life into Dying Conversations

When you see the momentum dying on a conversation, a well-timed reply can help resuscitate it. You might consider bringing a new twist or direction to the conversation that encourages more interaction. For example, if followers have been discussing the sports they want to play on your campus, you may want to post links to video highlights from the current athletic season. Sometimes, it may be as simple as adding a new post to a discussion thread to bring up back up to the top of the page, where new followers can see it and add their own two cents.

Don't Drown Out Your Followers

If the last five posts on the wall are from you, then you're probably overdoing it. Your followers are coming to your Facebook presence to be part of your school's community and to interact, not only with the school, but with each other. The more they see posts and content generated by fellow followers, the more likely they are to contribute themselves. By overposting, you're pushing your follower's content off the front page and creating the feeling that your Facebook presence is a one-way dialogue, not a two-way conversation.

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