A surprisingly common refrain we hear from admissions offices is "We take a hands-off approach when it comes to social media". We most often hear it in reference to Facebook Class of 20XX Groups.
The Logic of the Hands-Off Approach
The logic of the Hands-Off Approach goes something like this:
- We want the Facebook Group to be a place where admitted students can meet and get to know each other.
- We'll listen to the conversation and intervene when absolutely necessary (e.g., misinformation).
- If we post, we might stifle conversation or make them feel like we're monitoring the conversation (which we are, anyway).
- Therefore, we take a hands-off approach and rarely post in the Facebook Group.
Ok, that actually makes some sense.
Imagine being a teenager again. If you were talking with your friends, the conversation would probably change or stop when your parents entered the room, right? You might even groan "Mom, will you leave us alone?"
Don't Be the Parent
However, I believe you're missing a huge opportunity if you take the Hands-Off Approach. You don't have to be the parent crashing the party in this story.
If all you post is official announcements or correct misinformation, then you may well be viewed as the "parent" of the Facebook Group.
But what if you were the matchmaker or the icebreaker instead? What if you imagined the Facebook Group as a party you were throwing for admitted students, and you made it your goal to introduce people to each other. I'll come back to this in a second.
This Isn't Your First Rodeo
You have an ace up your sleeve and may not fully realize it. You've seen this story unfold many times before. Each year, you get to see a new crop of prospective and admitted students go through the admissions process. For them, it's completely new, often daunting and exciting at the same time. For you, it's business as usual.
You have the benefit of experience. So take advantage of it!
Ok, you may not know which TV shows are big among this year's incoming class (Seinfeld may seem like a timeless classic to you and mean nothing to them) or what music they listen to (Pearl Jam still tops your favorites list), but you do probably know some of the things that are important to them.
Can incoming freshmen pick their roommates or state their preferences on residence halls? If so, then I'm guessing you see tons of posts in your Facebook Group that look something like this every year "I'm still looking for a roommate. Message me if you're interested."
You've probably noticed every year that admits from nearby high schools or international students from the same country often bond over these connections, right?
Be the Matchmaker
You may not be able to predict all the conversations that will happen, but you can definitely predict a few that will be popular.
Why wait for some brave admit to start the conversation? You can have it ready for them as soon as they start joining the Facebook Group. Throw up a "Where is everyone from?" post. Or maybe even focus a little more with "Any international students in this group yet? What country are you coming from?"
You can even make the conversations better by providing some structure. Take the roommate example I gave before. How helpful is it to another admit looking for a roommate if all I say is "Still looking for a roommate, hit me up"? They don't know anything about me... except what I look like from my profile picture. So what are they basing their decision to message me on? Not a whole lot.
Now, what if you shared a post like this:
Still looking for a roommate? Answer the following questions:
Are you a morning or night person?
Are you clean or messy?
Which residence hall do you prefer?
Are you looking for a social room or a quiet room?
What's one fun fact about you?
Now, if I'm an admit looking for a roommate, I'll have some useful information to go off of.
Notice a common thread in these two examples? They're both questions. They encourage participation. You're not stifling conversations. You're creating jumping-off points for conversations. You're encouraging introductions. If this were a party, you'd move on once the conversation got going and do it all over again with a new audience.
Data from Our White Paper
In our White Paper Facebook and Admissions, we actually asked admissions professionals how they viewed their role. Guess who was most satisfied with Facebook as a tool to yield admits... the people that viewed themselves as Conversation Starters. The least satisfied... the Observers and the Broadcasters.
So instead of a Hands-Off Approach, it might be worth getting your hands a bit dirty. Use your knowledge and experience to help them connect with each other and forge new friendships.