5 Downsides to Facebook Pages and Groups

Since joining Inigral last summer, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with dozens of schools on how they prefer to engage with students on Facebook. Although there are many success stories, some folks in higher ed have expressed major complaints with Facebook’s current functionality.

The general attitude towards them is still mostly positive, but some recent statistics we’ve come across make me wonder how effective these mediums truly are. For example, did you know according to All Facebook the average Fan Page reaches only 17% of users?

While we know School-wide Facebook Pages haven’t shown great results at recruiting new students, many admissions offices are using Class of 20xx Pages and Groups to welcome incoming students. While we highly recommend creating communities for incoming students, remember you’ll be dealing with the following common headaches if you choose to rely on Pages/Groups.

1. Facebook Decides Your Fate

As a user, we are at the mercy of Facebook and its revolving door of changes. Sometimes there is a warning, but more often than not, the rug is pulled out from under us without notice. The latest casualty was Discussions Boards (a popular feature of Pages that allowed admins to monitor topics and issues), which was removed in October. Facebook states that “the best way to encourage conversation and feedback is through posts and comments on your Wall.” However, I’m not quite sure if I can agree with this.

Placing more content on an already crowded “one-way street” where people are attempting to introduce themselves, post links, and ask questions, only makes information exchange more difficult for the student.

2. Which One Do I Join?

One aspect of Facebook that needs a major face-lift is the process of searching for Pages and Groups. As you may know, anyone can create one without any sort of verification. For those within higher ed, this sort of proliferation has been a real problem with students, commercial companies, and complete strangers making “official” communities for your students. As students attempt to search for the right school community, they stumble upon a variety of Pages/Groups, some represented by third parties (i.e., Roomsurf) looking to sell to your students.

3. Measuring Results? Forget About It.

When it comes to Facebook analytics, there’s not much available. Pages have Facebook Insights, which allows you to monitor general number of Likes, mentions, post impressions and friends of friends reached. While this data seems interesting at first glance, it doesn’t provide you with the information that is most important to you – which students are engaged, what they are talking about, and whether their questions are answered or not. Prepare to monitor threads closely and if your boss wants a data report you’ll probably be left measuring by hand (while your colleagues are at happy hour).

4. You’ve Got Spam!

By now, I’m sure you’ve either been the victim of Facebook spam or the unintentional culprit. When running a Page or Group, you run the risk of exposing your environment and more importantly, your students to spam. With Pages now open to anyone for comment (not just your fans) the likelihood of third party spammers has increased, especially those with college students as a target market. Bottom line, make sure you’re introducing students to a place that represents your brand and campus community.

5. Fundamental Facebook Functionality Limitations

There is no worse feeling than being ignored, especially when you’re a new student looking for answers. A major problem with both Pages and Groups is the way content is handled on the Wall. There is no categorization or alerts defined for the Admin to be notified. So, if a student asks a question on a Wall and no one is around to answer it, did it really happen? (hint: YES)

A recent survey, conducted by an Assistant Professor of Communications at New York University for Conversocial revealed some interesting information around customers and a company’s responsiveness on their Facebook page. The survey indicated that when customers post on a company’s Page, 31.8% expect an answer right away and 52.4% expect some sort of reply. Furthermore, if a person “went on a company’s Facebook page, and saw a bunch of unanswered questions or complaints from customers,” 88.3% would either be somewhat less likely or far less likely to do business with that company in the future.

Now, replace “consumers” with “admitted students” and you should see what I’m getting at here. Running a Page or a Group is more than just posting links and articles, it’s about listening and responding to what students are saying.

Do you run a Facebook Page or Group for your admitted students? What do you think are some areas where Facebook could improve upon?