I see and field a lot of questions about Facebook fan pages on Twitter and in real life. One of the most common is whether colleges should focus on an extra-special overall fans page or seek a more decentralized approach for specialized audiences.
Our philosophy remains to prioritize a primary Facebook fan page serving all audiences. Sure, plenty of pages with smaller memberships have arose (some by us, most by others) serving specific audiences, academic programs and student organizations, but having this kind of interaction underscores the value of having a central page:
This just happened this week, as a brief post of mine about the upcoming application deadline led to positive comments from three parents of students, one proud alum and one incoming student. Say what you will about parental involvement, but I consider pleased parents who say good things to all their friends with children considering colleges among our most valuable ambassadors. In this post, each mother had her high opinion of our school reinforced by two other parents, an alum and a future student.
That interaction would not have taken place if we just ran separate fan pages dedicated to admissions, alumni and parents. I love the alchemy that arises when potential students, current students, faculty/staff, parents and alumni have one community where they can chat. I’ve seen current students and alumni give great advice to incoming students. I’ve seen current students and alumni swap stories about what makes Oswego so special to them. If you think of your institution as a brand belonging to many generations and stakeholders, the primary fan page is the main marketplace of memories, shared knowledge and institutional pride. Having so many different groups involved just confirms this continuum.
Other solutions let any page play multiple roles. By using the FBML app, you can create new tabs on your page that appeal to specific audiences or functions, such as admissions. I begrudgingly admit that Plattsburgh, our athletic archrival, and its Web wiz Devin Mason do a great job with audience-specific navigation tabs on their page. And with our college, related and approved fan pages also appear in the sidebar Favorite Pages tab.
You can still break down separate specific efforts under the big umbrella. We created an Official Class of 2014 group, with most membership built so far through references from our official page. I intend to turn the 2014 group increasingly over to students, first interns and potentially incoming students who show interest, aptitude and dependability. The more collaborative it becomes, the better for its members and the overall institution. But we can say that about any Web 2.0 community. Ultimately the rubber meets the road for all travelers, and so many interesting paths intersect, on our official and central fan page.