one fan page to rule them all?

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.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “one fan page to rule them all?

  1. sethodell

    “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.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Great post!

  2. jesskry

    I also agree.

    Its really difficult to lay down any hard and fast rules on this without an internal policy, but hopefully, people understand this kind of value.

    Bravo!

  3. Thanks for the shout out! Primary institutional Facebook pages definitely help with management and staying on message in regard to branding. Great post!

  4. My school had plenty of discussions on this exact topic, and we came to your conclusion – have a single school fan page and encourage all fans of the school (prospectives, students, parents, alumni, donors, faculty and staff) to get involved. Two selling points of Emerson are collaboration and communication, and what better way to express that in a social media platform than to remove the departmentalization and allow easy access to interact with every part of the school.

    A couple things to remember:

    We are a small school, so we can maintain a single fan page dedicated to every audience. Customer service becomes key if you invite users from many types of backgrounds – they WILL ask questions. Before you make the decision about how your school will exist on Facebook, remember to have the necessary staff/department support to maintain a high level of support.

    Devin makes an excellent point about branding. By having a single fan page – it forces your PR/Marketing team to focus and allows them the opportunity to give consistent messaging to all audiences of your college. Rarely does your school have the opportunity to speak to such a variety of ears – take advantage of it!

  5. Terrific piece. I’ve been discussing the issue with a higher ed client. For some, the issue comes down to workload and boundaries. It’s hard for some folks to expand their roles — “engaging with alumni is the job of the alumni association” or “communicating with parents is the job of student services.” Thinking more broadly, more institutionally, and then acting on it is key.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  6. Great post, Tim. We follow the same model at UofR, with one “flagship” fan page, and other smaller ones sprouting up for our named graduate schools, students organizations, etc.

    This is good for all the reasons you give, plus it means we have multiple admins in Communications, Admissions, and Alumni Relations who can post to the page and provide the kind of support/answers Mike talks about.

    Multiple admins is also the one pitfall we’ve found to this approach. We have occasionally — but not too often — stepped on each others toes and posted too many items on a single day or redundant comments. As the page has grown, we’re trying to get better at giving each other a heads up on our FB plans each week.

  7. insidetimshead

    SETH and JESS: I find the agreement of knowledgeable folks like you quite agreeable. Seriously, it means a lot. Thanks!

    DEVIN: Y’all do it well. Some day I can aspire to our members getting back near you, but our internal (non-FB) messaging is pretty scattered, esp. in terms of things like promoting our social media presences.

    MIKE: I like the way it echoes your selling points of collaboration and communication! And the number of questions has been the biggest surprise. Anyone taking on a fan page should account for the time involved in finding the answers and replying in a fairly quick fashion. It’s just basic smart customer service.

    MARY ANN: Ah yes, the dreaded silo factor. We all have it. One thing that’s cool about our fan page is that it is one place where you can see all of our audiences on the same page (pardon the pun).

    LORI: I actually envy your multiple administrators. Getting staffers to take on the FB page is a challenge. Getting an outstanding student intern to do so — it is, sort of, their natural environment — has actually proven easier.

  8. Pingback: Thoughts: 2011 E-Expectations Report « Marketing with Mallory

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