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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Class of 2014 Web Communities: What Would a Chaperone Do?

19 Mar 2010

written by Mike Petroff

Class of 2014 Web Communities: What Would a Chaperone Do?

If you’re in Admissions, you’re probably either running or paying attention to Class of 2014 web communities, whether on Facebook, Ning, or a private community run by your college/university. A big question that tends to come up from administrators is, “How involved should I be in the group?” Well, just think of yourself as a chaperone.

I saw @kprentiss give a great presentation at HighEdWeb 2009 on his ‘dance floor’ theory when discussing incoming students, the way they interact, and how they share interests (update: video from @tsand). Take that theory and apply it to your Class of 2014 community. A dance needs a chaperone to help things run smoothly, but keeps enough distance to let the students do their own thing and have fun.

After just being a passive observer of my school’s 2012 Facebook communities, I decided to take a chaperone role for the Class of 2013 Facebook group. What did that mean? After the original Class of 2013 group was removed (see: Facebookgate) and their ‘dance’ was abruptly ended, I stepped in and invited them to another space so they could continue to have fun. Once things were running again, I had some simple rules that any chaperone would follow. Someone is whining? Only step in if it’s annoying others. Someone joins that doesn’t belong in the group? If they’re causing trouble, ask them to leave. If that doesn’t help, kick them out. Kids are fighting? Split them up, and talk to them individually. Rumors are flying? Be the person of authority and correct the issue. Outside of that, sit back and let them have fun.

There are times to react, even if the students don’t ask specifically for your help. Maybe you’ll see comments from students wishing they could see the dorms even though they can’t visit the school before May 1. At a dance or school trip, that translates to hearing “we’re out of food” or “the music isn’t loud enough”. Go out and get the things they need. Create quick videos of the dorms for them. You don’t have time? Get your current students or tour guides to make the videos. Keep the dance running smoothly, or your accepted students will get bored and leave early. Don’t run a lame dance.

We had great results from our Class of 2013 Facebook group last year. I surveyed the members and asked some optional questions about the group. Here are some responses:

How would you rate Emerson’s involvement in the Facebook group?
Just enough – 121
Not enough – 10
Too much – 1

Were you ever helped with a question about Emerson via the Facebook group?
Yes – 113
No – 19

Do you feel the answers you received in the Facebook group provided the information you needed? 1= Not Helpful at All, 5 = Very Helpful
1 – 1
2 – 3
3 – 14
4 – 47
5 – 73
Average = 4.37

Do you plan to continue connecting to Emerson’s faculty, staff and students through Facebook groups?
Yes – 128
No – 4

If your accepted students know they can rely on you, they’ll give you the respect you deserve – and respect is the best thing a chaperone can earn. Whether you’re running a Facebook group, Facebook fan page, or private community (like Rachel Reuben wrote about last year), I think this idea translates across all platforms. I’m applying the same ideas to our Class of 2014 group again this year. How do you run your Class of 2014 community?

Photo credit: ibm4381

The content of this post is licensed: ©2010 All Rights Reserved

About the author

Mike Petroff

Mike is the Web Manager for Enrollment at Emerson College in Boston, MA.  He leads web marketing and online recruitment efforts for undergraduate and graduate admission.  Mike also chairs the social media group at Emerson as they work on coming up with ways to use the social web to recruit the next generation of students. You can find him on Twitter at @mikepetroff.

This post was written by - who has written 29 posts on .eduGuru

  • Rhea

    Excellent piece. Although I do not work in admissions, I do appreciate this clever way of envisioning how much or how little to meddle in these web communities.

  • Todd

    The @kprentiss presentation from HighEdWeb 2009

  • J.D. Ross

    We established a class of 2014 Facebook group, and direct admitted students to it with their electronic acceptance packet information. Other than having to remove advertising (URoomSurf nonsense, mostly) we try not to meddle in the space.

    When questions come up, we let current student interns from our admission office answer the question whenever possible. On occasion, I’ll jump in and answer a question about a deadline or something more “official,” but I like to leave the student/campus life questions for our students to address.

    • Mike Petroff

      It’s great to have student interns or student employees from Admission in the group answering questions. I definitely recommend going outside of that group and encourage involvement from alums and current students NOT working for Admission, too. As they join the group, I just tell them to msg me their name, hometown, major and graduation year, and I list them as an “officer” – an easy directory of helpful current students/alums that the accepted students can browse.

  • Jenny Mackintosh


    Great piece. There is that tough grey area of how involved the institution should be in social groups like this. Too much involvement and the group seems “uncool” or doesn’t facilitate real honest dialogue. I like this “chaperone” idea.

    Really loving the content! All very relevant information conveyed in an interesting way. Keep it up!

    ~ Jenny

  • richard

    Thank you � excellent explanation, and this has been very helpful

  • Naomi

    If you leave college students alone on Facebook and let them form and govern their own communities without university admissions stalkers, they will respect you more.

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