We’ve all had time to gripe, think and gasp at the new Facebook Community Pages. Michael did an excellent job of getting us all up to speed with these latest evil doings in his previous post, Facebook Hates Your Brand. If you’re like me, you see it - at the very least - as a thinly veiled money grubbing ploy: with the introduction of yet another way to dilute your Facebook audience, I’m sure a jump in ad sales is the least of Facebook’s scheme. As we collectively consider fighting the machine, where does this leave us in our everyday efforts to connect students, alumni, staff and community members?
Although some see community pages as a corporate responsibility gesture, I still see them as a new way for spam to proliferate. Originally, yes, they seem to be thought of as an earned media. That organic conversations will bubble to the top. But - you cant add to that conversation. This seems in complete contrast to what we’ve been touting as engaging, interactive social media. Not very community like, no?
So what can we - those in higher ed who manage these communities - do to continue our efforts? Here’s a top 5 to start:
1. Don’t Panic. You know I sure did. But, why? Yes, people are ‘liking’ the community. Ours, for instance, has 185 at this posting. So? They also are given a link to your posts, so long as you have done so recently. (There seems to be a bit of a delay in when they actually accumulate in the feed.) But still, using the Wikipedia entry actually links people back to your web site. (I plan to check and see if we’ve had a jump in our referrals from Wikipedia, by way of Facebook.) We’ve yet to see if people will fan communities over official pages. Also, so far, communities don’t post information to your home feed. Pages still do.
2. Keep on Doing What You Do. No matter what, you still have your community. THAT’s what matters. If you are publicizing your social networking presences via your web site, email campaigns and other touchpoints, those that want to interact with you, will. Those who have been, will continue to. Likewise, if you continue to create great content and post it, it will still be useful. It will populate out to the feed and most likely, draw in new users. Be happy: if people are following you in more than one place most likely, it means they value you and the connection to you. It also goes without saying: maintain your Wikipedia page if you aren’t already. It is usually one of our top three organic referral sources for the web.
3. Do it Better. What can you do that you aren’t doing now? Have you really engaged and leveraged your target audience? Have you been creative or tried something new? Use this opportunity to be a little more out there. Show why your community is worth joining. You have to sustain great content to maintain a great community. Give to get.
4. Educate Others. Now that the shock has worn off, get out there and let others know why you aren’t panicked. Tell them what you plan to do in the long and short term to combat what could be competing pockets of community members. Let them know what the community is saying, how businesses are reacting and what to be on the look out for. Remind them that doing your best is the way to combat segmentation of your audience. Find a way to be the most relevant. You should have been doing so all along.
5. Keep Listening. You never know what Facebook will come up with next. A new strategy. Even less privacy (possible?). A new ad vehicle. Staying connected to thought leaders on Facebook and other social media via blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other arenas will only prove beneficial should another shoe drop. Periodically seek out information via Google or your own colleagues.
No matter how we feel, Communities for now seem to be here to stay. How will you roll with the punches? Have you already started a dialog at your university? How do people feel about it?