Facebook Communities: Now What?

We’ve all had time to gripe, think and gasp at the new Facebook Community Pages. Director of Web Marketingdid an excellent job of getting us all up to speed with these latest evil doings in his previous postFacebook 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. Alsoso 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?

10 Responses to “Facebook Communities: Now What?”

  1. Says:

    “Also, so far, communities don’t post information to your home feed. Pages still do.”

    Of course not. That would have been one of the only moderately useful function (aggregation of existing page content) it could have served - we have a multitude of facebook pages, but none approach the number of “likers” that the main one of ours has. Thankfully, we’ve only found three community pages, none of which seems to have a following.

    • Says:

      I’ll trade you. Your 3 for my 900+?

  2. Says:

    “You can also get us started by suggesting the Official Facebook Page.”

    Facebook has now added this line, with a popup box that you can list the full link (https:// included) to the official page you want connected. Hopefully this will eventually lead to a hybrid or a replacement with the page we administer. **Fingers crossed**

  3. Says:

    Excellent post, Jessica. This is a nervous-making new development for all of us who believe in the power of social media. Thanks for being such a calm voice and offering reasonable ways to think about community pages. For me, the upside of community pages and the problems they create is that perhaps they will make us all less Facebook-focused. It’s not the only form of social media available to colleges and universities, just the easiest to use…so far. Perhaps this will force us all to be more creative and strategic in our choice of platforms, less Facebook-centric.

  4. Says:

    @Aaron - ‘Only Three’? Yikes!

    @Kraig - I did see that option after I posted this. But, it doesnt show up on all pages. Our University page didnt have that but our Law school page did.

    @Fritz - Thanks for the kind words. I love that thought - that it could actually be a blessing by pulling us away from Facebook as gospel. After all, its about the message and being engaged, not so much the medium. Great food for thought.

  5. Says:

    I recently went through 500 of the 900+ results for Community Pages about our university. Many of the pages had no relevance to us. For example, there were pages for University 1970. We weren’t founded until 1983. There was also a duplicate for the “main” Community page, one with “the” in the front and one without. These were the only 2 with any “likes.”

    I guess what frustrates me the most is, it’s incomplete and half a$$ed. Facebook pulled from the content we provided in the “Likes and Interests” section of our profile to create these pages with no way to see if there is any “Community” around these topics or to sift out duplicates.

    Anywhere else this type of work would be unacceptable.

    Yet one thing that surprised me was, the “What TV shows you like?” actually link to the Fan Pages of the shows.

    Where we go from here is hard to say. I believe you should go where your community is. Unfortunately, it’s still Facebook. But this doesn’t mean we can’t start creating home grown communities for our students and let them help define what they want.

  6. Says:

    @Lane is right, it does appear to be a very incomplete effort at this point in time. We have no idea how or when Facebook will step in to reconcile the thousands of erroneous Community Pages that this has spawned. What’s missing is any kind of strategy or explanation from Facebook on how this will be settled. Like many others, I’m not holding my breath.

    That being said, @Jess has some great points in this post, and the one that really drives it home for me is #3, “Do it better.” If we, as content producers, concentrate on putting valuable information on the pages that we have an influence on, we can make those pages the go-to destination for our community members.

  7. Says:

    Just to reinforce the duplication and incompleteness mentioned above with some specific examples:

    Two major issues that have come up for the college I work for — Dunwoody College of Technology, which is a small, not-for-profit, private tech college.

    1. We share a name with a city in Georgia that is the location of a rather large two-year school — Georgia Perimeter College. That means that Facebook’s algorithm created a bunch of “Dunwoody” pages (some of them with the edu icon), but is pulling on content that’s related to DCT and to the city. And even those pages (because are several duplicates) that bring in both Dunwoody and College as part of the search don’t bring in solely DCT content because the algorithm can’t figure out when a user is referring to “the college that is located in Dunwoody” and “the college that is named Dunwoody.”

    2. We went through a name change about 8 years ago. That means that we end up with duplicate pages that refer to Dunwoody Institute and to Dunwoody College. What’s most annoying is that wikipedia content is being shunted in to the Institute pages even though the page is up-to-date. But because it contains historical stuff Facebook’s algorithm seems to think that the wikipedia page is more Institute than College.

    Now part of this is simply an unfortunate accident that the last name of our founders — William and Kate Dunwoody — wasn’t more unique. But it seems to me that a Facebook user should be able to search for Dunwoody (and especially someone in the Upper Midwest) and have our page come up at the top of the results — or at least in the top 2 or perhaps even with an added step (did you mean Dunwoody the city or Dunwoody the college?). Google seems to be able to do that just fine. Why not Facebook?

    This is not just a gripe about the brand identity end run that Facebook has made and a lessening of control. We’re a small college that recruits locally and most of our alumni stick around Minnesota and we have other ways of reaching them. Rather, it also illustrates the pitfalls of not getting the programming and UI right. I assume that Facebook wants its users to get to the information that they are searching for. Right now that’s not happening very well.


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