Facebook in Higher Ed: Problems, Needs
A conversation we have over and over with people in Higher Ed centers around the limitations, frustrations and problems with using Facebook Pages, and what Higher Ed really needs out of Facebook.
These frustrations can be summarized by the following argument: Facebook has one goal – to increase the number of their users and the money they make from ads per user; thus, Facebook Pages and Groups are not a “whole product” – a product with a set of capabilities that solve for an interrelated set of needs for a particular customer type – in Higher Education.
Here are the limitations, frustrations, and problems we hear time and again:
- Pages does not facilitate user-to-user discovery, connection and communication.
- Pages cannot give you user specific data.
- Pages does not give capabilities and tools for multiple administrators.
- Pages does not enable your community to get involved in maintaining and promoting itself.
- Pages does not scale user-generated content.
- Facebook has no Customer Service or Accountability.
- Facebook does not sufficiently help you control and shape your community and brand.
A user cannot browse and discover people according to relevant criteria like coursework, major, geography, greek life, team membership, or any other affiliation. Fans are Fans, and that’s it. Fans can write on your Fan Page wall, and they can like your posts, and that’s cool and better than nothing. But that’s it. They can’t really start meeting and interacting with each other, which is what they want to be doing.
Much of what universities want to see is how activity in social networking can correlate to matriculation, retention, and graduation. In order to do that, you need user-specific data, not aggregate data. Higher Ed also wants social networks to be a platform for intervention and internal communication. Pages doesn’t even come close.
Multiple people can be an administrator, but all that means is you can post in the stream, attach events, and see traffic stats. Need an alert when spam or profanity hits your wall? Need to set up tasks for multiple administrators across your enterprise? Pages won’t do it.
Your student leaders and staff want to help by answering questions, sharing resources, having meaningful conversations, and participating in the management of your presences. There is no way to put together or sustain this kind of effort.
A page is meant for one-way, outward communication. Granted, you can see how many people clicked on things, and you can get likes and comments. But, that’s it. If you want to hook up every college, department, major, residence, team, or any other content generating entity, you’re out of luck. True, you can hack together some RSS feeds. But, as a page administrator, if you want every individual to be getting customized content from what matters to them, automagically, you can’t.
Need some help? Facebook Page disappear? Want a custom feature or capability and want to talk to Facebook about it? Out of luck. If Facebook wants to change on you, it will – and without so much as asking or even telling you.
People are saying things about you all over the place. If you own the Group or Page negative culture is being spread on, you can delete posts. But you can’t automatically filter for key curse words, promote positive contributions, remind people of conduct codes, hold users accountable for their content, give people ways to share and connect over more private data in private spaces (like dorms and course enrollments), this will never be possible.
Don’t get me wrong, it is NECESSARY to be on Facebook in the best possible way. Facebook Pages and Groups are great, albeit limited, tools. If you want to enhance your Facebook presence to eliminate your frustrations, you should use Schools on Facebook, the custom Facebook Application for Higher Education.
Here’s a list of articles from the higher ed community chiming in on this conversation:
- Feeling Naked: The Tale of The Disappearing Fan Page
- URoomSurf: FacebookGate 2010?
- College Applicants Beware, Your Facebook Profile is Showing
- Faculty on Facebook: Privacy Concerns