Having been on Facebook for about four years now, I have come to realize that Facebook has been very helpful in fast-tracking friendships. For instance, this past fall my husband and I ran into a guy that he knew from high school, and he suggested that I get in touch with his wife. Well, she and I both looked each other up on Facebook and realized that we knew a lot of the same people. We messaged and “friended” each other, and now we are real-life friends in addition to Facebook friends! If it weren’t for Facebook, we probably would have never met; I doubt that one of us would have randomly called the other and arranged to meet. Facebook made it okay and normal to seek each other out. We could review each other’s profiles and see that we had a lot in common. Similarly, Facebook has helped to fast-track friendships with people that I have met through things like the gym or my daughter’s school. I am able to see their interests, read about the things they are doing, find out where they are from, where they went to school, etc. Quite honestly, Facebook has helped me to identify the people that I want to spend more time with and get to know better, and when we get together, we both have some conversation starters in our heads from things we’ve seen on each other’s profile. Thus, Facebook helps me find people I “fit” with.
I imagine that Facebook is having the same impact for colleges and universities—it is fast-tracking a prospective student’s ability to see if s/he “fits” with your institution. While there are many factors that impact the college selection process (cost, location, majors, etc.), I still contend that the most influential factor is “fit.” The college selection process is kind of like a courtship where both the college and the student have an opportunity to evaluate one another and see if “fit” is there. So, with Facebook, students are getting more opportunities to learn about you and determine fit. Everything—from what messages your institution posts to what pages the institution likes—matters.
To test this out, I just visited my undergraduate alma mater’s official Facebook page. I tried to put myself back in the mental mindset of the 17-year-old me to see whether or not the University’s posts would “fit” with me. Here’s what I saw: a post about a new dean of the School of Engineering, a post about some research on gender inequality in India, and a post about a lecture on digital addiction (ironic, huh?). So would these have appealed to the 17-year old me? Probably not!
But the problem with an institution’s official Facebook page is that it has to appeal to several different constituencies. Would these topics appeal to me as an alumna or a parent? Definitely. Would they appeal to me as a prospective graduate student or faculty member? Probably. In either case, what was posted led me to draw conclusions about the university, its mission, and its brand, and led me to determine whether or not these things fit with me.
Interestingly, the only page that the university likes is the official Facebook page for the university library. In looking at what comes up in a search for my school on Facebook, there are about 75 pages. I am not sure how many of these are official or what would be an appropriate number for an institution with a student body of 3,000, but certainly there are several opportunities for prospective students and their parents to learn things about the college and fast-track fit.
If you’re reading this blog, the fact that you have to carefully manage your institution’s Facebook presence is probably not new to you. What might be, though, is the concept that Facebook not only plays a role in how you position yourself to constituents and how they perceive you, but how it actually fast-tracks these processes by summarizing content and contact into quick nuggets: posts and likes. So, with that being said, I need to end this blog so you can head to our Facebook page and see how we can fast-track our fit with you!