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University Web Developers

So, we're growing a little Facebook fan page for our institution. We're at around 2500 fans at this point.

Up until now, we've left it "locked" so that only "official" posts are allowed on the fan page's Wall.

However, I noticed while looking around at some of our "competitor" schools that most university fan pages (of the ones I looked at, at least) are "open" and allow fans to post on the Wall in addition to "official" posts.

So, I ran it by the "powers that be" around here, and it sounds like the biggest concern is how to deal with the potential for "bad publicity" if someone posts something negative/inappropriate/critical/etc. Since it is the "official" Facebook fan page for the institution, will such comments be perceived as coming from our institution in some sort of "official" capacity?

At any rate, I am personally of the opinion that we should open it up and truly make it a social media instead of a glorified bulletin board.

Does anyone have experience dealing with this sort of question (to open or not to open)? Or, does anyone know of any guidelines anywhere that deal with this sort of issue?

Thanks in advance for any help,

Doug Thompson
Manager of Web and Electronic Communications
Ohio Wesleyan University

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I think you hit the nail on the head about it being a glorified bulletin board if you don't open it up. One of the major benefits of the Page is the two-way dialogue. Also, if you don't allow users to post, you are requiring your team to do all the heavy lifting to keep people engaged. You have to provide all the content. Letting users post helps keep the page fresh and the interactions moving forward. Users can create interesting new content and share informative replies. It also seems more authentic if it comes from a Fan, not a Page Admin.

I don't think users will perceive user posts as the official view. Facebook helps you differentiate on Page Walls b/c Page Admin posts are from the Page (not from the individual user). I think most users understand that at this point.

As far as social media policies go, you should definitely check out this thread:

I also shared some links about responding to negative comments in this thread:
At Philadelphia University, we've had our Facebook page ( open to any/all wall posts since its inception and haven't had a problem to date. At close to 2,000 fans (not bad for a school of 2,700 undergrads that also has a searate page for prospective / recently accepted students through our Undergraduate Admissions department), we've never had a problem with "bad publicity" (is there such a thing?). There have definitely been no slanderous statements, or even stupid ones! And if there were, as an admin, I can certainly remove them.

The philosophy of keeping wall posts open for an institution of higher education is that you want to develop a community of inclusion. To prevent wall posts would deliver a dangerous message that social networking for a university is nothing more than a tool for the marketing / communications department when really it should be a sounding board for students, faculty & staff that want to have their voice heard (even if that voice is little more than "Go Rams!").

Besides, we RSS feed so much to our Facebook page that I doubt the wall posts are even visible!

As to guidelines, I'm not sure if you mean insitutional guidelines or ones for students. Regarding the former, we have no set statement at present, although we do have a privacy policy on our site that does cover some of the basics. And if I recall, there was a thread on this site that once addressed the issue.

Independently (and managed by Student Affairs), students must ascribe to a code of conduct. I know that, at the very least, student athletes on scholarship must sign waivers of personal responsibility and good behavior when it comes to social networking. Whether or not this policy extends to all students in not known to me.

Overall, social media outlets, lke you say, should be more than a "glorified bulletin board." And with great power comes the inevitable great responsibility we have as university web developers, planners, content managers, etc.: that is, to monitor our respective university's presence all over the internet, and insure that nothing libellous, scandoulous or damagaing is posted. Does that mean we take on yet another job: that of watchdog? (as if we already don't do too many things!) I suppose. But the rewards outweigh the dangers.

To not have a presence among social media outlets in this day and age, and to not let there be open, public dialog would be contrary to the missions of most colleges and universities, and that is open expression and engagement. Of course I would quell a poster who uses expleitives or slams a professor or policy for no justified reason, but if a student, for example, should decide to comment on an event or story with a question as to why some areas get more coverage than others, I would let it fly. Can someone go over my head? Sure. But the public image of a university that is draconian in its crackdown on any criticism sends the worst kind of message.
I have to admit, this thread surprised me. I didn't know any college's didn't have their Facebook Pages open to the public. Why else should you have a presence there if they can't engage with each other and with your content? Otherwise, it's just the same as your Web site where you post news/info... People use Facebook to connect with others... not to have yet another place to be spammed with info they can get elsewhere.

In terms of the fears -- I've managed our FB Page for 2.5 years now, and we've had only a few instances where I actually removed content. Sure, there are some occasional negative comments, but in most every case the community jumps in with differing opinions and opens up a great dialogue -- again, the beauty of two-way communication. That makes it worth the risk.
I totally agree with this. At SUNY Cobleskill we have our page totally open (even to allow fans adding pictures, etc) and it's been great for us. I think we've removed one or two comments since we created the page.

Our page has turned into a great place for incoming students meet eachother, in the past two weeks alone we've seen 5 or 6 people find and pick roommates for next year by posting on our wall. We've also noticed both current, and future students responding to questions from other people very quickly. Many times before we even see the question, someone else has responded with a good answer.
Absolutely, open it. At our institution, we view the Facebook page as a place to show the world what a great community of voices we have.

You'll need to recognize there will be a trade-off in time management. Once your page is open, you won't need to post status updates as frequently (unless you want to) because your fans will help keep your page active. (and much more lively with a chorus of voices and perspectives)

However, planning your time allotted to managing your Facebook page will be less predictable. Just last Friday I had to address a Wall post about our upcoming tuition increase. It took about 2 hours of my time to research and respond. However, it was a great opportunity to explain the tuition increase in a way we would never have done in any other communication channel.

Our constituents expect this kind of two-way, increasingly transparent communication. For that reason alone, you should open your Facebook Wall to fans.
I have to agree with everyone who has posted before me. When you open up the page to fans to post, you will see more engagement.

We've had our page open since I created it a little over a year ago. Many weeks I have more posts from accepted students than anything else. Their excitement is contagious and allows for others to get to know them. They keep the page populated with new content.

I still post things of interest to the students. But since they can respond with comments I find out what they like to see and what they don't want to see or what is going to bring less than positive responses.

If anything, do a trial period so those who are in opposition can see the increase in activity on the page. From what I saw on your page all you have now is a few likes here and there. Student posts would also break up the enormous amount of content you have RSS'd. You might find out information about your fan base you never knew before.

Also, I'd be interested in knowing your "Unsubscribed Fans" number to see if leaving your page "closed" and RSS'd even allows you to reach your fans.

I hope you find what will work best for your school!
From what I can tell from the Facebook "Insights" for our page, the number of unsubscribes has never gone over 10 in any particular week and averages around 3-4 per week. I have no idea if that's "good" or "bad" in the context of this "opened" or "closed" posting issue or not, but my guess is that it's probably fairly good?
We also average 3-4 unsubscribes a week. Nothing to worry about, IMO.

Our page has been "open" to fans since its inception in June 2009.
So, a new "wrinkle" has been brought to my attention regarding us opening our Facebook fan page to allow fans to post...

Ohio Wesleyan is in a small-town community (Delaware, Ohio). As such, many of the local-area businesses have already established their own Facebook presence and, in fact, many (if not all) of them have become fans of the Ohio Wesleyan fan page.

The concern that was shared with me this morning is...what if we open the page to fan posting and then all the local businesses put a bunch of promotional/commercial messages for their various businesses?

Is that scenario a good thing or a bad thing? Will it turn off potential future students from out-of-state? Or will it only serve to further increase the engagement/discussion/involvement for all fans?

Has anyone dealt with this particular situation? If so, how? Did you create a policy in such a way that it allows for admins of the fan page to remove posts of this nature? Or do you just let them go?

Just curious. We're having our big meeting with the "powers that be" around here next week to discuss opening the fan page, and I wanted to make sure I have all the angles covered.

This has been a tactic our local businesses have tried often in the last several months. I added this disclaimer to our "About" tab on our page: "The State University of New York at New Paltz reserves the right to remove wall posts that contain advertising, solicitations, inappropriate or offensive material."

I do remove them when they come through. However, some businesses have realized they can just include our name/link in their status update (by "liking" our page, then typing the @ symbol first before our name in their update), and that post then shows on our wall and we can't remove it.
Okay...I need new "ammo" for this upcoming meeting with the "powers that be" about opening our Facebook page to fan posting.

Our media relations director came to talk to me a few minutes ago and said that he now "vehemently opposes" opening our page because, when he looked around at other schools' "official" Facebook pages, he noticed that the majority of the fan posts were things like asking for roommates, looking for rides, etc.

I think he's viewing our current Facebook implementation as a "push" tool for putting out news releases and event announcements and whatnot. He's concerned that opening for fan posting will turn it from a glorified bulletin board into a glorified classifieds section.

I don't really agree with his assessment, but he's one of the people involved in the meeting with the "powers that be" next week about all of this, so I'm wondering if anyone has any advice/information/anecdotes I can use as "ammo" for that meeting?

I think it's important for you to convey that the Facebook page is a place to build community and conversation.

View you page as a classroom. Right now it's a lecture hall with the professor not accepting questions or comments from students. Students are more likely to come to "class" when they feel like they can contribute to the conversation.

If you open it, students can contribute to what is going on, and they will be more likely to come back and have a better experience because of it.

The "powers the be" have give all the "what if this negative happens?" Now it's time for you to give the "What if it's a success?"

Keep us in the loop of how this goes!!



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