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Facebook: Pages vs. Groups & how many is too many (if possible)

This morning my friend Jess (@jesskry) started the following conversation on Twitter:
Higher ed peeps: how many Twitter/FB Groups are too many? Is there ...

This started a good discussion without our highered Twitter community, but Jess & I took it over to e-mail to discuss in more depth than 140 characters allow. We're bringing it over here to Ning, as we feel there are lots of different viewpoints and settings that will make the answers different for each institution, instead of potentially creating one standard best practice. Here's our conversation below. Can you weigh-in and tell us what you think?

Rachel to Jess:
My initial feeling is that it depends on the size of the university, the culture, and the structure. For my university, we're small enough (enrollment of 8,000, about 1,000 employees) that everyone knows me & that I'm the go-to person for all things Web-related, including social media. For us I think it makes most sense to have one official university FB page. I think anyone else in our university wanting a presence on FB should have groups, and I happily link to them from our groups channel.

I've heard from others who work for much larger institutions, such as the University of Buffalo, who are so huge, there's no central Web/marketing function. There may be for individual schools within the university, but not one big central one. For them, it may make more sense to go with pages. The big thing is, if they're going to use it as true marketers, they need the Insights for tracking/measurement. But, groups has the great advantage of having messages sent to everyone go to their inbox, whereas the Pages stick it in the "notifications" box & I think gets lost up there (especially for those kids super active with all the apps).

What are your thoughts?

(Jess will post her reply in just a bit....)

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The Ning idea is great. I'll have to run it by them.

I've been lucky to have all inquiries about Facebook and pages run through my office also. Our school is small also, but I could see a potential explosion of pages. Groups seem to be more welcomed by students. Since we have set up our 2013 group, discussion about admission and other college questions have dropped off at our official page. This could be from most questions being answered or interest switched to the group.

So under the same idea we would have some discussion on the senate page and that discussion would filter down to the individual club groups.
My initial response to your first couple sentences was -- eeep! I definitely agree with you that it would be a poor choice. Web sites are for content, information, one-way stuff. Social networking sites are for building communities & relationships. Student organizations are for building relationships in-person as part of the whole co-curricular experience. I don't see how they could get a whole lot of value of having a presence as a page in Facebook. Perhaps a Ning community might be an interesting complement to what their doing, but in both cases, they have the issues you mentioned -- turning over the "keys" to the next group. But, they have the same issues with their Web sites now too.

I have an e-mail in to our Student Association President to have a planning meeting about developing a "best practices" or helpful kind of guide for student orgs to help them figure out what tools would work best for them electronically. If we come up with something, I'd be happy to share.
For our College, which is one of many in a large university, we have two alumni groups in Facebook. We choose groups because of the ability to communicate directly with group members, rather than the updates used for pages. We don't abuse the frequency and we only pick messages of importance.

An advantage of pages is how customizable they are but we mainly use our group for photos, so it works well for that.

I don't see a problem with multiple groups and pages since they might be specialized, for example, ours which is dedicated to our College's alumni and our events. Our members are also members of the larger university's alumni Facebook group.

The goal for our group is to build the relationship with our alums and let them know about events. It's an excellent way to keep in touch with younger alums whose email addresses we don't have on file.
For our University, University of Advancing Technology, we have decided to go with one main Fan Page. Between our online and resident students we total to about 1200 students. We don't have sports teams, so we don't have to worry about competing on FB about where content needs to be. All of our FB groups, with the exception of two, have been student initiated. I monitor what is being said in all of the groups just to make sure everything is accurate.

When it comes to multiple Fan Pages, I believe one main page for the university is the best way to go UNLESS there is a program, sports team or club that is widely known to high school students. Being from St. Louis, Mizzou Basketball and football as well as the University of Illinois basketball were widely known. I believe these would be worthy of their own page.

Can't wait to see what else comes of this discussion!
This discussion drew me in here as I was recently wondering whether our law school should have a separate page for its Master's degree programs, which are distinct from our JD program in some ways. Ultimately decided to stick with one page because our goal is for the audience to unite as one community of people who care about our school. I'm looking forward to the new FB pages when they launch soon.
Thanks for posting this. It'll be interesting to see how these changes affect user engagement. The Applications were one of the main vehicles for customizing Facebook Pages. They've now been relegated off the main view of the Facebook Page.

The flip side is that the new implementation of Pages seems to promise greater access to User's News Feeds through features like Status Updates for Pages (which will seemingly work much like Status Updates for Facebook Profiles).
We are currently debating this as well - I found this post to be helpful - "Facebook: Fan Pages vs. Groups for HigherEd Offices" -
Here at UCF (University of Central Florida) we have 50,000+ students. We are the fifth-largest in the nation, and second largest in undergraduate population. We have a central marketing office of 12 people. The colleges, there are 12 here all have marketing people. The Foundation has marketing people, Alumni, you guessed it marketing people. Coordination with these groups can be challenging.

But no matter the size of the institution, I think the problem remains the same. How do we communicate accurate and current university messages on social networks with out being an advertiser or a nag. We want people to join for spirit and community, not to buy the latest hat or register for that next class, that comes later. The community is not a hard selling location, it is really just awareness and being part of the tribe that students, alumni, faculty and others want to be associated with.

Right now, I apparently have 3 fan pages (I think Facebook had something to do with that) and I am working on consolidating to one. Even though we are a big university, UCF should have one source for university message at a global level. This can have the boiler plate the VP's love and the really meat of social communication that the fans want. That page, should be managed by a group that has a university-wide minded strategy and that group should work with key offices to maintain the content on that page so that it works for its environment, IE, don't hard sell and promote advertising on your wall. Try having a conversation with your tribe.

One model that fits this conversation that is happen already, YouTube Channels. Does every college/university have multiple?
Im curious to see if anyone has an example of any social media strategy they have formalized? And that they would be willing to share.

It sounds pretty much like what other schools have been faced with up until now. We have a facebook page for admissions and alumni - now athletics wants one, but each sport wants their own, etc. And they are asking for marketing help to get it all going.

I feel like I need to get some sort of strategy organized to keep it all within range to take on these various requests so we have something to fall back on when the groups come to us asking for a page.

The strategy should tie in to larger goals, and I'd strongly encourage a written social media policy or set of guidelines that could help with the issue of everyone wanting to jump on board. Check out this other discussion on policies/guidelines.
I work in the Marketing & Public Relations department. We started our first college Facebook page. We call it the official college page. Other departments have Facebook pages, such as the Library, eLearning, Student Services, etc. All Facebook pages must go through this department. They must get approval from us, and we have some standards that they must follow.



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