University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Hi All,

I read through the existing threads on crisis communications etc. but I have a more specific question --

With inclement weather closings specifically, what are the best practices around Facebook? Is the main college page better, or is a separate alert or notification page or group better?

Are you using Facebook at all? Are you finding success, challenges?

How does an internal portal factor in? We use the EAICampus iConnect portal for internal current student communications as well as social media and the public website.

Looking for others' experiences (good and bad) and recommendations as we look to expand the communications around inclement weather.

Many thanks in advance!

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At Gettysburg College we used our main facebook page (@7,000 fans) to post weather related information this fall. It was especially useful to parents who follow up and appreciated the updates.

Thanks Paul! Did you consider other strategies first or was this always the plan?

we used other strategies as well including email, text message, and a homepage story but it is now part of the plans...

Awesome - thanks, Jennie!

Hi Sarah,

I work at Fisher College, a small institution in Boston, and while it's not our sole method of dealing with closings, we began using facebook to post weather closings last year on our main college facebook page, and it's proven to be a nice enhancement. We made this decision based on a social media survey we did with the students in the fall of 2010, where school closings were listed as one of the top items they would like to see on our facebook page. Feedback has been reallly positive. We usually make the posts between 5:30 and 6 am. I'm very interested in seeing what the post analytics will look like this year with facebook's enhanced insight pages.

We also use NIXLE for SMS alert notifications.


We use everything available, from text to email to homepage to Facebook. When we announced a closing last February on Twitter (with a little humor), it became one of our most retweeted tweets of all time:

Thanks, Tim - I am always interested in what Marquette is up to w/ social media. ;) You are a great role model for smaller institutions like mine.

We "layer" our announcements. We tell students that the front page of our website and our automated phone system are the most reliable sources of info about weather-related closings. We also have an emergency text system which we are just beginning to use for closing info. We also post on Facebook, and still use the local TV and radio stations as backup. The Facebook posting, of course, always leads to a chorus of second-guessing, complaints, and compliments, but that's part of what makes it so great.

Thanks, Charlene - Good to get your take on it as well.

Any feedback specifically on pros/cons of using your main FB page v. a separate "alert only" FB page?

At WSU Spokane we use the layered approach Charlene Tappan describes. My first step is always to update the recorded phone message because that is the single most accessible technology for 100% of our students, staff and faculty.

Home page link goes live after I update the campus alert web page. I also push out through Facebook and Twitter and to local media, and use the all-campus email because so many people check work email while away from the office.

We have an SMS system that we generally intend to use more for "hot" (fast-moving) situations than slow ones like weather that everyone can see coming in, but we might use it for a rapid, severe weather situation.

I would advise against setting up a separate page. Snow closures and other weather emergencies might be your best way to get more fans for your main page! You don't care whether you have fans for emergency information--you care about having fans for what you do every day. Every new FB page you stand up is another marketing task, so why make more work for yourself?

Staying on top of comments and questions is a great opportunity for engagement (and you can do it from home while you hunker down and ride out the storm). You're building goodwill for the future on a page where you will at some point be discussing something else with people who will have more confidence in your institution's page because you made it a place to ask questions.

We had record-setting snow two years in a row in the winters of 07-08 and 08-09--the kind that makes the national news. I used trackable links in every medium I could to see what reached people.

This was before Facebook had taken off to the extent it has today so results would be different now. Today I would probably make it my #2 after the phone update, particularly since it's faster to post to FB than it is to update the web page and make the link live on the home page.

We had a portal that has since been replaced with a new system; today since it's the only place students can go to look at grades, financial aid, etc. the results might be different. At the time, though, I can tell you that the portal was the worst medium for effectiveness. We had not trained people that it was a go-to. The home page link was #1 for CTR.

Barb - thank you so much for your really comprehensive feedback. Very good points and recommendations.



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