Dear University Folk – How are you using Facebook?

Don’t miss this guest post by Mike Richwalsky, assistant director of public affairs at Allegheny College at UK Web Focus:

http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/facebook-usage-by-us-colleges-and-universities/

I’d like to examine how schools in the US are using Facebook and share some thoughts and experiences I’ve had from managing my school’s presence there.

First, why are schools using Facebook? First, it’s where the students are. College students today in the US live and breathe Facebook all day long. For us, using it to reach them makes sense – after all it’s a medium they are comfortable in. Second, it’s free for our institutions to use. Finally, the tools that Facebook offers have developed to the point where it’s become a compelling communication platform for us to use to reach a large number of people very easily.

Now that we’re in the golden age of social media, many colleges are developing strategic plans on how to use Facebook. At Allegheny, our adoption of this medium and the successes we’ve had have been very organic. We didn’t jump right in with a set plan, instead we started small, just creating an official page before someone else did. As we got more comfortable with the tools, we added more and more and have grown to the presence we have today.

When Facebook launched its Groups tool, many schools, mine included, created a group for not only our institution but many offices across campus, such as career services, student life, libraries and more. The groups behaved much like they do today, we could post events, participate in discussions and more.

Eventually, Facebook created its Fan page platform, and many schools transitioned their main institutional presence from the Groups tool to the new Fan page format, which offered many similar functionality but added new tools like video, wall posts and most importantly, analytics.

At the time I write this, we have just north of 2,100 fans of our institution (http://facebook.com/alleghenycollege). Our largest number of fans are in the 25-34 age group, which includes graduates of the last several years, so it makes sense that number is high. The next largest group is the 18-24 group, with the 35-44 group a close third.

Read the whole post. I’d urge universities, colleges and libraries who have not explored the potential of Facebook to jump start an initiative now. Mike offers great evidence as to why this is so important – and whatever Facebook becomes in the next few years will probably be even more integrated into our Web, our devices and our lives.

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