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Facebook and Colleges, Part 47: New “Community Pages” Are Talking About You…

April 28, 2010

…and anyone can easily listen, no social media dashboard required.

[Note: I update this blog infrequently, but you can follow me on Twitter @robinteractive]

(This post talks about colleges, but is equally relevant to a range of businesses and organizations.)

Search for just about any college on Facebook and you’ll find at least one officially-created page or group. The debate from a few years ago about whether or not colleges should be on Facebook has largely subsided. (Do colleges use Facebook effectively? That’s definitely still up for debate.)

Back then, a common argument of those advocating creation of (or creating without permission) an official Facebook presence was, “If we don’t build it, someone else will, and we won’t have any control.” Others at the time, and still now, wince at the word control in relation to social media.

My view on control and social media? There is a difference between having control and your audience feeling like you are trying to control them. And while you can’t have total control, you can definitely have some control. Quite a bit of control in many instances.

The official college Facebook presence, promoted on Web sites, in e-mails, etc., often has a sizable following. This following can be utilized for posting news snippets, campus events, etc., via manual posting, RSS posting tools, or using syndication tools such as Hootsuite, ping.fm, etc. Use the college’s Facebook presence as a marketing channel and engage the community for benefits X, Y and Z. Etc.

But what if someone creates a new Facebook Page for your institution? And what if, instead of you feeding content for that page and, if necessary, removing content posted by others, you had little control?

What if that new Facebook Page for your institution automatically aggregates content based on what people are saying all around Facebook, even if those Facebook users don’t intend to post their status updates to that Page? What if that Page has potential to become extremely popular, even a go-to reference?

That Page exists, and it is part of Facebook’s new Community Page beta. Some have described it as a Wikipedia competitor. From Facebook:

“Community Pages are a new type of Facebook Page dedicated to a topic or experience that is owned collectively by the community connected to it. Just like official Pages for businesses, organizations and public figures, Community Pages let you connect with others who share similar interests and experiences.

On each Community Page, you’ll be able to learn more about a topic or an experience—whether it’s cooking or learning a new language—and see what your friends and others in the Facebook community are saying about this topic. Community Pages are still in beta, but our long-term goal is to make them the best collection of shared knowledge on a topic. We’re starting by showing Wikipedia information, but we’re also looking for people who are passionate about any of these topics to sign up to contribute to the Page. We’ll let you know when we’re ready for your help.” (Facebook blog)

(Update April 29: I finally saw as an in-your-face pop-over the suggested pages to add in my own Facebook account. This was mentioned in the Facebook blog post linked above.  Suggested pages for me included pretty much everything in my Facebook profile  info tab, including Facebook Community Pages for my high school and my college. Facebook is proactively driving people to “like” these community pages.)

Here’s a Facebook Community Page in action. Note that it pulls content from any mentions (status updates only?) of the college on Facebook:

Brown Facebook Community Page

In case you can’t read that top post, “Not bad get drunk and get paid. Brown University is seeking adult drinkers who are interested in reducing or stopping drinking for a research study.”

While the research may be worthwhile, having a prospective student, or a parent of a prospective student, see that at the top of the list is probably less exciting to Brown. Who says researchers toil in obscurity?

These pages seem to already exist for most colleges, as a Facebook search will quickly show. For convenience, here are a few examples:

Time will tell if Facebook Community Pages catch on. My guess is they will, given how they have good potential for viral growth in fans/people who “like” them and Facebook’s ability and motivation to sell ads against them. At this point they are only a week old, and a quick Facebook search shows they are already attracting fans.

Note that these pages are visible without logging in to Facebook. Real-time Twitter info has made it into search results for Google, Bing, etc. The possibility exists that Facebook status updates might go down the same path.

What can you do re: Facebook Community Pages?

  • At the time this post is being written, Facebook Community Pages are only a week old and are still in beta, so keep an eye on how these pages develop and expand over time.
  • Sign up to be a contributor to your college’s Facebook Community Page, and when the Page gets turned over to the community (whatever that will end up meaning and whenever that will happen), you might receive some level of control.
  • Be aware that there is often more than one Community Page for any given organization. So far my college has two. I’ve found other colleges with four or five already. I wonder if Facebook will rectify that in the future.
  • Add this page to your reputation monitoring efforts.
  • Note how the page functions. Using the example above, if a number of people post status updates on Facebook related to Brown University, the content scrolls down and off the page. If the college president comes knocking upset about a particular item, this can be a method that yields quick results. Have your plan in place, and get a list of people to post something about your college.
  • Also note that posts made on your college’s official Facebook page show up on your college’s Community Page

(Edit April 29: If your curious what information on your Facebook profile is public, use this Facebook API browser lookup tool.)

(Edit May 14: Facebook search options, as mentioned above, are arriving. See Kurrently (Facebook and Twitter searches) and openbook (Facebook search) for two examples.)

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