Higher ed: Listen to your Facebook fans

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Photo by Ed Yourdon

Last week I decided to check out my alma mater’s Facebook page and was a little disappointed to see a slew of unanswered questions students had posted in the past few months: “Is there a Greek life on campus?” “What time does tonight’s show start?” “Can I be enrolled at your university and the local community college at the same time?” Instead of acknowledging their questions, this university was using its Facebook page to let students know what the caf was serving every day.

Facebook is increasingly appealing to an older audience, but it’s still something students are using to connect to brands and, in a lot of cases, their colleges or universities. To them, Facebook pages are an obvious place to ask for specific information. Maybe Johnny Student doesn’t know whether to call financial aid or the business office for questions about his student aid refund. Maybe there’s a sprinkling of snow on the ground and he’s hoping you’ll say classes are cancelled (yeah, this happens at the mere thought of snow in Northeast Texas). When students bother to ask, it’s our job to answer as quickly as we can.

My alma mater missed out on an easy way to engage with students in a place where they’re comfortable – the digital realm. If you meet them in a space, whether physical or digital, where they already spend large amounts of time, you’ve got an easy way to disperse information to a willing audience.

There are lots of questions you can help students with on Facebook if you’re willing to pick up the phone or walk to someone’s office to find the right answer. As long as you aren’t sharing personal information that violates FERPA, fielding questions on Facebook can only help make your higher ed social presence stronger.Failing to notice students’ efforts to touch base with your college on social media can lead to damaged relationships with your most important customers – the people who pay tuition.

This doesn’t just go for questions. Interacting with positive comments, even if you’re just liking them, makes fans feel like you’re paying attention to what they have to say. Likewise, addressing complaints in a fair way can show that you’re engaged and willing to help. The plus side of all of this interaction happening directly on your Facebook page is that you’ll keep showing up in your fans’ feeds, along with all of their friends’ feeds. So avoid the temptation to respond to every inquiry with a generic “Call this number for help.” There’s a reason that student didn’t pick up the phone and call in the first place.

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