Facebook provides a direct connection to college students. As student affairs professionals, we see the potential for building a stronger rapport with our students by using this tool in Student Activities. In an earlier note, I mentioned using Facebook to advertise events; however, that is only the beginning. Facebook can play a vital role in increasing engagement and involvement on campus. However, it is important that we not clog the drain…causing our students to scatter. I offer a few suggestions to increase involvement through Facebook…
First, hesitate in using Facebook as a mass-mailing connection. No group or network needs to receive all announcements. You can provide great customer service by making ads, notes, or Wall-to-Wall blurbs interest specific and sent by students to students.
Next, for institutions that have concerns with the legalities of information posted on Facebook profiles, provide educational trainings (include faculty, staff, & students). Try not to stress only the negative or what will happen if students are “caught” not following policy. Instead, more strongly emphasize how Facebook can be used to stay in touch with a global community and what resources are available. Provide information on how Facebook strategies or tools can be used in “real life” to encourage interpersonal communication. Students begin networking before they even get to campus…so why not encourage the use of Facebook to help facilitate positive connections?
In addition, Facebook can be used to enhance things you’re currently doing. Do you currently host focus groups on hot topics in your community or the world? Facebook can be used as a channel to begin the discussion. Ask your students to place hot topic questions on the wall of groups they may already belong to (hopefully on one that’s related to the topic, even if it’s loosely). Then, ask them to record the remarks/results. This is great for quick polling or to see where your network would fall on an opinion spectrum. For example, SGA was thinking of raising the activities fee on campus, so students placed hot topic questions on walls in groups relating to finance and campus involvement to gauge support before doing a physical campaign.
Finally, create a forum of action. Your campus probably already has activist/community involvement groups (Eco clubs, Relay for Life, etc.). Speak with these organizations and encourage them to spread the word on a global level by creating a Facebook group. (If they’re not interested in a Group, ask them to write Notes or Blogs about their experience. These also catch on like wildfire.) The Free Hugs Campaign spread internationally when the student creator took his local idea to a new level with Facebook. Our students post information to get attention, so why not encourage them to step into the spotlight?
The best press for us as professionals is our students in action, impacting the world on a global scale – educating others and making a difference at the same time. Facebook is a channel of communication that will help us to facilitate learning opportunities, engage our students on a different level, and work to create a forum of action. Try it! You might find you like it!