Saturday, July 7, 2007

How to Make Facebook Your New Best Friend

How to Make Facebook Your New Best Friend
Administrators Find Advantages to Online Networking

Student Affairs Leader 34(4): 1-2 (February 15, 2006)

Most student affairs administrators are now aware of the trouble Facebook can cause. What they might not know is that it is emerging as the newest and perhaps most efficient way to stay in touch with their students and what they are thinking.


But some administrators are using Facebook to connect with students openly and efficiently. “The reality is that this type of virtual community building is the way most of our students have come to get connected to and get associated with their new friends, so we started thinking, We don’t want to fight this,” said Roger Casey, dean of faculty at Rollins College in Florida. “We need to take this tool and use it in positive ways to create the type of community that we really want to see.”

Staying in Touch
Some campuses are turning to podcasting to overcome the problem, Casey noted. But because Rollins does not have a podcasting system, Facebook appears to be the best way to reach large numbers of students at once.

Facebook creates buzz,” Casey said. “There’s a real ‘hiving’ type of mentality that happens on Facebook, and since we don’t have the ability to get on students’ cell phone hives, Facebook is probably the best system we have out there to get to distribution lists of students who might be interested in particular topics.” Mansfield University in Pennsylvania is working with the idea, too. Mansfield will invite students to add the university to their lists of “friends,” said Dennis Miller, the university’s public relations director. Mansfield will also create a Facebook page on which the university can make short, bulleted announcements ... .

[snip]If we keep the number of announcements [on Facebook] limited and short, I have a feeling this may be the most effective method of communications with our students that we’ve ever had.”

Rollins has already has a success of this type, said Doug Little, director of Rollins Explorations, which coordinates the college’s services for prospective and first-year students. At the opening of this semester, the student activities board advertised an orientation/welcome-back event—an evening show featuring a hypnotist and comedian—through Facebook. The result was a packed venue.

There wasn’t a seat open because the word went out on Facebook and people actually replied, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there,’” Little said. “By knowing that other people were going to be participating, it started to build steam and build community.”

When incoming Rollins students complete course registration this summer, the college will ask them to also create a list of activities and interests. The university will ask student orientation coordinators to create a Facebook group for each student organization and invite new students to join the Facebook groups that match their interests, Little said.

“We used to think about things like summer orientation or fall orientation as the moment in which these students are coming together for the very first time,” Casey said. “I think campuses are deluding themselves now if they think that the first-year students haven’t already formed significant connective relationships months before they arrive on campus. And if we’re not paying attention to that, we’re going to miss some really important opportunities.”

A Peek at Student Culture

In addition to disseminating information to students, administrators can also use Facebook to gather it. For example, the chair of Rollins’ psychology department has established a Facebook account that students can view and access. She visits Facebook to find out what films, TV shows, and CDs are popular with students and then watches or listens to them herself so she can use them to illustrate concepts she introduces in class.

“It does add a lot of credibility in the eyes of the students that you’re trying to work with them and get into their culture,” Little said.

And the same features that make Facebook a student safety risk also make it useful in facilitating administrators’ communications with students. For instance, Facebook profiles can provide students’ cell phone numbers or instant messaging addresses, Little said.

“Facebook is sort of a jumping off point for a lot of other virtual communications.”


1 comment:

Jonathan Miller said...

Nice to see Rollins and facebook getting a mention, but you missed the College's libray presence on facebook. This ranges from the "official" Olin Library profile ( to the -- much more fun -- "I'd so do it in the Olin Library" group (

Liek everyone else, we are currently trying to work out how to use Facebook with library services etc.