Unexpected Growth

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Analytics, Facebook, Higher Education, Recruitment, Research, Thoughts | Posted on 07-15-2008

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I’ve been wracking my brains for a month now trying to figure out what happened, but it’s just an unexplained mystery. Nothing we did, just user-generated growth.

While presenting at the Innovative Educators Conference, I mentioned the Butler Facebook Page. I talked about how we had the name reserved, but weren’t really using it. And as I opened it, I said “I think it went over 200 Fans last night.” Sure enough, it was sitting there at 207 fans.

And during the days after the conference, I noticed the page views went way up. From 3-6/day to 80-100. “They must just be checking it out”, I figured. But the Fans were rising just as quickly. Surely the conference attendees weren’t become Fans of Butler University? So I check the recent fans, and sure enough they are all in the Butler network.

And the list keeps growing. And growing. It doubles within a week. I ask the Alumni office, they said nothing. No one in the Admission office did anything. When it hit 440 members on June 23rd, I figured I’d throw it into the Butler Class of 2012 group for fun. Now, my post is extremely outdated.

So what is the cause of this growth? And the bigger question, what should we do about it? Nothing? Are people joining the group to show their Butler pride on their Facebook profile? Do they like the group because there is no content?

The majority of members seem to be current students or alumni. Not exactly what I set out for it to be at first, but it’s still good that we have it in possession to utilize if we choose to. It seems that the group just snowballed one day. When you add the group, it puts the event on your mini-feed and other friends might see it on their home page.

I think right now I want to continue to grow the membership, add a little bit of content, and in a few years, hand it the keys over to the Alumni Office. What a resource that could be for them.

Comments posted (4)

It must have been viral growth between members of the Butler network?

I would be interested in learning if there is content growth in the next few months. Many people join groups and becoming “fans” on facebook because they are invited . period. Growth on a network doesn’t mean anything unless there is content creation.

You should test different forms of communication through this network to see what sticks.

Kyle – Seems to be the case, as growth has leveled back off.

I targeted 17-21 year olds through this network when recruiting Bloggers (see recent post), and had great success, yielding nearly 50 inquiries in about 5 days.

Like I mentioned above, sometimes I wonder if people enjoy being in a group because there is not content to keep up with. The group is stagnant and almost just acts like a ‘Butler Badge’ on their profile, but I do wonder if some like that.

I think in a few years this group will be an amazing resource for the Alumni Office, and a great medium to push communication to for updates and site launches, like AU’s new site.

There’s a Butler University Alumni group on Facebook started by someone. 1,000+ members. Anecdotally, the power of these alumni groups on Facebook is that old college friends find each other in the group membership and reconnect. I can speak personally to the effectiveness of that. There is a pride aspect to joining, as well.

There are some noteworthy distinctions with a college Facebook page as they are generally set up. For one, it is generally more inclusive of alumni, staff, current students, future students, and pretty much anyone else.

Unlike groups, pages allow applications. For example, SimplyRSS is a basic but effective application for bringing in a campus news feed to a page. That currently can’t be done with groups.

In terms of usefulness for the alumni office, the college ’11, college ’12, college ’13 groups have some great (often overlooked) potential. These groups are useful for recruiting and retention now, but also have use in the future!

Facebook is popular now, but who knows what the future will bring. If you are an admin/owner to any of these groups/pages, you can invite the membership to the next big thing via built-in messaging mechanisms.

On a related note, it is a good idea to not be the only owner or admin for a Facebook group or page. If something happens, it is good for someone else to have access to make updates, changes, etc. Sometimes a college Webmaster makes sense as an additional admin.

Facebook has purposefully made it easy for pages to “go viral.”

1) Fanning a page is weighed second most heavily (after mobile uploads) as its distributed into newsfeeds.

2) The call to action is immediate and simple, you can become a fan right there in your news feed

3) Fanned pages are listed in your info, which makes it part of your identity on Faceeboook. The primary motivator for action on Facebook is self-expression, with the other being syndication.

This is why pages spread like a wildfire.

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