This great post by Ron Bronson wanted me to talk a little more about a slide I use in several presentations, dealing with your .edu website vs. social media. One line in particular that stood out to me in Ron’s post is:
But using social networks can’t be viewed as a panacea, instead, we need to establish why we’re using them and adhere to that purpose.
Before you establish why you’re using social networks, I’d encourage you to first take a look at your foundation.
As a homeowner, you want to make sure your house has a solid foundation. If you build on a bad one, you might be alright in the short run but you’re as good as done over time. No one wants to build on a bad foundation, and your social media efforts should be no different.
I always use this slide in presentations before diving into the ‘fun stuff’. Why? Because without a solid website, you’re like the homeowner who’s building on sand. Schools are using social media to essentially have new avenues to reach out to people, connect with them, be a part of the conversation, and build that relationship. But are they applying to your school there? Are they asking for more information? Are they giving a donation? For most schools, no (and I would say… not yet, but soon). For most colleges and universities, you are using these tools, but the end goal is to get them to take action on your website.
Here’s the point: You can do the coolest stuff on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, but if the student gets to your site and can’t figure out how to apply or get more information, you have failed. Make sure your .edu website is solid. In most cases, it is… but a little usability testing can go a long way. (PS – you can do it with $10 and 10 minutes.) Do the little things now and you’ll succeed in the long run.
How does it work? First, you login at the top using your Twitter login credentials. Buzzable says your password is encrypted and will never be shared!
Then, go to http://www.buzzable.com/highered and join the group. When you post a question here, it also posts it to your twitter account with a link to the Buzzable group. Any responses that are made to your question from the Buzzable group are threaded as a conversation, making it extremely easy to keep track of everything being said. You’ll likely even find new people to follow out of the 40+ who have already joined the group!
To keep track of everything being said in the Buzzable group without having to login, you can also follow @higheredbuzz, where all tweets are being aggregated. But responding to @higheredbuzz or just responding in general won’t add your comment to the thread; you have to go through Buzzable to do that.
The larger issue at hand for all users of Facebook is the removal of these lines from the TOS:
You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.
This is no longer true, meaning the license granted will no longer expire and your content is Facebook’s and they can essentially do what they want with it. Forever.
How does this affect colleges and universities? One thought: could Facebook come out with a line of clothing with university logos because someone has uploaded it? I’m no legal beagle, but it seems like they’re looking for more ways to monetize and the possibilities are endless.
With the saga of #2013 behind us, it’s time to focus on the future and how lessons learned can be applied to benefit your university. One benefit in particular that I am already seeing is the potential for increased yield over the Class of 2012.
I didn’t see anyone else do Class of 2012 research, but I am glad that I have mine to benchmark this year against last year’s numbers. (All details can be found at http://squaredpeg.com/index.php/class-of-2012-research/ .) I find it helpful to monitor the growth and conversation of the group.
Here’s what I’m seeing with #2013: By actively promoting the Class of 2013 group rather than sitting on the sidelines, we are seeing more students join earlier in the decision process and connect with students in a meaningful way. I sent out an email to all admitted students (like I mentioned I would do in the #2013 post) and it had a 37% open rate with a click-to-open rate of 26%.
As of January 11th, the group already has more members than the 2012 group did on May 21st (338 vs. 331). That means we’re nearly 4 months ahead this year in terms of growth. Looking at wall posts, there are more posts as of today than March 19 of last year (246 vs. 226). So the conversation has begun more quickly and is continuing to grow. Discussion posts are growing as well, 317 to date compared to 298 on April 16th of last year.
Comparing same-week numbers between 2013 and 2012, there are 1700% more members, 1130% more wall posts, and nearly 16000% more discussion posts.
So what does this mean? A few things.
At Butler, we adhere to the National Candidate’s Reply Date of May 1. So the more we can engage students and connect with them before that date, the better. More deposits are a good thing. The fact that our Facebook group is larger than it was at last year’s May 1 date shows that we have a larger audience of the admit pool to help and engage.
Our yield events are very early in the year, with the majority of them happening in January and February. Right now we are coming up on 2 yield events, and it’s the main point of the conversation in the Class of 2013 group. Students are asking who’s going to be there, making plans to meet each other, and they are already meeting friends and finding roommates. This didn’t happen last year. If a student knows other students who are going to a yield event, they are much more likely to attend.
5 students who emailed/messaged me are now the Admins of the group, so they already feel like a part of the Butler community. The more you can share this experience and feeling with others, the more you will yield.
The conversation is evolving sooner. Last March, 3 months into the research, I posted:
“Now, some general observations. The conversation has taken what I believe is a typical course for this type of online/community interaction: Starting at “where are you from?”, going to “what major”, then on to “what early reg date are you going to?” and finishing with a deeper connection level, such as Roommate surveys, what dorm to live in, meeting up this summer, etc.”
With that conversation happening sooner and the deeper connection level evolving earlier in the year, I can assume that yield will be positively affected. It reminds me of the college Brian Niles once mentioned that sends their roommate assignments out as early as February. Kids basically yield each other because they connect and after the whole “are you going? yeah, are you going?” conversation they begin to plan their room. While we still aren’t sending out roommate assignments until late summer, these conversations will still take place and help us yield better.
So there’s one positive outcome of #2013 and FacebookGate. What’s your story? Where are you improving? How has the story helped you approach administrators?
There is a lively discussion on the comments of my previous post as well as many other posts in the blogosphere about the situation and implications surrounding it. 11,000 hits in 24 hours… thanks for spreading the word.
In an effort to continue my mantra of ‘educate and inform‘, I wanted to post separately to highlight this. On Monday I will host 2 free webinars (or more if demand warrants it) to briefly touch on the situation, offer suggestions and advice, and answer any questions that you have about Facebook or social media in general.
The webinars are limited to 20 connections. If your school connects and has a projector, you can have as many as you’d like in the room. You must register with a .edu email address or I will ignore your request for a ticket. Just want to make sure that the proper people are getting the seats! If you are already a social media maven, please consider leaving a spot for someone who might need the help.
Thanks again. Keep the discussion flowing, I’m enjoying all of your thoughts and comments.
I really need you to listen up for this post. Please.
Something is going down on Facebook, and it has implications for your school.
Several weeks ago I was contacted by my friend and colleague Michelle at Winthrop about some questions pertaining to her Class of 2013 Facebook Group. The email read:
Since we are on rolling admissions I’ve been watching to see when a 2013 group would spring up. Interestingly we have no info on 18 of the 23 members. In fact, even though they are all out of state they all (include two 08 alum of Miami) seem to be connected. My only thought is that they could be a group of squatters? Would that even be beneficial to them? Have you see anything like this or have any thoughts?
I did some research for her, and looked through the friends of Patrick Kelly, the creator of the group. At first, I saw nothing out of the ordinary other than the two ’08 alumni and the fact that this small group of 16-18 students were all interconnected with each other, like she said.
Yesterday, we sent out our admit packets. Today, I got on Facebook to see if a Class of 2013 group had popped up yet. I found 2. One has the exact logo that was used for last year’s group, a non-Butler bulldog image, so I click on that one. And I look at the Creator of the group. Patrick Kelly, Plano Senior High School. I check our system. No Patrick Kelly that has applied and been admitted to Butler.
I dig deeper into Facebook, searching for ‘Class of 2013′ groups. And here’s a list of what I find.
And guess what? This is only from the first 7 pages of a search that returns more than 500 results. Start looking at the names of the group creators and admins.
See how many times those names appear in admin for these groups, and look at their friends and see how many times those names pop up. A LOT. This isn’t just the Common App Effect, where students apply to every school under the sun. These people aren’t interested in going to every school they have started a group for. No, this is an inside ring with a common purpose. They don’t always create the group, but they do always get in, friend someone, and get control rights.
You might have the same thought I had at first. I responded to Megan, “That is very interesting. I don’t really see where squatting could be beneficial. After all, the students who join and participate will steer the group in whatever direction they take it. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
Sure, not for one school. Not for tiny little Butler, with 900 incoming students.
But for 500+ schools? Owning the admin rights to groups equaling easily 1,000,000+ freshman college students?
Think of it: Sitting back for 8-10 months, (even a few years), maybe friending everyone and posing as an incoming student. Think of the data collection. The opportunities down the road to push affiliate links. The opportunity to appear to be an ‘Admin’ of Your School Class of 2013. The chance to message alumni down the road. The list of possibilities goes on and on and on.
I’ve said many times, step back and let the student group start on its own. Today, I change that position. It seems that we have been gamed, and we need to at least own the admin rights to the group in an effort to protect our incoming students. To end the possibility of them being pushed ads and “buy these sheets for college” stuff this summer. You know there is a motive behind all of this. And you know it has to do with money. And you KNOW you’re going to get calls about it when it happens.
Tomorrow I will set up the OFFICIAL Butler Class of 2013 group. Tomorrow we will promote it to our students, and explain to them why the other groups are potential spam. Tomorrow I will let them know we are not there to moderate them, but merely to provide the safe platform for them to interact and get to know each other. I encourage you to consider the same.
For most of us, tomorrow is too late already. Luckily my group has 2 students in it. Most schools are at 300+ students and growing every day. Make an effort now.
I can’t wrap my head around this all the way yet. I’ll be back around 9pm to write more. Please, join me and comment with your thoughts. What I have said above might not be the right solution. Maybe it involves Facebook’s help to take the ring down. For the first time, I truly believe we can’t sit back on this one. If you see more schools, add them to the list. Together we can figure out a solution for our incoming students.
And please, blog/tweet/email this out to others and link to this so we can have a common place to figure out the best steps.
I have created a Google Doc to start trying to tie the schools all together. Collab with me! http://bit.ly/W1Cg
It’s pretty neat to see everyone working together! Check it out. Thanks for your help!
To keep an eye on the twitter backstream as well, click here.
We have over 200 schools and are starting to notice some patterns. Certain names are affiliated with bigger schools, and others are with smaller schools. Some people are usually ‘creator’ and others are always ‘admin’.
A lot of the names are linking back to College Prowler. More updates after we do some research. *HUGE SHOUTOUT to the 15+ people helping out in the Google Document and on Twitter. You’re all awesome. Be sure to leave a comment so I can recognize you properly.
We feel we can reasonably confirm that College Prowler is behind the mass creation of ‘Class of 2013′ groups on Facebook. More to come.
Out of the 243 ‘Class of 2013′ groups we listed on the Google Doc, these are the most frequent names (n=493) listed as Creator or Admin of the group:
Ron Tressler – 58
Justin Gaither – 55
Josh Egan – 42
Jasmine Smith – 20
Ashley Thomas – 20
Mark Tressler – 10
James Gaither – 10
Searching these names on Google, my colleagues found several direct connections to College Prowler via LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, and more. Perhaps the most disheartening tidbit we found was a post spread across the US on Craiglist. Here is an example of a local ad put out for a ‘Facebook Marketing Internship‘.
“Viral Marketing Internship (Spring Semester)
An internship that combines the addicting glory of facebook with viral marketing? It’s true. College Prowler Inc., the Pittsburgh-based publisher of the only complete series of college insiders’ guides written by students, is actively seeking an unpaid viral marketing intern who has a solid understanding of the web, social networking, and interactive marketing. Responsibilities
- Implement Facebook marketing campaigns that will engage high school and college students
Hours: 15 hours per week
Salary: Unpaid, internship credit
UNPAID to do the dirty work. What a shame.
I am not here to say that College Prowler is a bad company. There was obviously a business motive behind the decision to create 250+ Class of 2013 groups. Unfortunately, we may never know that decision now that this has been brought into the light by the higher ed community. Stories can quickly be changed. An incentive can be a service with one PR release. Truthfully, I hope we don’t find out what future plans were down the road for this massive infrastructure that has been laid across Facebook to unsuspecting high school seniors.
I do need some sleep. I’ll revisit this again in the morning. Please add your thoughts and reflections and ramifications as a comment below. And again, thanks for your help everyone.
One thing that concerns me, after sitting back and looking at this. Most (75+%) of the students who are joining these groups list themselves as ’09 high school students. The position is for a college internship. I don’t know too many high school seniors looking to pick up an internship in the spring of their junior year. It reeks of inauthenticity. I also noticed several high school names popping up throughout as the networks that these people were a part of. Last I knew, to be a high school student and join a network you just had to have 3 people confirm you went there. Join a school, add random people as friends to confirm you (you’d be surprised at how many students would probably do this for someone they have never met or heard of), and you’re in. Also, I have noticed that the friend list of these ‘students’ are often alphabetical. Start with an A search and friend students until you get what you need.
*added 9:45am, Friday
With recent talk on Twitter about what a school’s role should be on a Facebook group, I thought this research would be timely. (To see all of my Class of 2012 Facebook Group research from last year, please visit this page.) I surveyed our incoming class of 915 students, and about 315 responded. These questions relate to the Class of 2012 Facebook Group:
16. Did other universities and colleges use these type of sites to contact you?
Yes: 70 22.44%
No: 242 77.56%
17. Were you ever helped with a question about Butler through a social media site?
For example: Facebook, Butler Bloggers/Forums, Zinch, etc.
Yes: 195 62.50%
No: 117 37.50%
18. How helpful is it to ask questions about Butler on sites like the BUForums or Facebook?
1 being ‘Not helpful. I would rather call.’
5 being ‘Very helpful. I like using the internet to get info.’
1 – 23
2 – 17
3 – 80
4 – 93
5 – 94 Average: 3.71
21. Butler Admissions’ involvement in the Class of ’12 Facebook group was:
1 being ‘Too much. Let us have our own area.’ 1 4
5 being ‘Perfect. Got questions answered when I needed help.’ 2 13
1 – 4
2 – 13
3 – 114
4 – 110
5 – 52 Average: 3.66
My research shows that it’s ok for us to be involved in a ‘Class of xxxx’ group.
I have chatted with reporters at both The Chronicle of Higher Ed and Inside Higher Ed. Serious interest from them. Also emailed my contacts at Chicago Tribune and Campus Technology. Thanks to Sarah Evans at http://www.prsarahevans.com for her PR help. Might have a lead for a CNN story next week.
*added 7:51pm, Friday
I’m planning a small, free web-based roundtable next week for anyone who is completely lost and needs some help or clarification. More details to come. Thanks again for all your content creation and collaboration.
I’ve started Butler’s official group and drafted the email to all admitted students to notify them of the group and the tiny role we will play in it. I have asked in the email for students who wish to be the moderators/admins of the groups. That’s where we are at right now.
It’s been nearly one month since I created and released the Butler Blue II video during our missing mascot fiasco (no, they were never found).
I’ve refrained from posting on this until now because I wanted to allow enough time to look at stats and analytics on the video to say if it was a success or not. Conclusion? Success.
I’ve never been one to throw the word ‘viral‘ around. [Example] You can’t make a video ‘viral’, it’s up to the people who watch it if they want to pass it along. But you CAN help the video become viral by choosing your key influencers and letting it go from there.
Follow me on a journey… a journey of bad data, stretched conclusions, and mysterious results.
On Sept. 18th, Kaplan released a survey (remember this one?) that “at ‘top schools’, one out of ten admissions officers has visited an applicant’s social networking Web site as part of the admissions decision-making process.” The survey was conducted with a whopping 320 admission counselors. [Link]
I caught the story on Sept. 19th when the Chronicle Wired Campus posted the results [Link]. They state that “One in 10 admissions officers has looked at an applicant’s social-networking profile”, which is a much broader statement than the original survey. Kaplan notes that they looked at an applicant’s social-networking profile as part of the admissions decision-making process. Reporting Fail #1.
And here’s Reporting Fail #2: The Chronicle article states that “The company surveyed 320 institutions among U.S. News & World Report’s and Barron’s top 500.” Look back at the Kaplan article to see that the methodology “for the 2008 survey, 320 admissions officers from the nation’s top 500 schools – as compiled from U.S. News & World Report’s “Ultimate College Directory” and Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges – were surveyed by telephone between July-Aug 2008.”
So unless the Chronicle can prove or reasonably assume that they only surveyed 1 worker at each school, this statement is incorrect and unreasonably stretches the data across a wider sample. We have 10 counselors at Butler. Kaplan could have called 32 schools and interviewed 10 people at each. We don’t know, because it does not say. But what we do know is that there is not a possible way to interview someone from all 500 schools when only 320 people were interviewed.
I admit that I should have clicked back to the original Kaplan press release to read more, but I took the Chronicle post for what it was worth, and commented “10% of counselors? Hardly an issue. Most of those who looked were probably only there because the student requested to be their friend.” I can think of several instances where my co-workers have had prospective students friend them on Facebook, myself included. And most of the time, I look at their profile to see who they are.
Fast-forward to September 21st on Slashdot, which a member reports “10 Percent of Colleges Check Applicants’ Social Profiles” [Link]. The schools involved are now only “prestigious” ones. Following this article is a very heated discussion about this, over 300 comments at the time of this writing.
So we’ve gone from 32 out of 320 admission officers saying they have looked at a social networking profile of an applicant as a part of the admissions decision-making process, to 320 institutions being surveyed and 10% saying that they look at social networking profiles, to now…. 10% of colleges checking social profiles.
I’ve given the office a pretty basic explanation of how social media fits into the admission process. If you do it for one, you must do it for all. And since you can’t do it for all, then just don’t do it. Seems to work fine so far. But when a student reaches out to be my friend on Facebook, then I friend them. And they usually ask me questions, because that is how they communicate. It’s probably easier for me since I don’t read apps or make decisions, but I know our staff does a great job at evaluating the applicant the same as everyone else, and based solely on the materials included in the app.