Establishing a facebook page – early days


Well since my last post where I outlined some of the issues surrounding setting up a facebook page I’ve gone live with our page www.facebook.com/foundationcentre so I thought I’d share some thoughts about the experience so far for feedback and for my own records.

I had some difficulty in selecting a category for my page, as each category affects the kinds of information that it displayed (including irrelevant things like opening times, public transport information etc. which I couldn’t seem to hide). I ended up categorising us as a library, which hopefully won’t be a problem later on.

I started with a soft launch to staff to see if there were any issues, and also becuase I was hoping to reach the magic 25 fans level which unlocks the ‘insights’ feature (providing data about usage) and a snazzy url. We didn’t quite get there before launch but a couple of issues were raised at this stage, as well as at a staff meeting where I talked through the page.

One issue raised was the question of what to do about friend requests from students. It might seem rude to refuse, but inappropriate to accept. I therefor included a public statement on the page along the lines that it was foundation centre policy not to accept friend requests  from students to try and mitigate this.

Another concern was about the bleeding over between the private and public. This is a fair issue that I’ve seen raised about student engagement, but the concern here was raised from the staff viewpoint. Whilst no private information is shared by becoming a fan of the site, public information is shared, and FB users are not always aware of how much information they are making public. Students have not yet raised this issue and seem keen to get involved. This may well become an issue in future, and I’m trying to think of a way of raising privacy issues without scaring off participation.

So after sending an email on tuesday (ie 3 days ago) announcing the page to a list (476) that included both current students (approx 180) and past students still at durham (the cohort has fairly steadily been increasing) we have quickly reached 93 users. Which I’m really happy about. The number is still increasing daily and I hope to reach about 150 odd which I think would be a good number. So far it seems (and I’ve yet to go through the list carefully) that our alumni have been more keen to join that current students, but that may change, or be due to the fact that I don’t know all the current students’ names (I teach about 80 of them and i’m terrible with names). At some point (maybe after a week?) I will compare our fans list with our list of students, but I can’t see a way of doing this that won’t be laborious.

Getting the numbers up was the first step, next I was hoping that the fans would find uses for the page. I seeded a discussion in the forum about the Browne review which hasn’t gotten a response but the site has already been used in a number of interesting anticipated and unanticipated ways.

The foundation centre had a ‘celebratory lunch’ to mark the passing of last year’s cohort and the photos from this were hosted on the page, which made sharing them very easy (they were up within an hour). Also since then an alumnus has posted up pictures from a similar event a couple of years ago.

Also there have been a couple of wall posting from alumnus making public messages of thanks to staff and fellow students.

And a current student posted up a discussion board asking for participants for a 5 a side football kick around and recieved a reply from an alumnus who was planning on re-establishing an informal kickabout.

So even though the site has only been properly live since tuesday we have already had a relatively successful first week and the site has been already been used in some interesting ways. I hope that this will continue (I’m trying to think of a way of encouraging previous participants to sell their unwanted textbooks to current students for example) and I will share any further experiences as they happen.

If anybody out there is doing some similar stuff I’d like to hear about it (I think that facebook pages are getting very popular right now). I’d also welcome any thoughts or suggestions about how to improve what we are doing.

Edit- Just including a link to a good presentation by stu johnson about Leicester’s facebook page which was sent to me after my previous post! Here

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About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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