General confusion might be the key ingredient to an engaged crop of incoming freshmen on a college or university’s Facebook page.
An analysis published May 16 on the blog .eduGuru breaks down what college students are discussing on their school’s official Facebook pages and third-party groups, and the most consistently engaged posts were written by “confused students trying to find more information about orientation, registration, and housing.”
An “engaged post” was a comment or question that received five or more responses, according to the analysis of how college freshmen were using their Class of 2016 Facebook pages.
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Gabe Sanchez, a community college specialist at social media company Inigral and author of the Facebook analysis, said about half of the 163 colleges and universities surveyed said they used a Class of 2016 Facebook page to help students connect with each other before they began their college careers.
Thirty-six percent of incoming freshmen discussed their major on the Class of 2016 Facebook pages, while 24 percent posted about their hometown. One in five students introduced themselves to their classmates with a brief post on the Facebook page, and 14 percent sought a roommate.
Student interaction skyrocketed in Facebook groups, rather than the school-created pages. Nearly nine in 10 comments in the Facebook analysis were posted to class groups. More than six in 10 “likes” were recorded in groups.
“These mediums are about letting students open up and meet future classmates, but also responding when appropriate,” Sanchez wrote.
Sanchez said one college included in the Facebook analysis was far too engaged with students posting to the Class of 2016 page, responding to questions and comments before other students could chime in.
A review of that particular Class of 2016 page showed that a campus administrator had responded to almost every student post, “leading us to believe that the omnipresent school administrator turned students off” from continuing to use the class Facebook page.
“Remember, there’s a fine line between not enough and too much administrator involvement,” he wrote.
For example, a cursory review of the College of William & Mary’s Class of 2016 Facebook page shows that a school administrator often answers incoming student questions about placement tests and scholars programs.
The college’s administrators does not comment on student posts looking to fellow West Coast Class of 2016 classmates, “Maryland bros,” or roommate requests for the fall 2012 semester.
Campus social media employees should remember that incoming and current students are connecting on social media sites outside the confines of an official Class of 2016 page, Sanchez wrote.
“Just because a college created a page or group does not mean that all the conversations were happening there,” he wrote. “Students did not care who started the page or group; they just wanted a way to connect with their classmates by finding something in common – majors, hometowns, or interests.”
The analysis comes a month after Facebook announced its Student Groups feature, which will allow students and faculty members on hundreds of campuses to make private group pages that will be off limits to Facebook members outside the campus community.
Students can share files–homework or class projects, perhaps–and interact with fellow students even if they’re not friends of the social network.
After an initial wave of excitement over the walled-off Facebook student groups, campus technologists said social media administrators should remain skeptical of the new feature.
Oberlin College, a private liberal arts college of 2,800 students, has had access to Student Groups since early March. Since then, students and faculty have created 128 Student Groups pages–ranging from Class of 2016 pages to pages for science students–with the most popular group drawing 280 students.
More than half of those 280 Oberlin College groups have fewer than five members, many of them with the group’s creator as its lone member.
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