It's incredibly simple. International education offices and organization should be creating Facebook Pages for themselves instead of Facebook Groups.
I get a number of invitations each week from International education offices and organization to join a Facebook Group they've created. I won't do it because I consider it an inefficient and basically useless way to connect and communicate with those most interested in hearing about a program! Those of us who work in social media will tell you this is true.
Why? The difference is in the purpose. Groups may be better for collaborative discussion and attracting quick attention, but Pages are one very good way (but not the only way!) for developing better long-term relationships with your community. International education organizations and offices don't need collaboration with their community, they want to be able to connect to them for marketing and information purposes!
What do Pages and Group have in common? Only a few things...
- Both Pages and Groups allow for hosting discussions, a discussion wall and forums. (UPDATE: This feature is no longer available for Pages.)
- Both Pages and Groups allow for video and photo uploads.
- Both Pages and Groups allow sending messages to fans/members. Groups has a limit of around 5,000. However, Pages has NO limit on the number of people who you can message through Facebook Mail-style Updates. Any International education offices and organizations who think that they don't *need* to reach more than 5,000 people are deluding -- and limiting -- themselves. There is a worldwide market for international education which is not limited to one institution, one country or a one group of people. I think many international education offices and organizations will be surprised once they see where they have Facebook fans via a Facebook Page. THINK BIG.
And the benefits of Pages over Groups? Superior, no doubt.
- Unlike Groups, Pages are indexed on search engines and visible to anyone on the Internet, not just those on Facebook. Groups are only visible to Facebook members.
- Unlike Groups, Pages allow you to send out “bulk invites” to all your friends. And they allow better viral marketing because your fans can also send out bulk invites to your Page to others. That's not possible with Groups. (UPDATE: Bulk invites are no longer available.)
- Unlike Groups, Pages can send out status messages (which appear in Facebook streams) as well as Updates. These status messages can be linked to Twitter accounts to broaden the PR value of posts. This means that unlike Groups (which are passive), Pages are an active marketing tool. And Twitter accounts can also be linked to post on other social networks -- send once, post the same message on multiple networks! That's exponential marketing! (UPDATE: There are some changes where some Group postings are appearing in Facebook streams, but not to the same extent as Page statuses.
- Unlike Groups, Pages allows the addition of applications to Pages that can be helpful to international education offices and organizations. Another important application if FBML (Facebook Markup Language) that allows you to customize the look of your Page. (UPDATE: FBML is not longer available.)
- Unlike Groups, Pages allow you to create "prettier URLS" with memorable text instead of a string of numbers. However, you can only do this once.
- Unlike Groups, Pages give you statistical feedback (called "Insights"). This is essential for being able to see what works in connecting with your community and what doesn't.
- Unlike Groups, Pages allows a better integration of Event creation and invitations easily available to the public.
- Pages allow an office or organization to segment their community and send targeted updates. The updates will become more visible in the upcoming changes to Facebook. So, for example, Pages would allow an organization to update all their California fans about an upcoming California study abroad fair circuit or their New York City or Chennai fans about an event in their local area. Targeted marketing, plain and simple.
- Pages also allows international education offices and organizations to create and publish social ads. While this may not be a marketing choice for everyone, you won't get that kind of "add-on value" from Groups.
There's one more very important reason for creating a Facebook Page -- brand and reputation management. If you create an official Fan page, you will be in charge of your brand. If not, there are all kinds of possible negative consequences.
First and foremost, you will have no control if someone else decides to create a fan page in your name. For example, one of my favorite bands has 18,733 Facebook fans. However, someone else created a Fan page in the band's name that now has 16,088 fans. As far as I know, that Page is not controlled by the band it claims to "represent" (which is why I won't "fan" it or link to it). Approximately half of the band's fan base on Facebook aren't even really connected to the band -- although they probably think they are! That's unfortunate. (UPDATE: The band worked with Facebook to claim the rogue page as a breach of intellectual property rights and it was removed. There is now one official fan page.)
If you create and run your own Fan page, you can report "fake" pages to Facebook and ask that they be removed. That itself is important in preserving your international education office's and organization's reputation on all sorts of levels.
If you are an international education office or organization and have questions about using Facebook and other social media for marketing and public relations, please don't hesitate to contact me or comment below!
- 502 International Education related YouTube channel subscriptions... (ihec-djc.blogspot.com)
- Students Connecting Our World Gains Momentum (nafsa.org)
- Facebook: A Year in Review (insidefacebook.com)
- How to Virally Grow Your Facebook Fan Page (socialmediatoday.com)
- How to Brand Yourself and Build Engagement with a Facebook Page (theplanetd.com)