Using Facebook for F&M
Facebook can be a valuable part of a cohesive engagement effort if your department or program has conducted an assessment and identified this platform as an appropriate tool in your overall social media strategy. Along with the Franklin & Marshall social media policies, this set of best practices is intended to provide the guidelines and suggestions that F&M's departments, offices and programs need to create a successful Facebook presence.
While some of these principles provide helpful guidance for individuals with personal Facebook accounts, these practices aim to provide support for using Facebook in an institutional framework. Part of this document includes guidance for all College employees about helpful ways to keep interactions on Facebook in your professional role separate from how you choose to interact in the personal realm.
What is Facebook?
Facebook is a social networking site that allows individuals to create onlineProfiles (a.k.a. Timelines) for interacting and sharing content (including thoughts, photos, videos, locations, etc.) with "Friends." Organizations also can create spaces on Facebook—called Pages—that allow for similar kinds of interaction with individuals who choose to become "Fans" of the organization. In addition, Facebook also offers Groups, which allow a community of "Members"—typically individuals with Profile pages—to interact more directly with each other in a closed and/or private setting.
Why use Facebook?
If your social media strategy includes establishing a social media presence for your unit, creating a Facebook Page allows your unit to take advantage of the world's largest social media networks. Facebook may not be the best platform for all departments, as building a successful presence requires one of the largest investments of time among other social media platforms.
Some academic departments and institutional initiatives on campus are using Facebook to create communities that bring together current students, faculty, parents and alumni. Routine efforts to share stories, invite comments and promote and manage events strengthens these communities.
Ancillary to that, your unit's presence on Facebook can provide insights on campus culture (both past and present) that, ideally, pique the interest of high school students, allay the fears of anxious parents and engender nostalgia in alumni—three audiences that are crucial to the success of the College as a whole.
However, a reality of Facebook is that its effectiveness is minimal unless you can commit resources to maintaining an account. This means not only designating individual(s) who can administer the account, but also setting aside regular time for creating and posting content and moderating comments. Consider whether your needs can be met by leveraging F&M's existing Facebook accounts.
Should I make a Profile, a Page or a Group?
Facebook Profiles are intended for individuals, and the College advises against departments and offices setting up Profiles to represent organizational units. The College's Social Media Policies require that social media pages intended to represent units within the institution be set up as unit pages.
If you are debating between a Group and a Page, consider how you plan to use it. Pages should be open to anyone who chooses to join them with the understanding that any information is intended for members of the public who may be interested in your group's activities. If your primary goal is building an inclusive community among external and internal audiences by routinely seeking feedback from users about evolving public initiatives, promoting participation in the public activities of your unit, and otherwise encouraging engagement, you should choose a Page. Administrators can use a Page to establish an online voice through status updates, shared content and multimedia. Using a Page also offers the advantage of connecting with other F&M Pages to create a broader Franklin & Marshall Facebook network.
If you prefer to use Facebook for maintaining a pre-existing, exclusive group (e.g. a club or committee), then a Group offers better ways of communicating internally among members who maintain their individual identities (e.g. through messaging, event planning and document sharing).
Much of this document will focus on maintaining a Facebook Page, while many of the suggestions about content are also applicable to Groups.
How do I get started?
Please refer to the section in our Social Media Policies titled "Creating Institutional Social Media Accounts" for general guidelines on getting started. For specific instructions on setting up a Facebook Page, please see the Facebook Help Center:
Notify the Office of College Communications when you have established—or plan to establish—a social media presence. Doing so allows College Communications to network and coordinate content for all F&M-related social media accounts. Email email@example.com.
To administer a Page or Group, one must first create a personal Facebook account. That account profile should include your fandm.edu address. A user's role as administrator can and should be hidden from a unit's Facebook Page. One distinction is personal profiles that create Groups. Personal profiles that create, administer or join Groups are disclosed as members of those Groups (although only open groups display members publically).
As the administrator of the Page, or if you are given administrative access to a Page, you will use Facebook as that Page, meaning that the Page is your identity, rather than your personal Profile. When you are logged in as a Page admin, your activity will be connected to that account and denoted with a thumbnail of the Page profile picture.
In this capacity, you can:
- Manage the Page Timeline: Update Page status, upload photos/video, highlight certain elements, add milestones, ask questions/poll Fans, edit comments, view past activity, view statistics.
- "Like" another Page: View, comment on and share content on other Pages.
- Add an Admin: Give fans administrative access. Please see F&M's social media policies for guidelines for selecting administrators.
- Create Events: Interact with guests.
- Install an App: Connect Facebook to other institutional platforms, or add additional kinds of interactivity to the Page with third-party apps (e.g. run contests, display feeds).
When administering an institutional Facebook Page, post content there only in the name of that unit. This maintains your privacy as an administrator and also preserves the consistency of the unit's voice online. You can choose toalways comment and post on a Page you administer as that Page, even when using Facebook as yourself. This setting is useful if you plan to use Facebook's mobile app, as it is currently the only way to post content as a Page.
For detailed and updated information on the mechanics of using Facebook, please visit the Facebook Help Center:
How do I format the Page?
As of March 30, 2012, all Facebook Pages use the Timeline format introduced to personal Profiles in 2011. Below are some suggestions for formatting specific elements of your Page.
- Choose a profile pic that is identifiable at very small sizes. A logo works best, and College Communications can provide a graphic that includes the F&M mark with your unit name.
- Because cover images take up so much screen real estate, choose an image that is both visually appealing and contributes to telling part of your unit's story. While your profile pic should rarely, if ever, change, cover images can be updated frequently to reflect current activities or initiatives of your unit.
- The About field of your Basic Information page will appear prominently below the profile pic. Use this space to sum up your mission statement or briefly describe your unit. Make sure the other fields on this page contain accurate information.
- To the right of the About statement are multiple App slots. These function as buttons that allow the user to directly access certain types of content your unit has posted, such as Photos, Events and Videos. You can choose which Apps to feature by marking them as favorites.
- One of the boxes that always appears near the top of your Page's Timeline is for other Pages that your Page has "liked." This functions as a way to link your F&M unit with other departments, offices and organizations. You may also choose to link to external organizations that may be of interest to your community (local businesses, professional groups, academic journals, etc.). These Pages also make up the content for your Page's News Feed, which you can access by clicking the Facebook logo when logged in as an admin. You can choose which Pages to feature in the Timeline box by going to your Page's admin panel > Manage > Edit Page > Featured.
- Include the following Disclaimers on your Facebook Page description:
- Account administrators reserve the right to review all comments and posted materials and remove content for any of the reasons below.
- Comments must be relevant to the topic and to the point.
- Comments should be constructive and absent of expletives, obscenity and vulgarity, in accordance with College guidelines.
- Comments with personal attacks or elements of defamation of individuals will be removed immediately.
- Posts with links that are determined to be spam or advertising will be removed immediately. Exceptions may be made for content determined to be relevant to building community (e.g. an ad from a local business or an alumnus advertising a job opening).
What about Page content?
Think of an institutional Page as your unit's online persona and treat the account accordingly. Please refer to the section in our Social Media Policies on posting content for some general guidelines. Below is some advice specific to Facebook Pages.
Define your target audience(s) so that you can create and curate content that speaks to them. Once you've identified those groups, envision how they might ideally interact with the Page and then think of ways you can invite that interaction. For example:
- You want current students to attend events, so promote that event multiple times in ways that might appeal to them (e.g. find a related YouTube clip, remind them of the free food, link to photos from past instances of the event, invite students to post photos of the event).
- You want alumni to share stories, so ask a targeted question about their experience (e.g. what's one book you remember reading for class).
- You want educators to join a discussion on a higher-education topic that has relevance for your unit, so post a link to an article with a comment or question about its potential implications.
Tips for using specific types of content:
- Status Updates: If posting a link, be aware that you can edit the title and description by clicking on them. Consider using a link shortening service (such as bit.ly or tinyURL) to track URLs posted to multiple social platforms. You can type "URL shortener" into your Internet browser to find many sites that allow you to copy the long URL and click a button to receive a shortened URL.
- Sharing: If you see something relevant to your audience on another Facebook Page that you follow, click the Share link on that item to post it to your Timeline. This item will show up in the News feed of your fans and be displayed for others who visit your page.
- Photos: Photos should be posted with the knowledge of those pictured and should include full captions and photo credits when possible. Do not tag individuals in photos (rather, allow them to tag themselves). In accordance with F&M Social Media Policies, it is important when taking a photo that you inform the individuals photographed that the photo may be distributed publicly by the College, or you must receive written permission. If you have multiple photos related to the same event or topic, consider posting them together in a single album.
- Video: You can either upload your own videos directly to Facebook or link to content hosted on a video-sharing site, such as YouTube or Vimeo. Consider the latter option if you plan on creating videos on a regular basis and wish to share that content across social media platforms.
- Questions/Polls: Using Facebook's Question feature to poll your audience can be a useful tool for gathering quantifiable information (e.g. Which of these composers do you prefer?). However, if asking a more open-ended question (e.g. What was your favorite D-Hall food?) of your audience, consider doing so with a regular status update that allows users to respond in the Comments below your post.
- Milestones: Add historical milestones to your Timeline to give some historical perspective to your unit's Facebook presence. Contact the College Archives for photos or ephemera that might be of interest to your audiences.
How do I grow a fan base?
While the number of fans following your Page is not the sole metric for measuring the success of that Page, growing an audience is a crucial first step for generating interaction. The first step to growing a fan base is letting potential users know about the Page. Some tips for advertising:
- Announce and link to the Facebook Page via your traditional channels of communicating with your constituents (email, websites, print pieces).
- Include a link to the Page in your email signature.
- "Like" other F&M Pages and Share/Comment on their content. This cross-fertilization brings users from existing pages they have "liked," to your page.
- If appropriate ask faculty to encourage students participation on the page via in-class communication or printed syllabi.
Posting frequency also will have an impact on your fan base. Aim to post content—including re-posts of content from other Pages—several different days per week. The timing of your posts may impact their reach; a post sent toward the end of the workday may be seen by more people as they log on to Facebook after work. A monthly or weekly plan laying out your content can be a helpful tool for organizing your thoughts and coordinating work among several administrators.
How can I moderate content and comments?
Interaction via comments on posted content should be encouraged, but monitored and moderated. Respond to any questions or concerns raised in a timely manner, making sure to post as the Page, and not as your individual profile. If you need time to formulate a response, make the commenter aware of that. Consider referring the commenter to the appropriate College office with a phone number and email address for an off-line response, particularly for sensitive matters, but only do so after confirming with the College office that this is appropriate.
If you see a post misrepresenting Franklin & Marshall on social media, feel free to point it out, but do so with respect. Avoid arguments, and avoid comments that might goad posters into inflammatory debates.
Make sure what you are posting in response to another user is factually correct. Linking to a citation can be helpful.
If you make an error, admit your mistake and correct it quickly. If you modify one of your previous posts, make it clear that you have done so, and why, if appropriate. This avoids confusion and the appearance of providing contradictory information.
If someone accuses you of posting something improper—such as copyrighted material or a defamatory comment—remove it immediately (failure to do so may result in legal action).
How can I prevent negative comments and interactions on my unit's Facebook Page?
One of the most attractive attributes of Facebook for its users is the open nature of communication. A Facebook presence is effective only if fans are able to engage freely—within the bounds of decorum outlined in the civility disclaimer that should be posted with any Facebook Page (as outlined in the College's Social Media Policies). This means that negative comments may appear from time to time.
However, another favored attribute of Facebook is that individuals cannot comment anonymously, which serves a self-policing function that minimizes incivility and negativity. This differentiates Facebook from blogs and newspaper sites where communication among fans who post anonymously can degenerate. Because fans' identities are attached to their comments, they remain accountable, and it's often the case that users do not want to appear uncivil among their friends and colleagues in the Facebook community.
One way to avoid negative posting is to avoid taking sides on controversial public issues.
When posting on behalf of a College unit, you are seen as a representative of the College, and units should take care to avoid implying the College's agreement with opinions or positions not articulated formally by the College. If controversial content is related to research, scholarship or academic study, it's prudent to ensure that appropriate context and disclaimers are provided.
Can I use Facebook as part of my academic instruction?
Facebook should not be used to coordinate communication or instruction in a classroom setting. Because individuals cannot post anonymously, even Facebook's privacy settings cannot eliminate the risk of federally protected information being shared publically. Posting information that would connect any identified student with information that might appear in a transcript, such as grades, names of instructors (including if you are that instructor), course names, etc., is a violation of laws prohibiting sharing protected student information. Information on a student's campus activities, health and wellbeing, etc. also might be protected.
Faculty members looking for ways to facilitate protected online communication with students should contact the staff of the Instructional and Emerging Technology unit of ITS.
See Item 4 from the "Posting Content" section of our Social Media Policies document for more specifics on privileged and confidential information.
How do I keep my professional and private personas separate on Facebook?
Creating a Facebook Page for your College department does not have to impose on your personal social media interactions. Creating a unit or office Page is one way to interact with your constituents, and, if handled properly, you should be able to maintain appropriate separation between your personal Profile (should you choose to maintain one) and your unit's Page. Students, alumni, parents and other employees will not be able to interact with your personal Facebook Profile to any greater extent than any other member of the public. That said, you may wish as an individual to become Friends with and interact with select members of your F&M network. If doing so, here are some tips for keeping those online professional relationships separate from your private persona:
- Above all else, remember that anything you post on Facebook (or any online medium) has the potential to become public, regardless of whom you choose to friend.
- Follow the guidelines for posting content listed in our Social Media Policies.
- Use Facebook's privacy tools to control who sees the content you post to your own Timeline. See the Facebook Help Center for specific instructions:
- Organize your Friends into lists for more fine-grained control over your privacy options. For example, you could create a list called Coworkers, and choose to "hide" most posts from them by default. When you send a Friend request to an individual whose Profile you want to follow, get in the habit of assigning Friends to a group as soon as your request is approved.
- Be careful not to confuse posting on a Friend's Timeline with chatting or messaging them through Facebook. The former is starting a conversation that may be seen by that person's other Friends. The latter is more akin to communicating via email. Use the Message function for conversations intended to be more personal.
How do I know if I have an effective Facebook presence?
This is the enduring question, and there is no special formula to measure effectiveness. Depending on your mission, a large number of fans could be an indicator of success, or it may not. For instance, if your page is geared to F&M parents, this number would likely crest at a certain level as some parents remove themselves from your Page when their students graduate.
Facebook provides an "Insights" link that allows you to measure your number of new fans added each day. It also allows you to see how many fans have removed your page from their Likes, which can be a good indicator of the quality of your engagement. A high number of fans who have removed themselves can indicate you are posting too much or too little. You can see breakdown of your fan base by age, gender, and location, among other features, and you can export the data.
College Communications can periodically help provide insights into responses you receive from fans to measure your success.
For questions about any of these best practices, contact Social Media Coordinator and Web Producer Tim Brixius in the Office of College Communications by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 717-358-7179.