Tips on Using Facebook for Catholic Schools

I got a notification recently from Facebook: someone with the same name my old high school wanted to be my friend. Initially, I had no clue what was going on. A few seconds later I realized what had happened: someone at my old high school’s alumni office had made a personal profile for the alumni office and started sending out friend requests.

Although this was a new one to me, I see this sort of thing all the time. Well-intentioned alumni or donor outreach departments turn to Facebook and approach things in the wrong way, misusing the technology and alienating some possible targets for interaction.

Fortunately, using Facebook correctly for Catholic schools is very intuitive, free, and easy. In this article we’ll take a look at how Facebook works, and how to properly utilize the technology to reach the most number of people.

The Evolution of Facebook

When Facebook was first released, it was a drastically different website than it is now. It was only available to colleges, and Facebook had to actually add your college for you to be able to create an account. I went to Notre Dame, so I logged onto nd.thefacebook.com (they initially didn’t own facebook.com).

Profiles were simple – they were for individuals only. If you had a profile, you were a person, and the idea was to connect to different people by being their friend. One of the first features was called groups. This feature allows you to create a group around a common cause or idea, and anyone could create them. Still, there were generally only people on Facebook.

After time went on and things changed, Facebook started opening up to different demographics. Soon anyone could join Facebook, and marketers started figuring out that it was a valuable space to be in. Companies and organizations wanted a piece of Facebook. They wanted to go where the people were.

Unfortunately, things got a little messy. Let’s say you make candy bars, and you want be on Facebook to promote those candy bars. You’d go in and make a profile for your company, and start requesting people be friends with you.

After a while, the personal profiles were getting mixed in with the other types of profiles. Problem was, this was disturbing the Facebook experience for both personal users and people making profiles promoting things. Also, personal profiles were built for people, not companies, schools, or anything else. Facebook had to change to accomodate this new group of users (organizations) using Facebook.

Enter “Pages”

Facebook’s answer to this problem was to create pages. Pages are different than profiles or groups – users “like” pages, and pages have special features and special data for for different types of pages. So if you have a restaurant page, you have the option to put in your address. If you have a page for a movie, you can put in the release date.

Pages are free to use, easy to create and maintain, and offer a whole lot of advantages over creating a personal profile. In our opinion, the best advantage is the ability to cast a wide net. “Liking” a page is an extremely low barrier to entry for someone. Accepting a friend request is a much higher barrier, so you are going to see a lot more people involved with your content. Just one, simple click and they are reachable.

Separate Alumni and Regular School

Alumni may not really care that today is a snow day at your school. Students and parents may not care that there is a reunion coming up next week, nor do they care about seeing reunion pictures.

Keeping separate Alumni and general school pages is easy, free, and allows you to target content much more effectively. Remember, what you post shows up in the news feed of everyone who “likes” your page. Keeping content tailored towards alumni keeps the number of posts they have to see down so they don’t get sick of them, and makes sure that the user will be interested in that content.

Insights

Another reason for separating out Alumni and school (and for creating a page in general) is Facebook’s Insights feature. It shows up on the left hand column of your page, but only to admins. Click “see more” for more details, and you’ll get a wealth of demographic information about your involved alumni and people who “like” your general school page as well. Not specific information about people, but information about gender, location, and activity on your page. Valuable information to an alumni director or other administrative development professional.

Remember to Choose Your URL

If you have 25 people who “like” your page or more, you are entitled to your own facebook URL. Just go to facebook.com/usernames and type in what you’d like. If you are St. Mary High, it could be facebook.com/stmaryhigh or facebook.com/stmaryhighalumni for the alumni page. It’s free, easy, and simple.

Foster a Community Through Fun and Intelligently Presented Information

Nobody likes a Facebook post that makes little to no sense (like “piza prty – tonight”). Make sure you provide information and entertainment to your Facebook fans that they can easily and quickly enjoy.. For alumni pages, post pictures from events, videos, and fun alumni news. Another idea is to do some profiles on interesting alumni and post those there. When people comment, comment back. Whatever engages your audience.

Think of it at a community. You want an active, friendly, and large community, and the way to do that is to attract members by offering something worth putting in their Facebook news feed.

For alumni, they want nostalgia, information on other alumni, and information on events. For the general school population, they want to feel like they have an inside line to what is going on at the school through your updates.

It sounds simple, but getting it right takes patience, time, and learning. The first step, though, is getting the right setup. Create a page, get a URL, and start at it!


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  • http://ace.nd.edu/advocates Ricky Austin

    Great post. I think it can be very useful for Catholic school administrators and staff. One tip that may be appreciated at the school level – adding a link to or posting an updated step by step “how to create a facebook page.”

    Your average Catholic school principal, director of development or other staff isn’t at the tech-level they need to be to do this seemingly easy task. Most see the need and want to address it, but won’t unless they can see for themselves how easy it is.

    Thanks for this site/blog!

  • http://catholicschoolwebdesign.com Adam

    Thanks Ricky! That’s a great idea. I think we may do a series of screen casts soon – a sort of basic “how to” for a few of the things we’re talking about, as well as post some more technical information.

  • http://www.stjoeparish.com Lesley Kirzeder

    Great tips! We are just developing an Alumni Network at St. Joe (South Bend, IN), so I will definitely present what you wrote in your blog to the alumni committee. Keep pumping out tips- it’s super helpful to those of us working for Catholic schools!

  • http://catholicschoolwebdesign.com Adam

    Thanks Lesley! We would definitely like to hear how your Alumni Network development is going as you continue to work through it. We will keep the tips coming!

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    Catholic school education system is very nice. their education quality,high technology, regular teaching system makes them great fromm other . the students of catholic school also so much brilliant. .. 

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