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Community Colleges

Follow the (Facebook) Leader

University Business, Feb 2012

In November, Ivy Tech Community College (Ind.) hit a 50,000 Facebook fan milestone. Two months later, the count neared 54,000. The page didn’t get to be what’s likely tops among community colleges on Facebook by accident. Jeff Fanter, vice president of communications and marketing for the system, which has 200,000-plus students enrolled annually, shares some success secrets:

  • Having a purpose. Ivy Tech uses Facebook to better serve current students and applicants, providing quick answers to posted questions.
  • Presidential promotion. In letters to current and prospective students, the president mentions Facebook as a resource, Fanter says. Ivy Tech’s customer service center, which sends out 1.4 million communications a month, also notes the page on correspondence. 
  • Assigning staff shifts. Five people take turns checking in on Facebook, he says, so even answers requiring outside help get answered fast. But as the page’s popularity pops, all the traffic jams up staff time. The service center may be taking over Facebook duties, Fanter notes.
  • Keeping it fun. Contests for prizes such as $50 bookstore gift cards have included movie trivia and posting the best story about how Ivy Tech is a life-changer. Fanter estimates they held 20 contests in 2011. When his team sees a “like” slowdown, they get creative.
  • Allowing students to help. Fanter is proud to report that students post answers to questions on the wall. But staffers do watch for inaccurate information to correct.
  • Enhancing the user experience. FAQ links to common need-to-knows are in the works, and the team hopes to do more with video.
  • Stopping to bask. “Everything we post easily has 100 comments,” Fanter says. A recent post about finals, with a “Click like if you’ve been studying,” got 1,100 likes.