We had a close call yesterday. We almost signed up to use Facebook as a tool to communicate with students. Almost.
Some of you will be clapping uproariously.
Others (like Ken Steele) will probably be shaking their heads saying, “Grant, Grant, Grant, you just don’t understand the power of Facebook.”
Actually, I do. Or at least, I think I do. And that’s why we said no.
Here’s how it went down yesterday. One of our managers was frustrated because a student who owed the university a lot of money went AWOL – disconnected phone, emails bounced back, mail returned, etc. But a quick Google search produced a Facebook profile, new contact info, photo, and all for him. Our manager said, “Yep, that’s him. He was in my office and I recognize his photo.” Oh this would be so much easier if we used Facebook, we thought. But then we thought again.
What makes Facebook useful? It’s a social media platform, with an emphasis on social. In order for it to be really useful, you need to use it regularly, interacting with people, etc. We toyed with the idea of creating a profile, but we learned that Facebook doesn’t allow aliases (do you hear that, Fred?) or things like TWURegistrar profiles. They actually want you to be a real person (imagine that). And if we were allowed to do that, we’d need to create friends out of students. While we like students we’re not sure we’re supposed to be their friend.
Another option would be to create a fan page, but then we can’t really communicate with students – there’s no messaging capabilities. We’re left with creating a wall post or news feed or a Discussion Page. Can you see it now? “Would John Smith please contact the Registrar’s Office as there’s an outstanding balance on your account.” Uhhhh, no, that’s not going work.
But my real issue with creating a Facebook page is that our systems are not built for it. We’re not designed to be a very social office – unfortunately, students don’t come to TWU because the Registrar is a wonderful guy (and he is, if I do say so myself); they come for the programs and the faculty. I don’t have time and none of my staff have time to sit there on Facebook chatting it up with students. We’re already set up with official email addresses and official ways of communicating that are more to-the-point, goal-oriented, and purpose-driven. If Chris Brogan has taught me anything, it’s “Start with the goal.”
So what was our goal again? Oh yeah, the student who went AWOL. Well, we have our old draconian methods of squeezing money out of delinquent accounts, and you know, those methods still work remarkably well (evil grin). A Facebook account might solve an issue or two, but it would introduce a whole new set of problems and would change our work lives in ways we’re not prepared for.
So, Facebook, I know you want to take over Google and the rest of the world, but this Registrar is standing up to you and saying, “NO!”
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.