Facebook groups are a great way to share information and encourage discussion among a group of people around a given topic. In terms of building rapport and relationships among the students your incoming class, they’re gold. We’ve helped our client-partners set up groups for their incoming class that even helped retain students all the way through graduation. If you’re not already incorporating them into your admissions communications flow, here is a primer on how to create a great private Facebook group:

Know Your Groups

There are three kinds of Facebook groups: basic, closed, and secret. Your basic group is open to whomever wants to join and is great for public interests, pop culture, sports fans, etc. On the other end of the spectrum is the secret group, which requires an invitation from a current member or admin to join. We’ve seen these used for intradepartmental communications, event admins, and the like.

In the Goldilocks zone in the middle lies your closed group. This is what we refer to when we talk about “private Facebook groups.” These groups can be found by anyone on Facebook, but users have to request to join (and be accepted as members) before they can see the conversation feed or participate. Setting up a closed group for your incoming class will limit the conversation to topics your admins and students want to discuss while allowing next year’s prospectives to see the group from the outside and build up anticipation about joining a group of their own.

Create Multiple Admins

Since closed groups require a group administrator to accept new members, it’s important to have several people who can fill this role. These people should be able to discern which requests are coming from real accepted students and which are from spammer accounts. Admins should also be capable of guiding conversation in the group to make sure there is no bullying, diversive conversation, or sales pitches.

Have a SPAM Plan

No matter how closely your group is monitored, there’s always the possibility of “spammy” messages coming through. These could be anything from Rayban ads from SPAM members who slipped under the radar to students promoting their band in town. Before you admit any students into your group, have a set of group rules in place and properly posted to the group. Let them know where you’ve set the line, and deal with any messages that cross the line as they come through.

Keep Important Conversations Active

One of the worst (or best) things about Facebook groups is that active conversations (meaning conversations with the most recent comments) bump to the top of your group feed. This can be a great thing when the conversation is about picking roommates or getting deposit checks in. Less so when it’s about last weekend’s “Big Game” and those other topics get buried below. Keep important conversations at the top of the feed by keeping students engaged in the comments.

Post to Your Page First

Posts made directly in a closed Facebook group cannot be shared outside the group. That’s a privacy measure Facebook has set up, and there’s no way around it. Or is there? If you first post an image, link, video, or more to your admissions Facebook page, you can then share it into the group. Students will see it in their group feed, and if they choose, then they can share it on their own accounts.

Install the Groups App

Facebook has their services divided among several different mobile apps. You’ve probably seen that the Messenger feature comes with its own app. So does the Facebook Groups feature. Encourage students to download this app to their smartphone or tablet to stay tuned into the conversation all summer long.

Ask for Help from the Experts

The Parish Group has extensive experience helping private colleges and universities use social media to build relationships with their incoming classes. For instance, we have increased fan story sharing by 3,000% in one year and gathered accepted students into one cohesive group, where students were twice as likely to matriculate. We can bring the same successes to your program. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive or a la carte social media services.