Facebook: Fan Pages vs. Groups for HigherEd Offices

Facebook: Fan Pages vs. Groups for HigherEd Offices

In a meeting yesterday my office discussed Facebook and where to focus our attention: groups, try profile, clinic or fan page? I responded that I believe we should be focusing 65% on the fan page, sales 25% on the group, and 5% on the profile page. I believe that using all mediums are important, but the fan page has the best ROI and reach. The search engine journal outlines some key differences as follows:


I believe the Fan Page should be the main hub of facebook strategies because:
  • Search Engine Optimization: Facebook Fan Pages are public so results are indexed.
  • No Registration: Users don’t need an account to access fan page information for events, photos, etc.
  • Visitor Statistics: any analytics are useful.
  • RSS Feed Integration via Applications: Without any extra work the RSS application will pull the latest posts from your blog, podcast, online media room, etc.
  • Aesthetically pleasing (videos, photos, etc.), which gives a more human and welcoming feel to the page.
  • Less manual updates than groups for events, news, etc.

While people may not be able to send mass invites to groups, the fan pages show more promise in terms of overall reach. Applications also add an immense amount of versatility to your page. As I work on building our online media room, blog, etc. I’m excited that I won’t have to manually post the items in the Links section, but I can use RSS-Connect to take care of it for me. You can also create custom boxes with FBML and integrate applications or causes related to your office/organization. Facebook pages are a one-stop-shop for viewers; the less work & searching for users the better.

Why do I give 5% to Facebook Profile Pages? I advocate for all Higher Education offices to refrain from focusing on Facebook profile pages because:
  • Students feel that their privacy will be invaded (pictures, wall posts, etc.)
  • Facebook profile pages are meant for humans (Imagine: “Looking for: “Dating, A Relationship, etc.”)
  • Facebook profile profile pages are easily lost in the noise
  • Overall serves very little purpose in comparison to pages and groups

What are your opinions on Fan Pages vs. Groups for your particular office or organization? What has been your focus?

On Friday I’ll be posting tips for creating an exceptional fan page, some ways to promote your fan page, and some ways to overcome some flaws of the Facebook fan page. (Linked Here)

*Update (02-19-09) – Groups for Smaller Community Building

To clarify a few points about pages (pointed out by Jim & DW). I believe Pages are a great hub for recruitment and awareness, but not an end all (groups are 25% focus for our office). Groups are necessary in the sense that they give ground to form community for students on a smaller scale. To what degree groups are administrated by the University is completely up to you. Before Facebook Gate 2013 most Universities simply let students run them to help form more authentic communities, but now that the scene has changed more are moving towards forming official groups. Beyond that, from my student perspective, I think it’s critical to let other groups be student-led.


  • Courtney

    18.02.2009 at 16:00 Reply

    Great post, Howard! I completely agree with everything, especially that students are less likely to want to “friend” a business/school profile, but seem to be much more open to becoming fans of pages. Personally I see group pages as more “fun” and maybe more amateurish, and fan pages more for businesses and maybe a little more trustworthy as a place for students and anyone else to find legit information…I think you’re on the right path to concentrate your office efforts on the fan page!

  • Kathy at Stingfield.com

    18.02.2009 at 20:40 Reply

    Hi Howard,
    I’m currently working on some projects on Facebook, and being new to the whole thing really found your information here helpful. I’m looking forward to your tips for fan pages too.

  • Jim

    19.02.2009 at 05:56 Reply

    Fantastic post, Howard. This is something that I’m wrestling with now as I talk to Admissions people about setting up “Accepted Students” groups. However, I disagree just a bit.

    While I very much appreciate the ability to add apps to Facebook Pages, I tend to come down on the side of using groups. Its partially an idealistic thing… My feeling is that the primary goal of a Facebook strategy should be to build community and establish relationships.

    Pages reek too much of advertisements to me… They are places to reinforce your brand and push your product. Generally speaking, I think THAT should be the job of your institutional website, not your Facebook Page.

    The truth is that, practically speaking, it doesn’t make much of a difference which you choose. But I think that Facebook is about people, not brands and institutions. The more you can frame your strategy around users and their connections with each other, the more successful you’ll be.

  • DW

    19.02.2009 at 06:20 Reply

    Howard, we also have hit on this distinction in our office: pages are more for long-term efforts and groups are for meant for more short-term things.

    For example, your school should have a page. But a place for incoming students each year to organize and meet each other, that should be a group.

    Nice post!

  • Howard Kang

    19.02.2009 at 09:22 Reply

    @Courtney – Thanks for the feedback!

    @Kathy – Glad the information could serve to be useful. Hopefully Friday’s post will be as well!

    @Jim – I agree with you completely. The page vs. group discussion I addressed mainly was where should we focus our attention for recruitment & awareness. I really do believe in creating community on a smaller scale, but students are usually the one forming groups. Before Facebook Gate 2013 most incoming student groups were organized by students and it was a great place where they could dig in and discuss things like roommates, questions, etc. with each other. Pages can only serve as hubs, not the end-all. Thanks for bringing up that great point!

    @DW – Yes, very good point. Something I should have mentioned in the post. I think I will append the post now for others to clarify.

  • Daniel Patricio

    28.02.2009 at 15:26 Reply

    I agree that Facebook Pages have some interesting features but in application they don’t really perform. The ‘updates’ of the pages are nowhere near as effective as inbox messages that come with groups.

    I have been experimenting with pages for several clients and I have found that the groups are far more effective at continuing conversations.

    In the next few weeks they are planning to ramp up the pages, I am hoping the activity and interaction are a priority as well.

  • Don Kojich

    11.03.2009 at 16:52 Reply

    I like your work and thoughts. I am working on ways to use web 2.0 to tell our story to many different audiences. You might want to read World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott.

  • Howard Kang

    12.03.2009 at 12:55 Reply

    @Daniel – With the new updates and integration with the stream, I think it should all be fine. My argumentation for pages really is based on the fact that as an organization, you want a general entrance. Groups are great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s more work involved, the look & feel is awkward, and it’s best suited for deeper interaction. You’re exactly right when you say that groups are good for continuing conversations!

    @Don – Thank you very much. I attended his World Wide Rave webinar and am definitely planning on reading the book. Thanks for commenting!

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