All A’Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach – Chapter 6
The link to the full master’s thesis is now on the sidebar for if you’d rather read it all at once.
Chapter 6: Struggles of Facebook for the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre
The MMC Facebook page was much more difficult to manage in comparison to Twitter. For Twitter, we posted information and found organizations to follow and then it seemed that the followers just started coming in. With Facebook, however, we posted information, found organizations to like and yet the fans did not hang around our page. People might visit the page, but no one was motivated enough to actually click the “like” button. After the first few weeks of the live account, we had three fans consisting of myself and the other people working on the MMC team in charge of the Facebook page (currently, we have 33 followers). Facebook is a work in progress but there are some key struggles and ideas to fix. I will discuss those issues here.
Setting up the Facebook Page
Facebook is unlike Twitter in more ways than not. One main difference is that once a Facebook page is created it needs activity before people will notice the page or want to “like” it. Those of us in charge of the page took time to fill out the profile, add photos – screen grabs in our case – and include extra posts that covered basic information about the MMC as well as some of our new information we were pushing out on Twitter. That way, if someone were to stumble onto the page before we promoted it and got into the regularity of posting, they would see a full page and not just a blank screen. This works to demonstrate to potential fans that we have a good deal of information to share and that the page will not sit dormant if they were to “like” the page.
I also took the time to get comfortable with using Facebook pages. Facebook can be a complicated world of likes, pokes, games and posts and adding pages to that mix just adds to the confusion. For starters, once the page is created, you are the administrator of that page. You can add any of your friends as administrators and can add or remove administrators at any time. The tricky part comes when trying to post as the page and not as your personal account. Facebook allows you to see the pages you manage in two ways: first, pages are listed on the left-‐hand side of the Home page on Facebook.com and when clicked it will show you the page and allow you to interact as your personal page. In other words, when clicking the side link I can post on the MMC page as Caitlyn Zimmerman, not as MMC. Second, by clicking on the top right corner dropdown menu, you can choose to “use Facebook as page” and then interact with the page and other people/pages as the page. So after doing this, I can post on other pages as MMC or update the MMC’s status and it will show up that the MMC posted something new.
All of that confusion is just the tip of the Facebook page iceberg. I made sure to become familiar with all of these caveats and explain them in depth to the rest of the team and people who would be interacting with the page. In order to have a chance at success with Facebook we needed to be comfortable with how to use the features.
If You Build it, They Might Not Come
We quickly realized that even after “liking” other pages and tweeting about our new Facebook page, people did not “like” our page back. Just because we had created what we thought was a great Facebook page did not mean that people would automatically flock to it like they did with Twitter.
So we had to get creative. We sent out email blasts to the other team members, people we knew in the GIS field and co-‐workers at CSC. That got us a few more “likes” but nothing substantial. I then decided to play around with the “recommend” feature. I went through all of my personal account friends and chose the friends that I knew were interested in GIS; I then recommended they “like” the MMC page. That got us the highest number of new fans at any one time. We went from around 10 fans to 26 fans. The plan is to now have the other Facebook administrators recommend the MMC to their friends to increase our reach.
We have also tried to promote the Facebook page over Twitter without much luck. It seems that Twitter users are not as interested in heading over to Facebook for additional information. Our next steps are to add more extensive information than what is currently posted on Twitter and to solicit more feedback. We would like Facebook to be the place people go to let us know how they are using the MMC, what data they are looking for and any suggestions or questions they have about the MMC.
This experience has allowed me to realize a few things about Facebook. First, it is not as easy of an outlet for information as Twitter is. My personal opinion is that Twitter users are seeking out information while Facebook users are still predominately interested in using Facebook for personal and social purposes. Second, the MMC does not have the typical things that draw people into a Facebook page. We do not have fun pictures of people partaking in interesting activities or pictures of cute animals and we are not giving away promotions. Apart from information and earlier notification of new data releases and website updates, the MMC Facebook page is nothing special to a Facebook user.
I believe the biggest issue is the lack of personal touches. On Facebook, people want to know that they are interacting with someone, not just a page. As I said, we do not have pictures of people – merely pictures of screen grabs – and the language we typically use sounds formal and closer to “government speak.” As we get more comfortable with Facebook posts, we are moving away from the formal tone of voice; however, we still need to determine how to show a face of Marine Cadastre.
Also, advertising the MMC Facebook page poses no real benefit. The people and organizations already following the MMC are satisfied with interacting and gaining information over Twitter; they most likely do not see the draw in adding another site that gives them essentially the same information. I think by adding more to the Facebook page giving more and different information compared to what is posted on Twitter, we could change this feeling.