There are more changes on the way at Facebook. After having rolled out timeline, which includes milestones and a new cover photo, among other things, the social media giant is not testing a new feature that is directly related to higher education: Groups for Schools.
This new feature will let colleges and universities create a separate and specific community limited solely to people with active school email addresses. Essentially, it limits the network to students and faculty, allowing them to create or join specialized groups within the site for specific classes, clubs and more. These subgroups are listed in an open group directory, which lets members browse and find groups relevant to their interests and needs. For a school, the potential advantages to this type of feature are huge, providing students and faculty a much more focused place to converge, discuss and meet new people (imagine being able to sign in to Facebook to discuss today’s English Lit final with that cute blonde).
The Groups for Schools feature is currently being tested with a handful of universities in the US.
What’s interesting about all this is that it’s needed at all. Facebook, after all, began as a social network for university students. These dedicated school groups are a way to return to these roots, but also an effort to fill a need and deal with potential competitors. Consider the emergence of Student Life Network, a private social network reserved solely for college and university students.
“I realized a lot of students were using Facebook as their social network, but I wanted to create a platform for students to have their own brand, their own content and control over their own site,” Student Life Network president and CEO TJ Donnelly told Mashable.
Student Life Network builds private pages around schools’ logos, colors (and general brand), then hands over the operation to a relevant stakeholder at the school. Students can then log in with their school email address, create profiles and join groups…effectively what Facebook’s Groups for Schools aims to do.
Clearly, this type of segmented social media presence for schools is going to play a role in future online marketing and communication, we’ll just have to see what that role is. Stay tuned.
What do you think about Groups for Schools?