MAASTRICHT. The number of fans of the Maastricht University Facebook page has grown considerable over a period of almost two years. Whereas the number was only 8,135 in May 2012, it is now almost 21 Thousand.
Rob Speekenbrink, online media advisor at TU Delft, recently posted a blog in which he analyses the Facebook pages of 14 Dutch universities. Leiden University made the greatest leap: from almost 1,500 to 17 thousand.
Maastricht is one of the institutes - together with Delft and Wageningen - that have more fans than students (UM: 16 thousand). “We want to give an overview of what is going on within Maastricht University – news, ranking results, research, activities – and in doing so we serve the general public, from present and future students to staff members and other parties involved,” says web editor Jeroen van der Schaaf. He knows - based on age categories - that most of the fans are still studying or have recently graduated.
Speekenbrink’s research shows that the Open University’s Facebook page is the least popular, with less than 3,500 people. At the top is Rijksuniversiteit Groningen; they had more than 27 thousand fans last December (one of the moments when measurements were taken). In addition, posts in Groningen also receive most replies.
Strangely enough, half of all universities see the response rates to the social network site decreasing, while for the other half they are increasing. The UM is in the latter group. Van der Schaaf: “We know that people pull out if we post too much, or if we head in one specific direction with our reports. When we sent a message into the world three times a day, you could see that the first was read by three to four thousand people and the third by only a couple of hundred. Besides, people are not waiting for so many posts from a university every day. We now post one message almost every day.”
What the outside world doesn’t see, is that more and more (mainly foreign) students send messages to the page with questions such as ‘how do visas work’, ‘what can I actually study at the UM’. “Of course they expect a quick response. We pass on a lot of questions to the staff members concerned or the buddies (student team, ed.).”