The question is: are you trying to increase parent involvement or focus it?
If your goal is to increase parent involvement, it's probably best to stop reading this article now. College parent involvement is already at an all-time high. You can see the research here.
If your goal is to focus parent involvement on student success and outcomes that matter for your college, read on.
Facebook doesn’t care about your goals
First, Facebook doesn't care about your goals. They care about theirs. And their #1 goal is to increase user engagement in order to sell ads. They want more user comments, more user logins, and more user impressions… in order to sell more ads to more users.
Each post you make in Facebook is competing for your parents' attention with Facebook ads.
But it gets worse.
Facebook’s algorithm not only makes you compete for attention against other posts in each parent’s feed, you also need to compete against comments within those posts. Facebook shows parents the comments they are most likely to respond to, even if it’s “fake news”.
From a parent engagement perspective, that means your parents will be encouraged to comment on every comment, because... other parents are commenting. Are those parent comments helpful to student success? Sometimes. We all know that those comments can get out of hand quickly.
Facebook is the Wild West of parent engagement
Facebook is free, so it’s an attractive alternative for engaging college parents. However, it’s the Wild West of Engagement. There’s very little control over the content and comments your parents see, unless you want to be the sheriff. And we all know what happens to the sheriff in a Western.
Engaging with parents on Facebook is very common, but it can often lead to problems. Rather than creating a reliable way for your parents to receive information from your college or university, Facebook encourages collisions between parents and constant checking of their feed. It can actually encourage over-involvement.
But there are ways to maintain the tone and tenor without the tumult.
Remember the students
Parents are going to talk with their students (the average college parent interacts with their student 13 times a week). The question really is…what will they talk about? Will they be talking about what another parent told them, or will they be talking about what you told them?
You have perspective and insight on how parents can best support their students. You have resources from Financial Aid, student records, orientation, and the experience to pull together that insight into a one-stop shop that parents trust.
Ask parents what they want; they will tell you. Create your strategy around their needs so that they can be better advisors to their students.
Without a clear strategy, Facebook can actually encourage over-involvement of parents. Email, websites and portals like CampusESP, can provide a better solution. You can provide the updates that parents crave, but encourage them to engage appropriately. In short... You can give your parents a place to land.