The campus’s fast-growing UC Berkeley Facebook page marked a milestone this week, as it acquired its 100,000th fan.
Most members of this online community are between 18 and 25 — “implying that they’re students, recent alums or young friends of UC Berkeley,” says Ram Kapoor, executive director of digital communications in the Office of Public Affairs. “We’re creating a space where these groups can engage in conversation.”
Kapoor attributes the site’s growing presence to the unique tone of the page — quirky, yet down to earth — and a partnership forged with a small group of students, who have been assisting social-media strategist Kathryn Bader as she trolls the Web for interesting content.
As a result, visitors to the Facebook page will still find posts about astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter’s Nobel Prize, student Austin Whitney’s inspirational commencement walk on new bionic legs and campus researchers’ findings on sleep.
But the mix now also includes lighter (and often hugely popular) content, such as a photo, on Super Bowl weekend, of a model football stadium constructed entirely of food (2,400-plus “likes,” 200-plus comments) or another, at mid-semester, of a “dancing” sheep, with a caption for cramming students: “Not everyone is stressing over midterms.”
To queries posted about world affairs (“Kim Jong Il has died; how do you think this will affect global politics?”), student life (“Where do you buy cheap textbooks?”) or personal challenges (“Do you have a compulsion you would like to conquer?”), fans of the site contribute thoughtful comments and dialogue.
One alum — a military recruiter who was greeted at Berkeley with a number of “protest interviews” by anti-war students — wrote of the experience: “I left my alma mater feeling good because my fellow brothers and sisters in blue and gold exercised a constitutional right my fellow brothers and sisters in arms have sworn to support and defend. In short, WE collectively advanced the liberties we all hold dear. Kinda cool when you think about it.”
The page’s new interactive app, “Sproul Plaza,” provides a forum for students and members of the public to raise questions and interact with campus administrators — beginning with a conversation about the campus budget with Vice Chancellor John Wilton. In its first two weeks, the app was added by more than 800 people. More than 100 voted on questions submitted by the page’s fans; and close to 2,000 visited Wilton’s six videos on the budget, hosted on Facebook and YouTube.
Fans of the UC Berkeley Facebook page hail from countries around the world. More than 90 percent live in the United States, followed by citizens of India, Taiwan, Germany and Canada. (China does not appear in the metrics.)
“I’m amazed at how much they care about what the university does,” Kapoor says of the page’s friends. “They hold it to very high standards.” For a large and diverse community, it’s “extremely well-mannered,” he adds. If someone posts a rude or off-color comment, “other participants will quickly chime in: ‘Don’t speak like that!'”
“There’s a big universe out there,” says Bader, “and a lot more people we can reach. We’ve just made a start.”