XpertTip No. 89: Facebookgate: Summary of a scandal

“Something is going down on Facebook, and it has implications for your school.”

Have you been following “Facebookgate?”

As Butler University’s Electronic Communications Coordinator, Brad J. Ward has been paying close attention to his school’s presence on Facebook.

In his blog post last Thursday, Brad warned the higher ed community of some suspicious activity he’d come across while investigating a question from a colleague.

What followed was a stream of scandal and intrigue rarely seen in higher education marketing.  On his higher ed marketing blog, Andrew Careaga of Missouri University of Science and Technology deemed the scandal “Facebookgate” — and it’s been heavily covered by media across industries.

I thought I’d provide a quick summary of what’s been happening with links in case you’d like to learn more.  So here’s the “short-short version” of what went down:

While digging deeper into a question from a colleague, Brad uncovered hundreds of “Class of 2013″ groups posing as official college and university groups on Facebook.  He found that they were being created and/or maintained by the same group of people — none of whom were actually prospective students or applicants.  He began posting about his findings; driving over 11,000 hits in 24 hours to his popular SquaredPeg.com blog:

Concerned about spam and questionnable data-mining practices, Brad also began a Google Doc to try and tie the names of the schools together.  Others were quick to join his effort.

Eventually, they were able to trace the origin of the groups to College Prowler, a Pittsburgh-based company that publishes college guidebooks.  Luke Skurman, College Prowler’s CEO, has since confirmed his company’s involvement but notes that they have “cut ties” with any of the groups.

Read this post from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s News Blog for more:

As you would expect, this is certainly an issue we’ll be following closely over the next few weeks — and Brad has graciously accepted an invitation to join us on an episode of our podcast to talk more about it.

I’ve also decided to devote the next few XpertTips to the implications and social media lessons offered by Facebookgate.  More on that to come.

In the meantime, we hope you have a rejuvenating holiday break and enjoy the final days of 2008.  The XpertTip will be back in 2009 for another year of strategies, tips, trends and…scandals?

Best wishes from all of us at TargetX!

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