Class of 2015: getting spammed on Facebook

So you probably saw the rounds of Facebook spam over the last few days: “Who has viewed your profile?” While that explosion has ensnared many good people, there are other traps that are much less obvious. The Class of 2015 is caught in one such Facebook scheme right now. Just check out the Middlebury College Class of 2015 Facebook Group. This is a place where many prospective students will debate their future at Middlebury. The top post right now is, “I’m definitely having a hard time deciding…PLEASE HELP ME REMEMBER why I should be a Middkid 🙂 [I’d really appreciate the help :D]” Many others in that group are getting to know one another having already committed to Midd. “Who is our unicyclist?!?,” asks one new Midd student. Over 400 students are actively using the group. And that number will grow as these admitted students grow closer to matriculation in the Fall.

But do you see something amiss? The page was not started by a prospective student nor a current student nor the College. It was started by Roomsurf.com, a college roommate matching program. Of course Middlebury freshmen don’t choose their own roommates, but that doesn’t stop the company from starting Class of 2015 groups for tons of colleges around the country as a way to promote their own website. In fact, this has happened before (see fake 2014, real 2014), and Roomsurf.com has already been pestered enough by complaints to include the disclaimer in the information that it is the official page.

Even with a good hearty disclaimer, why has 2015 flocked to this group?Because there was no other existing option. And by the time the majority of the class had searched Facebook for “Middlebury 2015,” there were already enough people in the group to make starting a new page difficult. Some would say that it is no big deal. Roomsurf.com does not “own” the page because they left the page with no administrator. But that does not mean they have stopped advertising. The reason why it makes sense for Roomsurf.com to do this is because they can post to the Facebook wall with posts like this…

Zachary Brandon Strauss - you are my hero

But there is also another downside that many don’t think about: a Facebook group for a class stays with that class for a long time. First, you join as an admitted student. That group then turns into a place for orientation materials to be disseminated (in addition to your Midd email) in August and then the group sits a little dormant while you’re at Midd for four years. But then, come around Senior year, the group takes on a new meaning because all of a sudden, the group will be the central contact point for alumni-related activities which start with events like 100 days party and senior week. When you actually do graduate, that Facebook group again sticks around as a place to reach a lot of people in your class. Example: the Class of 2011 which is filled with plugs for senior week right now. Maybe Facebook groups won’t be of any interest to anyone come the year 2015 and the longevity of the group won’t matter. But until then, the incoming class of 2015 will deal with the spam – not a huge problem, but pesky nonetheless.

UPDATE 4/27: After some discussion among 2015-ers, it looks like CC Connard created an “official” Facebook group for the class and is gathering support for the 400+ students to move to the new group which is a closed Facebook group.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Class of 2015: getting spammed on Facebook

  1. I see nothing wrong or “amiss” about what the company has done. It’s identified a need and acted on it and students are engaging. Good for roomsurf. Prospective Midd Kids are smart enough to live with the advertising implications. If they don’t like it, they’ll start their own group and use their Midd-taught activism skills to promote it.

    • Good point about making their own group. But what do you think about the College admissions/communications trying to get ahead of marketers by creating the group before it releases its admissions decisions? Is that heavy handed or smart?

  2. “Prospective” students (not “perspective).

    I agree with Dean. These are smart students and they’ll find each other, bond, stick together and reunite regardless of what Middlebury, roomsurf or anyone else does. That’s simply the power of the college experience.

  3. The College is free to set up a group on facebook, if it sees an advantage in doing so. Many colleges will likely start class year groups with the goal of starting when acceptance letters go out and continuing through 50th Reunion.

    I don’t disparage the company for filling a need. All these perjorative terms and hand-wringing over free enterprise and free expression are the only things that are “amiss” here.

    • It’s not just the original headline; the heavy-handed victimization language permeates this blog post.

      Are we to pity the members of the class of 2015 who are “caught” in this “scheme?”

  4. So the focus of the blog post should be “Why isn’t The College effectively acting on the obvious opportunity of facilitating the social engagement of its future students?” rather than repeatedly attacking the enterprising people who were smart enough to do so.

  5. For those just joining us, the original headline of this MiddBlog post read “Class of 2015: getting scammed on Facebook” and it was later changed by the author after I commented above.

  6. Facebook Scam: Fake Event Invitation Claims To Show Who Viewed Your Profile « Pratyush K. Pattnaik

  7. Thanks to the author and those that have commented so far.

    From Roomsurf’s perspective, the goal is to do as much as possible to make students aware of the service. I was unaware of Middlebury’s roommate request policy, but I think students will still find the website useful as it provides a unique networking experience from what they can get on Facebook or anywhere else on the web.

    What we’re doing is using technology to help students filter out who they may or may not want to get to know better, whether that is for the purpose of finding roommates or just making friends before stepping foot on campus.

    We’re also moving in the direction of working in harmony with college housing offices to make our service more accessible to the incoming class and ultimately provide a resource that is of great value to both the students and the institutions.

    If anyone has any questions feel free to shoot me an e-mail – justin@roomsurf.com

    Thanks
    Justin Gaither – Co-Founder

  8. “Moving in the direction of working in harmony with college housing offices” sounds like great advertising, but totally unrealistic for a company’s targeting small schools like Midd.

    Sure, good for Roomsurf’s getting free advertising in by creating these pages. Clever.

    But, bad for Midd for not using the Facebook to its full potential: it’s simple enough a thing for CCAL or Communications to do. Plus, having a less commercially-driven, more dependable group owner can go a long way in preserving the network good that Facebook class groups have become.

    MIIS creates pages for its incoming classes to facilitate roommate pairings (which, obviously, isn’t a need of Midd students) but also to allow painless Q&A forums among MIIS staff (student life reps, financial advisors, etc.) and students wanting details.

    I spent about 45 minutes last week going back through the entire 4+ years of comments of my Class of 2011 group’s wall, all the way to the first ones from group founder Shannon E. Call me nostalgic and anti-establishment, but I’m glad none of those FB convo’s were “owned” by someone outside the Midd ’11 family.

    Props @Ryan for the post, I-get-annoyed-with-Web-ads-too bias and all.

  9. Hello all-
    Just commenting to let you all know that after seeing this article, I created a new group for the Class of 2015 (as a member of said incoming class). Hopefully, everyone will join so that we can all get to know each other without the spam! Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  10. I think most of us in 2015 were aware that the group was open (which leaves it open to advertising) but as Ryan said, once we had the numbers, making the move seemed like a more and more cumbersome activity.

    Also, the folks at Roomsurf aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a captive audience of several thousand (because it’s not just midd 2015, look up the FB groups for other NESCAC schools – many of them were created by roomsurf) There are others who have seen the opportunity to advertise on these open pages.

    I’m glad we’re making that move, and I would encourage the college to get ahead of Roomsurf next year and create an official group for 2016 well before ED-1 goes out.

  11. I would say get some of the current student to set one up. I know I saw some of them running around ours anyway, I questioned the integrity of one myself….. woops. But the main thing would be that it could still be nonformal group, even if admissions got the kids to do it. Perhaps even before the decisions are out so students considering the school can get information too. Yep. But personally I’m not terribly offended by the roomsurf people, I mean I wasn’t happy about it, but it’s not the worst thing that has ever happened.

Comments are closed.