Greek Tech: Group Texting

One of the most interesting developments in communication over the past decade has been the emergence of the text message as the primary means of communication for teens and young adults.

The early days of text messaging taught us all the T9 entry method, and encouraged us to throw all rules of spelling and grammar out the window in order to cram our thoughts into 140 characters or less. In fact, it’s because of this early text messaging restriction that Twitter limits your posts to 140 characters.

Nowadays, text messaging has gotten much more advanced. Gone is the 140 character limit and text only messaging, and in it’s place are dynamic picture and video messaging. We can now send a text to donate money to charity, vote for our favorite performer on American Idol, enter a prize drawing, and numerous other applications. It is normal for college students to text each other in class, or even text their roommate on the other side of the dorm room. I’ve noticed that many of the students that I work with prefer to communicate via text, rather than a phone call or e-mail.

Texting has brought about new laws to prevent texting while driving, put words like “LOL” into our dictionaries, and made us all aware of the dangers of “sexting”. Regardless of what this says about the current state of our society, there is no doubt that text messaging is a powerful communication tool amongst college students. The opportunity exists for fraternities, sororities, councils, or any student organization, for that matter, to harness the power of text messaging by utilizing group text messaging to improve communications amongst members.

The two types of group texting:

One Way Messaging: One way messaging allows a single users to send a text message to a designated group of recipients. When any of the recipients replies to the original message, only the original user will see the reply.

Reply All Messaging: With reply all messaging, a text message can be sent to a large group, and any replies to the original message will be seen by all members of the group.

Applications for group texting in fraternities and sororities:

– Chapters can put every member in a one way messaging group. Then, you can send out meeting reminders, change of venue, news, and any other chapter information that needs to be delivered immediately. No longer will you hear the excuse of, “I didn’t check my e-mail today”.

– Chapter and Council executive boards and committees can create reply all groups that will allow for easier coordination of group activities. Coordinate an impromptu meeting, find out who can run to the store for supplies, or seek immediate feedback on a new idea you had.

– Panhellenic Councils can use group messaging during formal recruitment to coordinate the efforts of Recruitment Counselors, send updates and reminders to chapter Recruitment Chairs, and Potential New Members.

Free group texting services:

I have found two free group texting services that I can recommend; WeTxt, and BeGrouped. Very similar in features, these two services utilize a web-based user interface as the primary method for creating your groups, and configuring them to send either one way or reply all messaging through the website. Once your have set up your groups, you can send out your text messages via the website, or direct from your phone.

At the time of this post, neither service has a smart phone app, but my assumption would be that this will be their next step. Finally, both WeTxt and BeGrouped are still in beta testing, meaning they are not 100% reliable. They are, however, the best free group texting apps that I could find, and I have seen success with both.

Do you use group texting? What successes have you seen with it? Leave a comment here.

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They’re Coming to Take Your Facebook Away!

If your chapter happened to be an early adopter of Facebook Groups, then chances are your Group page will be archived very soon. Fraternity and sorority chapters (along with many other organizations, businesses, and high profile individuals) typically utilize the old Groups format in one of two ways; as a means of internal communication amongst members, or as a way to promote the chapter to non-members.

These separate uses could not be properly supported by one format alone, which is why Facebook created the “Pages” format, and designed a new “Group” format. To encourage old group users to pick a side, Facebook recently announced that all Groups created in the old Group format would be automatically archived, then converted into the new Group format.

If your chapter’s Facebook Group has this notice at the top of the page, then you too will have to pick a side.

The most significant outcome of this switch to a new Group format is that all members of your chapters group will be removed when your Group is converted to the new format. It will be the responsibility of the group administrator(s) to add all of your members back in to the Group.

If your chapter is still using the old Group format, this is the perfect opportunity to assess exactly what you’re chapter is hoping to accomplish with its presence on Facebook. Should you have a Page? Should you have a Group? My answer to both of these questions is “yes”.

Allow me to explain what I feel is the proper way for your chapter to best utilize Facebook.

Create a Page
To understand the Page format, imagine your chapter is a singular being with a personal Facebook account tasked with promoting your chapter. This is how you operate your page. Pages allow your chapter to post information in its profile, upload photos and videos, create and invite friends and followers to events, post comments on the Page wall which appear in your followers new feed, etc. Even cooler, you can integrate your Facebook Page with Facebook Places to allow any Facebook user to check into your chapter house. Your Facebook Page is your chapters brand, manage it as such.

Create a Group
Your Facebook Group is your chapter’s method of internal communications. You can set your group to private to ensure that only members are privy to the discussions within the Group. Use your Group to update members, create private events (chapter meetings, initiation, etc.), share photos and video, and even poll chapter members via the questions feature. You can use your Group for general discussion instead of your chapter e-mail listserv; this way your e-mail inbox won’t get blown up all the time. Any time a member posts on the group wall, everyone within the group will receive a Facebook notification, a feature not provided within Facebook Pages.

Groups are also a fantastic way for your alumni to stay connected with each other. Consider encouraging them to create a separate Group to keep each other updated on their major life changes, coordinate alumni gatherings, and even facilitate donations to the undergraduate chapter.

 

Follow these suggestions, and your chapter will be able to enjoy the best of what Facebook Pages and Groups have to offer!

Have a comment? Leave it here.


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Preparing Your Facebook for Panhellenic Recruitment – A Guide for Recruitment Counselors

The use of social media in Panhellenic recruitment seems to be a hot topic of conversation every year prior to the start of the formal Panhellenic recruitment process, specifically as it relates to our disaffiliated Recruitment Counselors. Despite the inescapable social influence of Facebook, many Panhellenic communities are leery of this tool in fear that it can be used to reveal the affiliation of these women. I find it unfortunate that rather than trying to come up with a viable solution to allow for recruitment counselors to use Facebook to connect with potential new members, many communities simply ban the use of Facebook by requiring all disaffiliated women to deactivate their account during the process.

Through Facebook communication, Recruitment Counselors have the ability to communicate with potential new members prior to the semester in which recruitment begins. They can communicate, answer questions, or even create a Facebook group just for their recruitment group, and start to form friendships and relationships both with and between members of their recruitment group. I hypothesize that this connectedness, which should foster greater relationship development, will make the formal recruitment process much easier for our potential new members, thus increasing retention through the process.

I have created this resource, intended as a guide for Recruitment Counselors to utilize the privacy options within Facebook to keep their affiliation private, while still utilizing the power of Facebook to enhance the Panhellenic recruitment experience. The ultimate goal is to create a Facebook account that does not reveal a recruitment counselors affiliation to potential new members, yet still allows them to communicate with the friends they already have on Facebook.

I am making this step-by-step guide, Preparing Your Facebook for Panhellenic Recruitment, a Guide for Panhellenic Recruitment Counselors, available to download free of cost.

Download this guide here. Or find it in my new resources section.

Did I forget to add anything? Will this guide help your community? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Greek Tech – The Google Monster (Part Two)

In my past post on The Google Monster, I explained how you can utilize the powers of Gmail and Google Calendar to improve your chapter’s operations. This post will focus solely on the awesome free resources at your fingertips with the Google Documents Suite.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered just how simple, powerful and convenient Google Docs could be. Now, I use it is some form or fashion every day.

According to Wikipedia, Google Docs is “a free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.”

Here’s the important things to remember from that definition; free, online, and collaborating in real-time with other users. These services give you the ability to host a document online so that anyone with access can edit the document. Google Docs will save you from a constant barrage of e-mail exchanges with attachments with titles like “agenda FINAL”, “agenda FINAL UPDATE”, and “agenda THIS TIME FOR REAL”. So allow me to break down exactly how your chapter or council can use some of these services.

Documents (word processing)
Comparable to
: Microsoft Word
Ideal for: Agenda’s, Headquarters Reports, Scholarship/Award Applications, Constitution/Bylaw Revisions, etc.
In a layout reminiscent to Microsoft Word, Documents allows you to upload and share any text document. The best example I’ve seen utilizing Documents is in the creation of meeting agenda’s. Instead of collecting everyone’s reports via e-mail, and compiling them yourself, simply send everyone a link to an agenda template and have them fill it out themselves.

Spreadsheets
Comparable to
: Microsoft Excel
Ideal for: Rosters, Constituents Contact Lists, Recruitment Names List, Chapter Budget, Community Service Hours Tracking Sheet, T-shirt orders, etc.
In my opinion, Spreadsheets is the powerhouse of the Google Docs Suite. It is such an easy way to manage your chapters operations. Spreadsheets is great for sharing these types of documents, and using the collective power of the contributors to manage and update the information.

Forms
Comparable to: Survey Monkey, Zoomerang
Ideal for: surveys, polls, event registrations, etc.
If you already use either the free or paid versions of Survey Monkey or Zoomerang, then you’re already getting the same services as Google Forms. However, if you’re looking for a quick and simple way to get chapter feedback, Google Forms will do the job. You create the form, e-mail the link out to participants, and Google Forms will create charts and graphs to help you analyze the results.

How to Manage Privacy and Sharing
You can set any Google Doc to one of three basic privacy settings; private, public on the web, or anyone with the link. Before you go ahead and convert your entire chapters files to Google Docs, ensure that you have a full understanding of what these privacy levels mean.

The most powerful part of Google Docs is the ability to share your documents with other chapter members. The is done by allowing contributors to have access to either view, or edit the document. Giving someone the powers to edit the document allows them to update the file as they see fit, so be cautious of who you give this privilege to. Luckily, even if someone screws up royally, Google Docs allows you to see the entire revision history and restore your file to a previous version.

It Doesn’t Sound All That Great
It really is hard to understand just how cool this resource is until you’ve tried it, and shared it with others. So if you’re not using Google Docs, I’d suggest giving it a try. Start slow with something like your weekly agenda’s, or your chapter officers contact sheet. If you’re anything like me, pretty soon you’ll be relying on Google Docs for a great deal of what you do.

What do you use Google Docs for? Have a suggestion? Leave it in the comments.


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Greek Tech – The Google Monster (Part One)

I am continually amazed by the services Google has to offer, and the fact that they are all free. Granted, it’s only a matter of time until Google takes over the world, but I, for one, welcome our Google overlords. If your chapter isn’t utilizing the Google monster to it’s full potential, perhaps I can help you comprehend the awesome power these services can provide for your chapter.

Gmail
Here’s how old I am; I actually remember applying to be put on the waiting list for a “Google Mail” account, and sending out invites to my friends once I actually got my account. Clearly, Gmail has come a long way since then, and now anyone and everyone has the ability to use this service. So how can this help your chapter?

If you don’t already have e-mail established through your own domain, sign the chapter up for a Gmail account. Something like “TulaneSigEps@gmail.com” or “DeltaZetaUSC@gmail.com” should work. Use these e-mail addresses on recruitment publications, letters sent home to family members, and the contact page of your website. This will afford you a greater sense of professionalism than a hodgepodge of personal e-mail address. Assign one member of the chapter to read through the chapter e-mails everyday, and forward them to the appropriate individuals.

Members can then choose to respond to these e-mail through their personal e-mail account, or they can reply from your chapter account. To do the later, go to you Gmail settings, select “Accounts and Import”, then play around with the “Send mail as” option. Sometimes a personal reply is needed, but the option to remain anonymous is nice.

This method of a standard Gmail account can work for specific events as well. Does your chapter host a huge powderpuff football tournament every year? Then set up “AOIIrosebowl@gmail.com”, and use this account to correspond with all the team captains.

Aside from making your chapter look a little more professional, a standard Gmail account can be passed on from year to year. Your alumni, advisors, College/University administrators, friends, families, and your interfraternal partners will always know how to get in contact with the chapter, regardless of who currently hods the leadership positions. Also, it helps to protect your leaders. Putting all of your personal e-mail addresses on your chapter website is a great way for the internet robots to harvest your e-mail address and spam away.

Calendar
Is your chapter looking for an easy way to put a real-time calendar of chapter events on your website? Do you want to have a separate public calendar and members-only calendar? Then Google Calendar has you covered.

The beauty of Google Calendar, and many other Google Apps, is that you can control who has access to view, edit, and invite others to contribute. So all it will take is one chapter member to start the process, and you can pass on your calendar from year to year.

It’s my recommendation that you set up one calendar for public events, and another for chapter events. Then, on your chapter website, you can easily embed the public calendar. To keep your members-only calendar separate, you can either utilize the members-only section of your website, or grant every chapter member access to view the chapter calendar. Even if your chapter members do not have a Google account, they will still be able to see these calendars.

Once you’ve added all of your chapter’s events on your calendar(s), it’s time to share it with the world. Google Calendar will generate the HTML code you need to embed a beautiful, interactive calendar on your website. Once you embed the calendar on your website, it will automatically update anytime you add a new event. In addition, any visitor to your site can simply click the “copy to my calendar” button and directly import any event to their own personal Google Calendar.

Google Calendar gives your chapter the ability to improve communication both internally and externally. Think how great it would be to not to have to answer 30 texts, emails, and facebook messages before every meeting or event confirming time and location.

That’s all for part one of the Google monster. I started with the obvious ones this time. Look forward to the next part where I take on Google Docs; this service is so amazingly useful and expansive that it get’s it’s own post.



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Greek Tech – FutureTweets

In a previous post, I talked about the benefits of your chapter having a presence on Twitter. In addition to the basic website interface, there are a multitude of ways you can expand Twitter’s usefulness, and make it work for your chapter. I would like to share with you my current favorite add-on for Twitter: FutureTweets.

FutureTweets allows you to schedule your tweets ahead of time, automatically tweeting for you. There are a number of other websites and applications that can do this for you as well, but I have found FutureTweets to be the most user friendly.

Scheduling your tweets ahead of times is great for those such as myself who suffer from occasional forgetfulness. It will allow your chapter to appear to be always “on the ball”, even though that may not be the case.

So what can I use this for anyway?

– Schedule a tweet celebrating the local and/or national founding date of every chapter on your campus.

– Schedule a tweet celebrating the birthdays of your members (remember to include their Twitter username if they have one).

– Do your chapter/e-board/committee meetings tend to move around a lot? Schedule a reminder of the meeting times and locations for every meeting this semester.

– Use it to promote your events. Schedule a couple tweets a day leading up to the event with event details, and a link to more information about it.

– Schedule tweets for important holidays. You probably won’t be thinking about tweeting on the holidays, but it’s nice for your chapter to send out a nice tweet celebrating the holiday.

A word of warning: According to their website, Futuretweets will take a break on June 30th for an “unknown period of time”. For security and brand preservation reasons, Twitter is abandoning the old API’s basic authentication methods in favor of oAuth. This doesn’t concern me much, as I’m sure FutureTweets will update accordingly; but you may be without the service for a short period of time.

Do you have a favorite Twitter tweak? Share it in the comments section.

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