February 15, 2005

Frat boys have a new reason to use The Facebook

As if college students around the country aren't already completely addicted to The facebook, its creators have found another way in which to keep us obsessed: Facebook Announcements.

Not to be confused with banner advertisements, announcements serve a distinct purpose. The formal definition of Facebook Announcements, as per, is virtual announcements that "allow students and local businesses to provide a variety of relevant links to people at the schools on our network. These announcements only appear at certain schools. And hey, they're definitely better than having to look at banner ads."

Virtually all adherents to The Facebook, ranging from those who have a clinically diagnosable addiction to those who only frequent the website in a state of dire procrastination, have seen these announcements, which are viewed an average of 40,000 times each day.

The announcements appear on the left side of the webpage, under the menu and "Quick Search" features, and are available on most of the site's pages in rotation with other announcements and corporate advertisements.

Since the inception of Facebook Announcements in early December, almost every school on the network—including the University of Chicago—has utilized the feature, according to Harvard third-year Chris Hughes, the site's co-founder and spokesperson. Hughes explained that announcements are utilized by a variety of people for a variety of purposes. "Clubs buy them for events, individuals for birthday shout-outs, music groups for announcements, art exhibition openings, and people who are looking for students to work for them," Hughes said.

Announcements range in price based on several factors, "Most importantly the size of the student population at the school the announcement will be placed at," according to the site. Pricing ranges from $9 per day at smaller schools, such as Vermont Technical College, to $18 at larger institutions like Penn State University. The University of Chicago falls in the middle, with a $13 per day charge for Facebook Announcements.

Chicago student organizations have been quick to try out Facebook Announcements, with fraternities Alpha Delta Phi and Delta Upsilon (DU), as well as Student Government (SG), posting announcements within the last month.

While the announcements may be used for such things as birthday shout-outs, business-conscious Chicago students have used them for advertising purposes. Alpha Delt has placed multiple announcements to promote their parties, which originally began as a test of the announcements' effectiveness.

"The first party that posted an announcement for raised over $1000 for Tsunami Disaster Relief," said Sean Garborg, a third-year Alpha Delt. "In the first couple hours after the second party announcement went up, five people informed me of a typo in the announcement, so people do notice them." Garborg explained that, because there are various factors that affect party attendance, the degree to which Facebook Announcements have an impact is difficult to determine. Still, "it's convenient and it gets the job done, so we'll continue to utilize it," Garborg said.

DU posted a Facebook Announcement for their annual Heaven and Hell party a few weeks ago, which was so crowded that the brothers had to turn partygoers away after two hours. For DU, promoting on The Facebook was particularly useful, since its house is located on Woodlawn Avenue, which is less traveled than University Avenue, where other fraternity houses are situated.

Fourth-year DU brother Jonathan Tapp explained that DU typically spreads the word about their parties by the labor- and time-intensive methods of postering and distributing handouts throughout campus. "A Facebook Announcement was a much less intrusive way of letting people know about the event, and the only work it required was the 10 minutes it took to set it up," Tapp said. "And, let's face it, an automatic system is a lot more reliable than the average college student."

As with Alpha Delt, it is not possible to determine the effect that The Facebook Announcement had on the number of partygoers that attended Heaven and Hell, but "every brother was surprised when we had to shut down the door only two hours after it started," Tapp said. "It's kind of hard to dismiss any form of advertising as ineffective or extraneous when over 400 people show up at your house and you're forced to turn another couple hundred away because it's simply too full."

Other members of the University community are less convinced of the power of Facebook Announcements. The SG Committee on Academic Concerns used a Facebook Announcement to advertise for the All-Night Study Space Expansion in the Reg during finals week of last quarter. Even after posting an announcement, second-year chair of the committee David Clayman said he still prefers the traditional method of postering and word-of-mouth to spread information.

"Facebook Announcements are easy to overlook, and the character limits that they set on ads are unduly restrictive," Clayman said. "If you want to get a message out to as many students as possible, you might think of using The Facebook as a last resort to reach those who won't read posters or flyers, but who check The Facebook religiously."