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Recruiting with Facebook

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It's that time of the year again, and students everywhere are preparing to study, work, party…and procrastinate for hours while clicking around on Facebook, the most popular "social networking" site among post-secondary students. Facebook can be an extraordinary organizing tool for your secular student group. Many group leaders have found that it's more effective than e-mail or the Web for raising awareness and promoting events. Through Facebook, you can invite students to attend your events or join your organization, host a discussion forum, and share other vital information (website link, officers, mission statement, etc.)

SSA on Facebook

Perhaps the single most useful aspect of Facebook is its potential for recruitment. (I've written an article about this previously.) Facebook allows you to perform an advanced search; you may use this feature to generate lists of people who may be interested in joining your group or attending your events. The key to advanced searching success is creativity: Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  1. Search within your campus network or geographic area.
  2. Search by "Religious Views." If you're doing an advanced search, Facebook will only let you select from a drop-down box. This is a good place to start, since you can search for atheists, agnostics, and Unitarian Universalists.
  3. Some people list their religious views as humanist, none, infidel, Pastafarian, skeptic, or any one of a great many bizarre permutations. To find them, you will have to look for these terms in the general search bar, and then figure out where in the person's profile they appear (i.e. if someone appears in a search for "infidel," is it because their religious views field says "infidel," or because their interests say "infidelity?")
  4. Get creative. Did you know you can do an advanced search by Favorite Book? Why not see who's a fan of The God Delusion or The End of Faith?
  5. When you find someone whose profile suggests they might be interested in your organization, send them an invitation to join your Facebook group. (You do have a Facebook group, right?)
  6. Split up or rotate invitation duty among several officers and a few days, if possible. Facebook tracks the number of group invitations you're sending out, and you might reach your daily quota before you get to everyone.

With a little hard work, ingenuity, and luck, you should be able to find a good crowd for your first meeting of the year. Happy recruiting!
Andy Buttler is a graduate student in science education at the University of Minnesota pursuing licensures in high school chemistry and biology and middle school general science. He completed a BS in biology and a minor in political science at the University of Minnesota in 2005. Andy has also served on the Executive Board of Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists at the University of Minnesota since 2006. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Secular Student Alliance.
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