Posted May 29, 2014 by

5 Best Practices for Alumni Engagement Online

Alumni rejoicing together

Alumni rejoicing together. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Many graduates have fond memories of their days on campus. I mean, sure, the knowledge and experience gained, but probably also a lot of pizza and late nights socializing at a whisper in the library.

But your relationship with those grads doesn’t have to end after they walk across the stage. Alumni can be a great resource for current student retention, career networking, and (of course) university donations. In the past, alumni engagement strategies revolved around phone calls and direct mail campaigns. Now, higher ed staff are beginning to engage alumni using social media, connecting more grads across the country and inviting their participation at several levels.

If your department is ready to go digital, here are 5 best practices for engaging alumni online:

1.   Job Search Assistance
There’s probably nothing that drives alumni back to their alma mater like a job search. When you’re looking for any “in” to a new company or new field, alumni connections can be invaluable.

Sure, many universities offer job listings on an internal database, but sometimes that extra password and profile creation can be a barrier to participation. LinkedIn is a natural platform to include in your alumni engagement strategy.

Create an alumni group on LinkedIn and encourage old and new grads to join using an email marketing campaign. It requires minimal work for university staff since alumni-to-alumni connections and job postings will start to happen naturally inside the group. Even better, alumni will likely credit the school with any job found on the site because it was that affiliation that opened the door.

2.   Social Media Conversations
More than 90% of adults online are using social media sites. Go where your alumni are!

As the wise Jack Donaghy once said, “Never go with a hippie to second location.” In the same way, some people are hesitant to leave Facebook or Twitter, even for an organization they trust.

So while it’s all well and good to post university announcements or articles that drive readers back to your website, take advantage of the opportunity to nurture conversation on the social media platforms. Ask questions. Initiate reminiscence. Share photos.

3.   Social Media Trainings
What do your alumni know you best for? Educating them! Exceed their expectations and continue to offer training post-graduation.

Social media is ever changing and this area is perfect for re-engaging older alums who want to learn new skills. Use tools like GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts to host webinars or tutorials.

In one example, Michigan State University boasted 25,000 alumni participating in 25 presentations. Many times, these trainings were in collaboration with alumni events.

4.   Get Information
It’s important to know where your alumni are and what they need. Two ideas to get that information:

One, capitalize on transcript requests. Hazel Matthews at Sullivan University cites this process as the perfect time to get updated information, such as email or mailing address. Incorporating features like Smart Routing into request forms can make sure the information is shared with all the right departments.

Secondly, consider an alumni engagement survey. Ask questions to learn what your graduates need and how you can build long-term relationships with your alumni.

5.   Online Forms for Alumni Engagement
Our affiliations will continue to have both online and real-world expressions, and it’s important that universities take advantage of all mediums to connect with alumni. Online forms can be a great way to quickly engage alumni where they are online and store their data for future connection efforts.

Measure responses via analytics offered by various sites with form capabilities. Not only will you be able to track when the best time to reach out to alumni is, you can modify data collected according to information most pertinent to you. For example, is it important that you measure how many alumni stayed in state after graduation or whether their degree played a role in their career? Forms can help you track that pertinent information.

By Chris Lucas, VP Marketing,
Formstack www.formstack.com

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