All too often alumni engagement sounds like a chirpy holiday letter from aunt Martha: a recent graduate received this award, current students went on this trip, and so on and so forth. While this may have been the pattern of alumni newsletters of previous decades, universities are missing out on the vibrant and valuable world of social media when they take this strategy. While news is an essential element of the equation, organizations must have a more robust approach to engagement to be successful in social media. Here are some guidelines to broaden your reach.
Be a resource. Social media is founded on a social contract of reciprocity. If you are asking for the time and attention of your followers, you must be providing something of value. Be a trusted source that they turn to for information. Your faculty are excellent resources here! When faculty are published in journals, link to abstracts. A popular and relevant speech given on campus? Link to the video. Remember that your goal is not shameless self-promotion; sounding like a commercial will be a turn off. This is not to say that you can never celebrate the successes of your institution! Just be sure that you are providing value to your audience. In so doing, you will earn their trust and time.
Be engaged. Know those friends who only call you when they want something? Your alumni do too. Take a genuine interest and demonstrate that interest by celebrating your alumni's success and responding to interactions. You invested attention in them while they were matriculated. While they are no longer in the pressure cooker that university is, you should continue to care for and about your alumni. This will foster goodwill and promote the health of your brand.
Next month we’ll dive into some specific strategies. In the meantime, take a step back to look at the trends in your alumni interaction and what underlying message it’s communicating. You might be surprised what you see.