Detailed research reveals that approximately 70% of surveyed alumni organizations state that their primary goal for the coming year is to improve alumni engagement. However 5% do not own an alumni website, 17% are currently battling with database administration challenges. About 19% of alumni bodies have no tools whatsoever for measuring the effectiveness of engagement efforts. Further statistics reveal that 42% have never surveyed their alumni. However, detailed research which focused on alumni engagement best practices applicable to schools, companies, and organizations reveal that creating sharable content, collecting data pertaining the alumni, and utilizing special monitoring tools like Sprout Social are some alumni engagement best practices as discussed below. To obtain our best practices, we researched through several credible organizations such as Pagely, SproutSocial, CDN web, and Caylor Solutions among other portals. Only those practices recommended as best across several reliable sources are included in this study.
1. CREATING CONTENT WORTH SHARING WITH MEMBERS OF ALUMNI
Whether the organization is engaging with alumni on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or some other channel, it’s essential that the content is worth sharing. A 2018 alumni engagement best practices for higher education by Raelene Morey reveals that social media best practices for higher education aren’t different from and those of other verticals (companies) noting that content is king. Recommended content for engagement can contain photos from alumni as this will help members feel appreciated, involved, and considered. Pictures are more likely to engage and retweet or share those photos. Higher education alumni are advised as a best practice, to develop content based on past memorable events or yearly gatherings: For example, sharing outstanding headliners from Spring Fling over the years will help to resurface those memories and reengage with graduates from years passed. Content can also contain questions of alumni, and these questions should not necessarily be profound such as “meaning of life.” The type questions; the alumni can ask simple questions about the history of the campus or specific professors, etc.
2. COLLECTING DATA WHILE EMPLOYING DATA STRATEGIES
Big data has become a trend in marketing for a long time now, and while its impact as a panacea is waning, there is still some critical value in the collection and analysis of user data. Big data is vital especially when it comes to engaging with members of the alumni. Data can be collected and analyzed in several ways. As a best practice, alumni surveys can be used to keep up-to-date information on the employment and demographic data of each alumnus. This information has the potentials to go a long way towards informing the alumni branding and digital marketing strategies.
3. ALUMNI GROUPS DIFFER THEREFORE DEVELOP MESSAGING ACCORDINGLY
Once a school becomes alumni, it remains alumni. One reason is that once somebody graduates from an institution, in almost all cases they remain graduated. Several situations where different alumni belong to disparate groups exist. And no two such alumni groups are entirely the same. For example, one may get faced with a group that graduated in 2005 and another with one a group that graduated in 2015. It’s very likely that these different groups may have entirely different ways of interacting within themselves on social media–and various comfort levels as well. Simply put, the alumni will need to attenuate its message and medium for each group to maximize effectiveness.
4. CAPITALIZING ON USER GENERATED CONTENTS
Today, almost all digital marketing campaigns rely at least in part on a type of user-generated content. Sometimes this can be implemented as simply as having a comments section. User-generated content can be well calibrated. Detailed research reveals that best practice user-generated content for the alumni can look like any of the following:
- Carefully asking alumni to share copies of their favorite photos from college days.
- Contests through which users submit jokes or trivia questions about the school or their graduating year, and including threads that discuss current employment successes among members.
- Other user-generated content can be on things like polls for the naming of a new building or area on campus, asking members to submit their favorite memories or places on campus, networking involving alumni or encouraging members to share their job-hunting tips.
Generally, the use of user-generated content will continue for quite some time. The college or the marketers do not necessarily create such content (though in most cases both parties do apply some guidance on the generation of the content).
5. ENGAGING MEMBERS USING TWITTER
Twitter is the place where brands can develop their personality, and that’s equally true for schools (alumni). On Twitter, a college or university might use humor, pathos, and even sheer snark to build relationships with members of the alumni. This recommendation is according to a recent publication on how schools can market effectively to millennials. The alumni can also play it straight, and the overall social strategy will depend majorly on its branding decisions. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, uses sophisticated and so-called “nerdy” humor, while the University of Minnesota emphasizes a detailed, research-focused personality type. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has done an excellent job of mixing useful pieces of information, highlighting the university’s achievements and taking out time to highlight the personality of the college through Twitter.
6. HIGHLIGHT THE ALUMNI TALENTS
People all like the feeling of being valued and appreciated. And sometimes our best contributions to the world aren’t in the same arena as our college degrees. One might have a bachelor’s in mathematics and chair a program in arts at the same time. Sometimes, the alumni can improve its engagement efforts with members by recognizing major talents in alumni publications and social media posts, the alumni can (and should) also draw attention to what its members are doing beyond the scope of their studies. Showing an amount of care towards students and alumni beyond their degrees engenders a certain amount of authenticity that alumni (especially younger alumni) are more likely to engage with. It goes a long way to show how an institution helps shape well-rounded graduates.
7. USE TOOLS TO MONITOR THE ALUMNI’S ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES
The process of managing an alumni’s social media campaign can be complicated. Sometimes the only way to determine whether alumni campaigns are successful or not lies in monitoring them over time. The alumni will need a tool that helps in continuously learning from its efforts. After all, there may be no “one-size-fits-all” strategy that delights members. For example, a social media management program from Sprout Social has helped universities measure the engagement habits of alumnus members. With social media management packages, the alumnus can determine whether members are spending more time on Twitter, or LinkedIn, etc. Research reveals that Dartmouth College recently drove a 3,803% increase in engagements on its important networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Through the use of Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox, the university experienced more than half a million engagements on Instagram.