Universities are increasingly turning to social media to connect with alumni.
And alumni like me are reaching out using social media to connect with old university classmates for business networking opportunities, to plan reunions and to hear the latest news
about their alma maters.
Here are the top ways higher education institutions are harnessing the power of social media.
- To Help Alumni Find Jobs: Though some universities offer their own database of jobs online, many universities are finding LinkedIn to be an effective tool to provide alumni with career resources. My alma mater, University of Missouri, has 141,500 graduates and current students active on LinkedIn. With the ability to search careers and connect quickly with others that have attended the same university, LinkedIn is a hands-off approach for universities allowing alumni to share job opportunities and provide advice to newer graduates.
- Fundraising: By posting tweets on Twitter or photos on Facebook about their latest phonathon, my alma mater’s alumni association, like many others nationwide, is actively seeking gifts to the school using social media. With the ability to post on recipients’ pages to encourage donations, Facebook offers high engagement for annual fundraising drives. Many universities are experimenting with encouraging alumni to make a gift by announcing dollar-for-dollar matches on social media channels. Social media is seen as more personal than sending a generic mass email and could prove to be very effective for educational fundraising efforts. Posts in news feeds from those who have made a donation give reminders to their friends and former classmates to do the same.
- Collaboration and Connecting With Students: Social media can be used to ease the transition from being a student to becoming alumni. With just 5,000 members, University of Missouri’s Alumni Association presence on Facebook is smaller than its LinkedIn community but still serves as a very active channel providing alumni opportunities to weigh in on current news items ranging from racial diversity issues to our favorite college-town pizza place. All of the interactions seem personal and allow users to voice an opinion and read those of other classmates. Twitter also has shown strong participation among institutions of higher learning with universities like Harvard showing more than 26,000 followers and growing daily.
- Promoting Alumni Networks: Universities that do not promote their official networks on social media, may find that their alums will connect to one another themselves. And if that happens, alumni associations lose some of their relevance. For example, there are 45 alumni groups that formed on LinkedIn for Princeton. Besides being a member of Mizzou’s official LinkedIn community, I’ve also joined the Mizzou Alumni (29,973 members) the Mizzou School of Journalism group with 1,910 members strong, a Mizzou J-School group with 2,279 members and a group called the Mizzou Mafia, specifically for School of Journalism Alumni with 5,498 members. Whew, it’s exhausting to keep up with all of the alumni different groups within LinkedIn alone.
All of these ways to use social media prove the point that universities and their alumni associations will continue to look for effective ways to communicate with their alumni. With 65% of adults in the United States actively using social networking sites, it’s important for institutions of higher learning to make the best use of these sites.