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Social Media & Alumni Affairs

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment

What do we mean when we say we want to “engage our alumni”? It depends on the institution and where you sit within the institution. If you’re operating your social channels from a Public Affairs or a campaign perspective, you may be trying to get university messaging about campaign priorities in front of alumni. If you’re doing it from an Annual Fund perspective, you could be taking baby steps towards actual solicitation via social channels, or you could be conveying stewardship messaging. If you’re doing it from an Alumni Affairs perspective, you might be trying to generate a critical mass of audience around a particular affinity or help promote an upcoming reunion. The point being, of course, that each of these units has goals that contribute toward broader institutional priorities. And unless you’re using the social platforms to advance these goals, you’re always going to have a hard time answering questions about ROI. It’s very easy to get distracted by new tools that are bright and shiny and treat them as ends in-and-of themselves, but as Andy Shaindlin has observed, your ultimate focus needs to be the behavior you want to cultivate, not the technology.

…Despite the current court battle that’s trying to quantify the value of a follower on Twitter, I don’t think we’re ever going to get anywhere trying to persuade people that there’s an innate value to a “like” on a fan page or a follower on Pinterest. If we’re being strategic, we need to ask the follow-up question of “Great. So how does that follower help you advance your unit’s goals?” From my team’s vantage point in Alumni Affairs and Development, we’ve concluded that we need to focus on using our suite of tools to enhance the footprint and amplify the impact of things that our organization is already doing well. For instance, we’ve spent lots of time and energy over the past year figuring out how to livestream live events to our Facebook audience. These are events that are already aligned with strategic priorities – if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be happening to start with. With just a modest, incremental investment of effort, we can take that event and make it available to an audience that is much broader than the live audience. The content that is already important enough to warrant an event is now accessible in real time around the globe.

Being able to report that we increased the size of the audience for an event by 175% and had viewers in 24 different countries lines up with existing metrics and goals in a way that saying that we increased our number of followers on Twitter by 8% simply does not. Sure, the two are related – the larger the audience on the social channels, the larger the audience for livestreams in that space – but one deals with priorities around which there is already consensus and one does not.

Via Social Media Today and Tomorrow