Alumni are a valuable commodity to any university. They know the institution well and have their fair share of stories about what they got up to “back in the day”.
They are also a pool of talent and information; they’ve been through the university process, come out the other side and made it through the job market. They have just as busy lives as the rest of us, however, with little time to hark back and interact with their old alma mater.
That’s where social media engagement comes in; it requires little time and energy on the part of the alumni but can reap great benefits for current students. It needs to be done carefully and with tact, however, so here are 5 ways to increase your engagement.
Where was this? Does anyone recognise people in this photo? We all like to feel like we know something others don’t. Whether you are genuinely looking for the old members of darts society, or not, asking questions of your alumni audience makes them think more deeply.
“Do I know them?” “Is that Jack Smith? What is he doing these days?” “I’ll like this and see if he does too”. Questions often start great conversations with alumni who bounce off each other even if they were at university years apart.
Also, if TV quiz shows are anything to go by we all love it when we know the answer to a question. “Jane Smith thought that was the Sports Centre in 1972? It wasn’t built until 1976!” This sort of satisfaction in our own strength of knowledge is something that can be built upon with the right questions.
These people are no longer defined by their degrees for the large part. They have real world experience and many would happily share this with current students if they were given the correct platform.
Facilitate this and not only do you get invaluable advice and tips for your students but you also make alumni feel an important part of the university community as they help to mould and develop future graduates. This could potentially lead to further interaction, donations or aid in the future.
Like asking questions photographs are very good at getting alumni to think about their own time at a university. Allowing former students to tag themselves on Facebook or comment with friends handles on Twitter also starts to tap into existing networks or friends and acquaintances who may not be aware of the services available to alumni.
An easy way to re-engage people with no effort on your own part. An older photograph is potentially interesting to both recent and long term graduates as it places both in a timeline along the universities development; “Did my halls really look like that?” “I remember when the student union looked like that”, are both potential interactions such a photo could produce from students maybe 40 or 50 years apart.
“Retro” photos play into nostalgia trends and nostalgia sells.
However you do it whether it be focusing on questions or the photos or another way nostalgia rings true in all of us. If you can make your alumni yearn for what they had a university – whether that be in terms of the place or people – then they are more likely to engage with you.
Nostalgia is not as intrusive as other potential methods of engaging alumni and works even with recent graduates. Asking people to donate to a specific cause may work in a few cases but without the social media relationship behind it you come across as desperate and corporate.
We all deal with corporations every day and don’t need our old universities to become another. Firstly it sours the memories that you may have had of your three years; lounging around on the sports field on lazy summer afternoons can be undermined by persistent nagging.
Any loyalties you are likely to have had to your former home will disappear as easily as pushing that tweet button. Secondly alumni are not customers on social media. Yes you’d like them to engage with you, donate to the basketball team’s latest tour or give some work experience to a wannabe journo but they don’t actually receive a lot in return.
Make the experience of engaging with you fun and entertaining, a walk down memory lane. That way if you need to be more serious you can do without seeming overbearing.
So there are 5 potential ways in which you can engage with your alumni in a productive but friendly atmosphere.
A good combination of these based on your own university’s unique history and culture will help remind former students of their own lives in higher education and re – engage alumni who may not have physically been to campus for decades making them feel part of the university once more.