As Alumni Relations teams look for the most effective ways to reach young alumni, social networks seem to be a good starting point for engagement. Facebook and Twitter may be the most popular choices when creating a social media presence, but there are also many more options to consider, especially when targeting a younger audience.
Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn are three very different social platforms, but they are all popular among recent graduates, creating an incentive for Alumni Relations teams to try them out.
So what are the best ways to use each one of them? This post looks at creative examples of ways to take advantage of them, and how they can be used to help Alumni Relations build an engaged network of alumni.
Instagram is seeing increasing usage among higher education institutions, rising from 54% in 2015 to 65% in 2016. Its growing audience makes it all the more important that Alumni Relations teams find ways to realise its potential, using it as a creative platform to share the institution’s news or promote campaigns.
As a primarily visual platform, it is particularly challenging to create content that speaks on its own. Images and videos have to grab the audience’s attention, so their quality is important, but captions can also contribute to the content’s success. Many institutions use captions to enhance an image’s message, from the narration of a story to the practical details of an event that may be coming up.
Hashtags are quite popular on Instagram, and that’s why many institutions use them creatively. They can be particularly useful when launching a campaign, and they can present an additional opportunity to reach the target audience.
Oxford Alumni’s Instagram account has embracing creativity to build a community of alumni and keep them up-to-date about the forthcoming events and stories they may be interested in. They relied on video content to promote their #threelittlewords campaign, improving participation and helping alumni to feel involved in the campaign. This participation was also enhanced with giveaway gifts, which incentivised alumni to be part of the story.
SOAS University’s Alumni Department is increasing participation and engagement on Instagram with a competition: they are asking from alumni to find a name for the office’s bear, with the winner receiving a goodie bag. The use of an appealing photo helps alumni feel involved, leading to numerous comments.
Rutgers Alumni is creating an engaged community through a series of posts that promote alumni events, reunions and anything they may find interesting. The caption encourages people to spread the word about their events, while the hashtags enhance the feelings of community.
Columbia University’s Alumni Association is hoping to bring together a community of 330,000 alumni, and is doing so through different types of posts, from events and fun photos to career tips. This post offers advice from alumni to recent graduates: it’s a great example of how longer captions can be more effective, especially when they include motivational content.
Maryland Alumni was looking to be creative with this post, and they encouraged participation by tapping into nostalgic moments. This was a great combination of creative content and emotional appeal, which led to a good number of likes. The key to success is not just asking for your audience to like your content, but understanding them and offering a reason to do so.
The University of Manchester’s Development and Alumni Relations Department used their Instagram account to announce its next #UoMGraduation treasure hunt. This is another creative way to engage the alumni community and develop a fun atmosphere and sense of community among them.
The University of Glasgow’s Development and Alumni Office celebrated last Halloween in a particularly creative way. They decided to post six different images to create a larger one that certainly grabbed alumni’s attention. This is a popular trend on Instagram and it helps to create an even more appealing feed.
Youtube is the world’s second largest search engine, which means that it is an excellent way for Alumni Relations teams to narrate stories through video content. This can be much more engaging than text alone, provided that it’s interesting enough to be watched. It’s useful to keep in mind that younger people prefer bite-sized content, which creates the need for shorter videos that are appealing and authentic.
Youtube videos can include:
Cambridge University involved alumni in their ‘Dear World… Yours, Cambridge’ campaign, asking them what Cambridge means to them as part of their attempt to measure the impact of the university. The video contributed to the campaign’s success, making alumni feel involved, while encouraging more people to support the campaign.
TCU’s Alumni Association created a Youtube video named ‘FrogFocus: Share your spirit’ to encourage alumni to become involved in the university’s alumni community. The video is both visually appealing and motivating, making it easier for alumni to participate and share their own content.
SOAS Alumni Network uploaded a video on Youtube to support the SOAS Sanctuary Scholarship Appeal and the #EducationBeyondBorders campaign. The video offers more details about the campaign and motivated more alumni to support it in a most appealing way. The video ends with an appropriate call-to-action, encouraging students to visit their campaign’s site to support it.
While LinkedIn focuses on the professional side of users’ social usage, it can still be a useful platform for alumni engagement. As recent graduates start building their professional profile, LinkedIn serves as the ideal way for them to showcase their skills and network with other people. It’s therefore a relatively easy way to reach alumni, as a quick search can show the number of people who graduated from a particular university. This can be the first step towards a connection that can benefit both the university’s network, but also the alumni themselves.
Alumni Relations teams rely on LinkedIn to keep in touch with graduates, either through their Pages, or with the creation of LinkedIn groups. Groups help them to build a community of engaged graduates, contributing to the idea of feeling connected with the university. Many institutions create their own communities through Groups, as they can offer the right balance between professional development and engagement.
The University of Essex has created a LinkedIn group for alumni and friends, also inviting current students and staff to join. The goal is to form and highlight professional networking opportunities along with community engagement, strengthening the bond between the institution and alumni.
Kingston University’s Alumni Association has created a LinkedIn group that’s open to all alumni and staff, with the aim of encouraging networking, while also maintaining contact with the university. The group is managed by the Alumni Department, and members need a relationship with the university in order to be approved to join.
The University of Nottingham created a LinkedIn group to help alumni discover new professional and social networking opportunities. As with other similar LinkedIn groups, approval is required for every new member trying to join.