Use Your Social Media Designs To Drive Alumni Engagement

Universities, colleges and schools in general, are full of memories, experiences and a lot of lessons learnt for their alumni. And this connection can translate into meaningful fundraising opportunities, as well as great marketing and brand awareness. This is why universities and colleges are always looking for ways to drive alumni engagement.

There was a time when they would have solely relied on emails, calls and student reunions. But these days, thanks to social media, there’s a lot more ways to connect with your alumni and stay on their radar on an ongoing basis.

You can drive alumni engagement by incorporating them into your digital strategy. And in this blog we want to explore how you can make this happen in a way that is authentic, interesting and fun, while also resonating with the values that your institution stands for.

First of all, know thy alumni 

The best foot forward to making alumni a part of your digital process, is to identify who they are. If you are in contact with your alumni in a rather ad hoc manner, this will alienate them. In fact, 85% of alumni who are professionals think that universities and colleges are falling behind when it comes to keeping in touch with them and engaging them. This especially applies to younger alumni. In order to counter this, making use of a CRM is important. 

This will allow you to deliver personalized messages, as part of your email marketing. Having a CRM in place also helps you with keeping track of where your alumni are, what they are doing, which industry they are part of and the kind of influence they have. If you automate the process, this can be made even easier. Once you identify your alumni, the process of getting them engaged on social media via the right designs will be much easier.

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When you focus on how to drive alumni engagement, you can help your institution in many ways. Not only can it create brand awareness, it can also help you get them involved in your campaign priorities and important campus initiatives.

Developing personas for the alumni audience 

After you have collected the data that is of significance about your students, you will also be able to segment them better. This will help you speak their language. Let’s say for example, that you are campaigning for a specific class of alumni. Here are some questions that you must ask. 

  • Would they prefer blogs or podcasts?
  • What are their hobbies and interests? 
  • Do they have any children? What is their income level and marital status? 
  • Would they provide interaction through live videos?
  • Would they prefer Twitter or LinkedIn to connect on?
  • What are the times that they happen to be most active online?
  • Do they seem to be engaged by visual content that is posted? 
  • What are the jobs they have now, or what field are they professionals in?
  • What were the subjects that they were most interested in, while learning with you?

Identify the platforms that you can connect with alumni on 

LinkedIn to the rescue – build connections 

Log into your LinkedIn and go into the Jobs section. Here, you will find out how many of your alumni are working in a specific company or industry. For instance, if you search for digital marketing jobs in a specific country, the universities of the people working in them will show up in the results. There are two reasons as to why this is important. First, it will let you connect with previous students. And this in turn will allow them to see the branded posts you share. Secondly it will allow you to help alumni connect with each other (e.g. through a branded LinkedIn group).

Use Twitter for engagement 

Twitter is a platform where you as an educational brand can develop your very own personality. You can use various methods like humor or pathos to build the relationship that you have with alumni. For example MIT uses nerdy humor and the University of Minnesota uses their research personality to build connections. Humorous posts can include memes and funny quotes, or even fun moments that students and staff had at the institution.

The example above combines an engaging image that captures the experience of being at a UW Madison football game, with a tweet counting down to the start of the season.  

On Twitter you’ll want to combine curated posts, with original content. Try to regularly incorporate images and videos, even if it’s a blog post you’re trying to promote. You can share the link outright, but we’d also suggest sharing engaging quotes in a branded post and then including the link for your followers to “read more”. Images get 128% more retweets than videos, but videos get favorited 49% more than just images. By incorporating both you’ll be able to see what your audience responds best to. 

How-tos and list type content is also useful. Link your tweets to these types of articles because studies show that they get 3 times more retweets than tweets that do not have such links.

And lastly, look for ways to add quotes and questions. Here’s the deal. Quotes got 847% more retweets, but questions got 1050% more replies than quotes. Looking at the numbers, we’d say that incorporating both these types of posts could work well for you. Experiment with a few different options and see how your alumni respond.

Build your image on Instagram 

Instagram seems to have overtaken Facebook over the past couple of years for younger demographics. And for that reason, this is a great place to start building a presence to drive alumni engagement. 

  • Take your alumni on a walk down memory lane. Post images of study groups, dorms and groups of college friends studying or having fun. It will help alumni reminisce about that time once again. 
  • Post images of students hard at work, and share their stories. How are your alumni making an impact on these students? Tug on the heartstrings with your content!  

You get the picture right? Use carefully curated images and branded posts to establish an emotional connection with your alumni. Find the most beautiful spots on your campus and make sure that your Instagram is filled with images of them. You can also use shots that your students have taken as user-generated content to this end. Just be sure to be mindful of how your Instagram posts are laid out, and create an aesthetic that represents your brand well. More on this topic, in this blog.

The University of Michigan, through this process, realized that Instagram would be their best bet to connect with alumni. They decided that the platform would allow them to post visual content that appealed to alumni and highlight notable alumni at the same time as well.

What kind of content can you use to engage alumni? 

So now, you know the platforms to go to, how to develop personas, and why you need to engage your alumni. Let’s look into the kind of content you can try out and experiment with, and the strategies that you can use to make them engaging.

Find your ambassadors 

If you know of alumni who have had amazing experiences while studying with you, they may be up for engaging and spreading the word. Consider creating an ambassador program through which you share alumni experiences and knowledge. And what life after graduation has been like. 

As you collect stories from your alumni, you can use them to create branded posts. These can take the form of inspirational quotes, funny stories, or interesting stats. They can be one-off pieces of content, or you can create an ongoing series to share the impact of your institution on its students and alumni. Remember to incorporate the dual goals of inspiring your current and prospective students, as well as celebrating your alumni and making them feel valued and recognized.

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Use video marketing to your advantage 

In a study that was done by Hubspot, it was found that 45% of users will watch over an hour or more of YouTube or Facebook videos in a week. 43% of users would like to watch more videos. This basically means that you need to use video marketing to your benefit. It will give you a clickable, shareable way to spread awareness and drive alumni engagement. Below, is a great example of how Northwestern University used video to create awareness. It tells current students and even aspiring students why the university is a great place to study in and how it helps students create their own success story.

Using user generated content 

Millennials trust user generated content 50% more than any other form. So tapping into this form of content to engage your millennial alumni could be really effective. User generated content can include blogs, videos or a simple social media post.

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This example is from Bentley University’s Takeover series. Every month, an alumnus takes over one of their social media profiles to show what a day looks like in their career. If you implement a strategy like this one, you could quickly gain the attention of alumni and have them contribute to your social media presence as well. 

Give back to your community 

The University of British Columbia launched a project known as Your Evolution. They asked their alumni to submit projects that they took on to make the world a better place.

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They received over 100 submissions addressing issues such as food security, early literacy, hearing loss, and gender empowerment. The prize that was offered for the winning project was a professionally produced promotional video. The effort created a lot of awareness across social media and all other platforms for the university and maximized the engagement of alumni.

Post success stories

Drive alumni engagement by sharing success stories that span different industries, and stages in careers. Even with social media, it’s so easy to lose touch with, and track of, fellow alumni. Use this opportunity to help alumni connect to each other and you! Try a combination of images and videos to this end. 

This will also help students who are currently learning with you appreciate your brand, and reshare what they see, while motivating potential students to join your institution. And alumni will appreciate the opportunity to impart their knowledge on current and future students.

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Why is it so important to drive alumni engagement? 

Nobody knows your institution better than your alumni. But unfortunately, once they graduate, they might lose touch with their alma mater. So create ongoing roles for them to play, and opportunities for them to stay connected to you. They could become role models to current and aspiring students. They could donate to projects that are meaningful to them, and act as a catalyst for innovation and growth. And they can even play a major role in creating awareness about what you stand. Your alumni are the best and most authentic way to share the experience of your institution with the world. So be sure to focus on how you can drive alumni engagement, every chance you get!