Alumni Associations Step up Their Social Media (Part 1)

Amanda Kohn by on Oct 20, 2015

Outside of what are now considered “traditional” social platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – many alumni associations have become active across a variety of other channels. These online networks, apps or platforms allow users to create, share and exchange information relating to an alum’s alma mater or alumni association as a whole (e.g., videos, photos, quotes). While outlets like Twitter and Facebook tend to be focused on the here-and-now, other platforms enable more focused shared content, potentially offering a deeper connection between likeminded alumni (and their alma maters) than 140 characters can provide.

We have compiled a list of such platforms, and offer best practices for ways in which schools can capitalize on these media to engage their alumni throughout the year. We recommend that schools’ alumni associations integrate one or more of these networks into their social media usage.

1) Snapchat

This well-known messaging app allows users to send photos or videos to friends for up to 10 seconds, at which point the images disappear and are no longer accessible. Snapchat has already become the third most popular social media site among millennials (behind Instagram and Facebook), but colleges and universities are not as present within the app as we would expect. More importantly, alumni associations have even less presence on Snapchat, which is surprising as the platform has about 100 million daily active users worldwide.

While the peer-to-peer sending of videos is not much use for schools as they look to transmit ideas, information and a continued sense of belonging to alumni, both colleges and alumni associations can use the Snapchat app to promote and broadcast experiences of interest to alumni. An official Snapchat account can be a great way to post videos and photos about alumni events, contests, interviews and other on-campus happenings. The University of Virginia is the only university within the Alumni Monitor coverage group to promote its Snapchat account, though the general account – UnivofVirginia – is not alumni-focused. Fifteen additional schools have presence on Snapchat; however, none of the accounts are alumni-focused. A few notable schools that have an alumni account for Snapchat include Purdue University, the University of Georgia and the University of Chicago.


Purdue University Alumni Snapchats

2) Flickr

Flickr, a long-standing photo management and photo sharing platform, allows users to organize their photos and videos within a single online system, and easily share them regardless of the device or OS a person is using. Alumni associations can use Flickr to share event albums and photos from reunions, homecoming weekends and other alumni events (e.g., Global Day of Service or Induction Ceremonies). Out of the Alumni Monitor coverage group, 18 universities and colleges are present on the social network. For example, Boston University Alumni Association’s Flickr account contains over 7,000 photos from the university’s Global Days of Service, award ceremonies, alumni weekends, sporting events, alumni events, receptions and more.


Boston University Alumni Association Flickr Page – Albums (Truncated)

3) Foursquare

Foursquare, which originally offered mainly the ability to “check in” and share a user’s current location with their friends, now provides recommendations for restaurants, bars, stores and other places to visit based on the user’s tastes. Users can continue to check in to a venue within the Foursquare app, but it opens up the Swarm app to complete the action; Swarm is a companion app to Foursquare, launched in May 2014, that also allows users to share locations and check in to venues to earn prizes. Two schools – New York University and The College of William & Mary – promote and incorporate links to Foursquare pages within their alumni websites.

Specifically, NYU alumni can check in to alumni events, NYU offices and buildings (e.g., Alumni Hall and Bobst Library). For their part, alumni from W&M can check in to the college’s Alumni House, which is the headquarters of the alumni association. Foursquare could be useful to learn which other alumni are visiting or where they are getting together. Alumni associations can engage alumni on the app by offering an incentive to check in to an alumni event, like a free alumni button or commemorative pin.

4) Vimeo

Similar to YouTube, Vimeo allows users to upload, share and view videos in a social capacity. Vimeo targets more focused and specific audiences, which could help alumni associations connect with their members. The types of videos alumni associations upload include lectures, alumni interviews, overview of alumni benefits, event promotions and recaps. Within the Alumni Monitor coverage group, NYU and the University of Virginia incorporate Vimeo accounts into their alumni sites. NYU uses the platform to present alumni club best practices, different uses of the alumni card (e.g., discount at the dessert shop Sugar & Plumm) and alumni interviews for various awards. UVA’s Vimeo account focuses on its magazine with behind the scene tours of the university’s buildings, faculty interviews and highlights of alumni events such as reunion weekend.


NYU Vimeo Page (Truncated)

5) Storify

Storify is a story-telling platform that turns social media content into shareable stories. These stories can consist of photos, tweets, videos and other social media posts, which are then woven together to tell a narrative of an event. Three universities – American, Lehigh and Temple – provide links to their Storify pages within their alumni websites. A few stories that American University provides include All-American Weekend 2014, an Alumni Twitter Town Hall with President Kerwin and their American University Sweethearts. Lehigh incorporates a recap of the 2015 and 2014 Alumni Weekends, and Temple also provides a story on its Alumni Weekend 2015.


Lehigh University Storify Page (Truncated)

6) iTunes U

As part of the larger iTunes software program, iTunes U is a platform for universities and schools to post free lectures and educational content for students, alumni, parents and any other person interested in the school. Out of the Alumni Monitor coverage group, 28 universities and colleges are present on iTunes U; however, only four universities promote the offering on their alumni site: Columbia, Emory, Princeton and Villanova. Columbia leverages the iTunes U program by offering audio and video collections for courses, podcasts, promotional content and other academic resources to students, faculty, alumni and other supporters. The university also includes tours of the campus and archives of campus events and conferences.

For more information on Alumni Monitor and our research on alumni outreach and engagement, please contact Dana Peterson at dpeterson@corporateinsight.com or visit us at alumnimonitor.corporateinsight.com.

About The Author

Amanda Kohn

Amanda is a Senior Research Associate for Alumni Monitor at Corporate Insight. Read more