Alumni Associations Step up Their Social Media (Part 2)

Amanda Kohn by on Oct 29, 2015

In the second installment of this post, we’re exploring social media sites and apps that allow users to create, share and exchange information in doses larger than 140 characters, or across a wider network than those who happen to have “liked” a school’s Facebook profile. Through these outlets, individual schools or alumni associations can connect and engage with alumni through videos, photos, quotes and more. Part 1 of this post highlighted options universities have to broadcast to their alumni (and also request feedback from them). This second set of platforms instead encourage more alumni-to-alumni contact, while still keeping a school’s core branding as a vibrant part of the connection experience.

1) Tumblr

Tumblr, an online blog or personal journal, encourages users to promote music, photos, videos, fashion, art, GIFs, jokes and more. Alumni associations use this social network to engage alumni in a fun, creative manner. Ithaca College and Syracuse University are two notable examples that promote their university Tumblr page within their alumni association site, while Boston University offers a link to its alumni- focused BUAlumni Tumblr page. A few examples of posts from these schools include scenic photos of the universities, Giving Day photos and articles for recent graduates. Moreover, this social network allows users to re-post content from third-party sites, which can help add to the alumni association’s outreach and encourage alumni to share interesting posts on their individual Tumblr pages, using the platform as a jumping off point for their own creativity.


Ithaca College Tumblr Page (Truncated)

2) Pinterest

Pinterest is an online photo sharing site designed to help users find ideas for do-it-yourself projects, recipes and gifts; watch videos; and search other miscellaneous photos. Each user has a “board” to share images (known as pins), with users finding images and ideas for their own board from the boards of others throughout the network. Alumni associations can use Pinterest to showcase school pride for weddings, fashion and home decor, offering inspirational quotes, and posting gift ideas for (and from) other alumni (e.g., the William and Mary Alumni Association board presents pins of outfits for “Future Tribe Members.”). A number of schools promote their Pinterest page within their alumni site, including Cornell University, Davidson College, FSU, George Washington University, NYU, Syracuse University, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary. Out of these nine Pinterest accounts, six schools designate an alumni-related board: Cornell University, FSU, NYU, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary.

3) Meetup

Meetup helps users find, organize and join groups in their community that are based on shared interests, both personal and professional. For alumni, this platform can be beneficial for finding alumni club meetings, reunions and networking opportunities. Columbia University is the only school within the Alumni Monitor coverage group that currently incorporates this platform into its alumni site. A few groups that Columbia University alumni can find, organize and join include: Columbia Engineering Alumni Association, Columbia Venture Club and Conversations at Columbia University.

4) Vine

Vine offers users the opportunity to create and share short, looping videos. Boston University is the only school we have seen that advertises an alumni-themed Vine account – BU Alumni. As BU’s Vine account shows, other alumni associations could use this platform to create and share six-second videos of campus, faculty, lectures, sporting events and other school pride clips. Vine is also a great way to promote upcoming events for alumni, students and other supporters (e.g., BU Bean Pot), and an alumni-focused account can encourage alumni to reminisce about their college experiences and highlight alumni events (e.g., homecoming tailgate), creating a sense of school pride.

5) Shutterfly

Shutterfly offers digital personalized photo products and services including prints, photo books, photo gifts, cards and stationery. The University of Virginia stands out, allowing users to access and order pictures of UVA events through the site, such as the Western US Alumni Weekend 2010, along with the U.Va Lifetime Learning program. If leveraged properly, Shutterfly could be useful for alumni to access and purchase event photos from homecoming, reunions and other alumni association-sponsored events (e.g., tailgates). While this would generate some revenue of the alumni association or the university as a whole, the real value of offering official school photos for purchase via a Shutterfly account is giving alumni the ability to view a wide variety of photos in the first place, helping them feel engaged and moved by events that they were unable to actually be a part of.

6) Spotify

Spotify is an online music streaming service, where registered users can browse and search a database by artist, album, genre, playlist or record label. Alumni associations can use Spotify to create and promote alumni-focused playlists for reunions, homecomings, alumni weekends and other events that foster school pride. A number of universities host Spotify accounts that incorporate music from their marching bands (e.g., Ohio State, Auburn and University of Michigan); however, very few alumni associations are present on the platform. Miami University’s alumni association does promote its Spotify Playlists for Alumni Weekend on the alumni website, playing top 10 hits through the years, and helping alumni reminisce about their college experiences and memories.

7) Switchboard

Switchboard is a digital classified advertising site, where users can “ask” for a range of goods and services (e.g., moving help, vacation rentals, internships) and also post “offers” (e.g., available job at an alum’s company, open timeshare availability). Users can place “asks” and “offers” using nine subcategories: Jobs, Internships, Hosting & Housing, Advice, Goods, Lost & Found, Rides, Events and Other. Kenyon College is one of the few schools that we have seen that currently partners with Switchboard. The partnership allows Kenyon to outsource the digital classified advertising service to a Switchboard vendor instead of relying on its internal resources. Other schools that use Switchboard include Denison, Oberlin, Reed, University of Portland, Willamette University and Williams College. Overall, this social network is a creative platform that allows alumni to engage not only with one another but with current students and faculty members as well. Kenyon uses the site to help students and alumni network with one another and share job opportunities. Switchboard promotes user-to-user contact (or in this case, alumni-to-alumni and alumni-to-student contact) that enables participants to feel like they are making a difference when fulfilling an “ask.”

Just as it is important for social media networks to connect alumni to their alma maters and vice versa, it is just as essential to provide opportunities for alumni-to-alumni contact. These social media platforms offer that interaction, and universities should consider creating alumni-focused accounts to encourage alumni participation. Switchboard, in particular, offers a unique opportunity for alumni to engage with one another for personal growth and advice. This resource could have the potential to become the next resource for digital networking, and alumni associations should considering jumping on board early to take advantage of the start-up as it grows in popularity.

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