Alumni Marketing Playbook: Social Media Success Still Starts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

by on Jan 28, 2016


Social media is an essential component of any alumni marketing strategy, offering universities the ability to connect with alumni and engage them in a cost-efficient manner. The broad reach of social networks, coupled with the ever-improving social advertising options, enables marketers to target various alumni audiences with personalized messaging that helps build stronger relationships – each individual segment feels more important.

Swiftly evolving preferences among users have fueled the rapid expansion of the social media landscape. Social networks like Snapchat and Vine have grown quickly amidst calls for greater privacy and multimedia-centric communication. These social networks generally offer universities the opportunity to connect with alumni in a more intimate and creative manner than traditional networks. (We previously discussed how alumni associations can leverage emerging social media outlets in a two-part series: read part one and part two.)

Big Three Social Media Networks Remain the Strategic Foundation

While not as sexy as their newer peers, the social media networks that are best equipped to support these goals remain the “big three”: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The reasons for this are rooted in their reach and in how users interact on each network.


Relative newcomers in the space and niche in nature, emerging social networks lack the overall reach of the traditional big three. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account for more than half of all daily social visits globally. This pronounced early mover advantage is particularly apparent among older demographics. Given that alumni audiences range in age from 21 to 65+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the front line when it comes to building awareness and connecting with alumni, young and old, via social media.

User-Centric Infrastructure

The big three are also better fits from a user experience standpoint. They are built more concretely on the concept of personal fellowship (followers, friends, connections) rather than general exploration. LinkedIn users are primarily focused on searching for new careers and building their professional networks. Facebook users leverage the network to connect with old friends. Twitter users actively seek out news and information feeds from people and on topics they care about in real time. These core usage patterns make the big three optimal platforms not only to build out an alumni community but also to generate and disseminate positive word-of-mouth via social sharing.

Powering Your Overall Social Strategy

An added bonus of a strong presence on the big three is the cross-promotional opportunity of announcing new presences on emerging social networks. For example, when launching an alumni Snapchat or Instagram account, a university could run a paid Facebook campaign promoting the new presence to a broader target audience of alumni ages 22-35. (See our recent post on creative engagement through Instagram.)

Six Steps for a Sustainable Alumni Social Media Marketing Strategy

Given the large universe of social media platforms available, it is important that universities refrain from taking a “scorched earth” approach to alumni social media marketing. Here are six tips to consider when building or fine-tuning a marketing strategy:

1. Identify and Profile Target Alumni Audiences: Build target alumni personas featuring age, careers, average income and other key demographic information.

2. Develop Social Content Pipelines: Using the alumni personas, determine ideal content types for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Based on demographics, Twitter and Facebook pages should feature a more general blend of content relevant to prospective students, current students and alumni, with dedicated alumni-branded versions of these presences catering to alumni needs and interests. LinkedIn pages, by comparison, can be more alumni-focused since the network consists primarily of professionals.

3. Expand University Presence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn: These pages are often the first place both alumni and students will look when beginning to engage with the university via social media. Paid social media campaigns (promoted tweets, sponsored LinkedIn updates and boosted Facebook posts) targeting different demographics of alumni with personalized content, news, causes and other information is a cost-effective way to quickly grow a social following. Penn State’s LinkedIn post is a powerful example, as it touches on a topic with broad appeal while focusing on a specific alumni demographic.

Penn State LinkedIn Post

4. Build Alumni-Focused Social Presence: Once university pages have gained traction, it’s a good time to build dedicated alumni pages. On Twitter and Facebook, these can be new pages, while on LinkedIn, consider leveraging LinkedIn Groups to create a more intimate alumni forum. Syracuse University’s alumni Twitter account offers a good variety of content including alumni stories, photos and frequent updates for sports fans.

Syracuse Twitter Account

5. Identify Additional Social Networks That Fit Strategy: Once strong presences have been established on the big three social networks, determine which emerging social networks fit your strategy and plan a build-out.

6. Use Big Three Presences to Grow Overall Social Following: Don’t stop there. Using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to promote a university’s presence on newer social media sites and alumni pages is a great way to grow the overall social following across platforms.

For more information on Alumni Monitor and our research on alumni outreach and engagement, please contact Dana Peterson at or visit us at