Capturing audience attention and driving real engagement are core functions of alumni development professionals worldwide. Traditional models including postal and phone campaigns compete with ever-increasing assaults on the eyeballs and wallets of consumers by B2C marketers as content marketing explodes across the three screens (TV, PC and mobile). The ability to capture attention and drive action is crucial to annual giving campaigns, making the two traditional modes no longer enough for alumni development professionals.
Enter social media. Leveraging social media is not just about blogging and having a Facebook page. It is about a sustained effort to build community engagement. As in most online efforts, it starts with the data: finding your alumni online and tying these efforts to your existing development database.
- Using social media to communicate with alumni is not optional. According to Pew Research over 73% of adults now use online social networking. For younger cohorts (18-29) the percentage jumps to near 85%. With a broader definition of social media, Experian pegs online usage at over 91% of US adults. In short, everyone uses it. To connect with your alumni you must go to where they are.
- Engagement matters, big. The U.S. 2012 Digital Marketer Benchmark and Trend Report found an incredible 5X better response rates to Facebook ads by fans versus non fans of an organization in driving website traffic. These fans also visited the company website an average of 18.5 times a year.
- Online giving is growing rapidly. The online donor management software company Blackbaud recently reported that online giving grew 13.5% in 2013. The question of acceptability of online as a giving platform is no longer the question. It’s about how best to leverage it for a particular institution.
- The butterfly effect. Social butterflies, or more specifically social influencers, are reasonably easy to discover online. Service such as Klout, Kred, and others allow organizations to find their most socially influential members. These members can act as online ambassadors for their schools, driving reputation, applications, and donations.
- Using social media to communicate with alumni is not optional – part 2. Nearly 100% of schools use social media to recruit students, according to the Center for Marketing Research at UMass. Further 41% of colleges “believe they can directly attribute an increase in enrollments to their social media efforts.” Attracting future alumni is not optional. Why would attracting current alumni be?
Strange coincidence? As I ‘m writing this, an email pops up from my University of Delaware LinkedIn group asking me to share a story about my experience there!