Changing the Conversation with LinkedIn: Today’s Best Alumni Relations Tool

December 12, 2017 Jim Cianca

 

“I love that place,” an alumnus of our school once explained to me, “but I keep a low profile because all they ever do is ask me for money.”  Sound familiar?  If it doesn’t, you should know that many alums are “frustrated with the relentless fundraising” from their alma maters (Aciman, 2014).  The answer is not just to stop asking for money, however.  It’s to change the conversation.  

If your interaction with your alumni consists mainly of asking for financial support, it’s a one-way conversation that is of little interest to your alums.  What if you could make that a reciprocal conversation that actually benefits your alumni, which would lead them to give as a reflection of a real relationship, not out of obligation?  

Enter LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a social network that fosters professional relationships.  It’s the third fastest growing social media site, a business network of over 460 million worldwide (Bose, 2017).  Your young alums are joining LinkedIn faster than any other group (Chaykowski, 2016), and this is the way to establish relationships with your alumni that will foster long-term relationships, as well as give your older alums a reason to connect.  Using this tool provides a win-win opportunity for both your alumni and your school.

Tangible Benefits:

  • You offer your alumni an actual service by connecting them to the professional world.  Instead of just asking them to give to your school, your school has an opportunity to give to them as well through professional services, advice, and connections.  
  • You foster connections between alumni of all ages. More established business people will naturally gravitate towards younger professionals to whom they have a common school connection. This is beneficial for both sides of the relationship and highlights the school’s role.
  • You will have more up-to-date information. Many alums who would never think to log in to your website to update their information will be much more likely to keep their LinkedIn profile current (Hannon, 2015).
  • It will help you identify alumni advocates whom you can then enlist to help spread the word about alumni events and developments in your school.
  • It fosters multi-directional conversation with alums who otherwise may not be engaged at all in the life of your school.

Practical Tips:

  • If your school isn’t on LinkedIn yet, you need to create your profile, and if it is, but your account is mostly blank, take the time to flesh it out.
  • Create a LinkedIn alumni network
  • Use LinkedIn alumni tools
  • Set up your seniors on LinkedIn before they leave campus.  Give them a hands-on workshop, take a professional profile photo, and of course, connect them to your LinkedIn alumni network.
  • Have someone in your advancement office make this a priority. 

Here’s a curious fact about LinkedIn: It has one of the lowest ad engagement rates of the major social media networks, but it has the highest conversion rates among connections (Bose, 2014). This means that when people use LinkedIn, they don’t click on random push advertising, but they do use it to further their existing connections and listen to what these people are saying.

This user behavior is significant, because your school is an existing connection, and your alums want to connect with you and your network. Take the time to connect with your alumni online, and it will pay you dividends for years to come.  

 

References

Aciman, Alexander. March 26, 2014. “Dear College, Quit Asking Me for Money!” New Republic. Retrieved from: https://newrepublic.com/article/117149/college-donations-undergrads-cant-find-work-so-stop-asking-money

Bose, Apurva.  February 26, 2017. “Numbers Don’t Lie: Impressive Statistics and Figures ofLinkedIn”.  Bebusinessed.com. Retrieved from: http://bebusinessed.com/linkedin/linkedin-statistics-figures/

Chaykowski, Kathleen. April 18, 2016.  “LinkedIn Has A New App For Job-Hunting College Students.” Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2016/04/18/linkedin-has-a-new-app-for-job-hunting-college-students/#686c18b03de4

Hannon, Keith. February 18, 2015. “Why Your Alumni LinkedIn Group Demands Your Attention.” Evertrue. Retrieved from: http://www.evertrue.com/blog/2015/02/18/alumni-linkedin-groups/

 

About the Author

Jim Cianca

Dr. Jim Cianca has been involved in high-quality private education in many roles, including as a head of school, an academic administrator, director of marketing & communications, an academic department chair, faculty member, and parent. He is currently the executive director of Alliance Academy International in Quito, Ecuador. He has been involved in educational leadership and marketing and communications efforts, both as a business leader and as an educator since 1998. To learn more visit: http://www.edcomassociates.com/

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