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In the Shadow of the Colossi: Alumni Online Communities in the Age of Facebook and LinkedIn

In the Shadow of the Colossi: Alumni Online Communities in the Age of Facebook and LinkedIn



Your alumni online community can’t compete with Facebook for social conversations, and it can’t compete with LinkedIn for career connections – so don’t even try. It can, however, provide tools ...

Your alumni online community can’t compete with Facebook for social conversations, and it can’t compete with LinkedIn for career connections – so don’t even try. It can, however, provide tools and information that alumni cannot find anywhere else. Find out how to combine the benefits of your proprietary network with the major social media outlets to create a one stop toolkit to help your alumni do what they want to do quickly and easily.

Unlike admissions, where the demographic is largely homogeneous in terms of age and technological aptitude, alumni span many different generations and a wide spectrum of comfort levels with technology and preferences for media consumption. It is a real challenge to successfully leverage the right online tools for the right alumni sub-audience while keeping everything under one cohesive brand.

I hope my experience at SUNY Geneseo as manager of the U-Knight launch project and ongoing role as online community manager can help others who are undertaking such projects. I’ll speak about the approach I took to U-Knight and what progress and stumbling blocks have been encountered along the way.

Specifically this presentation will be useful for those working with:

* Harris Connect, iModules, and other online alumni directory software
* Alumni relations websites
* Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages that are targeted towards alumni audiences



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  • Irony that Facebook started as a walled garden.
  • Sealed communities makes me think of locking all our alumni in a room with no way out.Imodules – 600 schools, half public half privateHarris Connect – Over 700
  • Missing or incorrect info was not part of the datasetPrivacy was matched to be the same as the print directory / white pagesRegistration was handled by self-service web form IT programmed a script to transfer both ways nightly

In the Shadow of the Colossi: Alumni Online Communities in the Age of Facebook and LinkedIn In the Shadow of the Colossi: Alumni Online Communities in the Age of Facebook and LinkedIn Presentation Transcript

  • Alumni Online Communities in the Age of Facebook and LinkedIn #soc12 #heweb11
  • That‟s Me.That‟s You.
  • Who am I?Fran Zablocki,Online Community ManagerSUNY Geneseo Alumni Relations
  • What have I done?!!Planned, built, branded and launched SUNYGeneseo‟s new online alumni community.
  • What am I talking about?State of the alumni online community industryStrategy and execution behind U-KnightResults and lessons learned
  • State of the Industry
  • State of the industryFull Service Alumni Systems “Walled Gardens”1 Closed to non-alumni Trade size in for exclusivity Use alumni trust as competitive advantage 1. From Andy Shaindlin @alumnifutures - http://www.alumnifutures.com/2011/03/groups-online.html
  • Full Service Alumni Systems
  • State of the industryNiche tools that are targeted to alumniEverTrue mobile alumni apps
  • State of the IndustryCrossover solutions not specific to alumni
  • State of the industryOpen Public NetworksColossi that dominate public social media spaceOverlap most if not all features of private networks
  • Private Network Challenge: Be Relevant
  • • My moment of panic… • The Harris Connect 5 year contract was already signed before I arrived. • Did I just inherit a system that is already dead in the water? • I needed to figure out a way to make it work. • I had 10 months. %#$!
  • A solution…hopefully
  • The Project Plan
  • What is U-Knight?The elevator speechU-Knight is a collection of online sites andservices that help Geneseo alumni find andconnect with each other and the institution bysharing news, conversation, experiences andexpertise.
  • What is U-Knight?One sentenceA place online for alumni to do the things thatthey want to do to engage with each other andGeneseo.
  • GoalsLaunch U-Knight in 10 months (by Oct. 2010)Achieve 5,000 alumni registrations within oneyear (10% of all alumni)
  • GoalsEstablish and grow the alumni online socialmedia presenceGet 50% of the graduating class of 2011registered for U-Knight
  • Components of aSuccessful LaunchCollaborative Project TeamData IntegrationFeature SelectionMarketing and Promotion
  • The Project Team
  • Cross Divisional Project TeamAdvancement Data ServicesAlumniITMarketingProject Manager (Me)
  • Data Integration
  • Data IntegrationThe online community is only as good asyour online directoryThe online directory is only as good asyour dataGarbage data will undermine your efforts
  • Data Integration IssuesIntegrity: missing/incorrect informationPrivacy: what is hidden by defaultAuthentication: getting IDs to usersTimeliness: must synchronize nightly
  • Feature Selection
  • Feature Set Selection What actions do alumni want to take?  Share  Find  Promote  Participate  Discuss
  • Feature Set Selection What actions does Geneseo want alumni to take?  Share  Lead  Find  Support  Promote  Participate  Discuss
  • Feature SelectionFind the right mix of featuresFind the best provider for each featureDon‟t use a solution just because you‟vealready paid for it – ie: Harris social media
  • Feature SelectionFeature ProviderOnline Directory Harris ConnectAlumni Search Harris ConnectPermanent alumni email Harris ConnectEvent Registration Harris ConnectClass Notes Harris ConnectBroadcast News Facebook, Twitter, LinkedInDirect Dialogue Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Feature SelectionFeature ProviderJob Postings LinkedIn, Harris ConnectJob Search LinkedIn, Harris ConnectPhoto Sharing Facebook, FlickrPhoto Galleries FlickrFAQ Alumni WebsiteSocial Media Directory Alumni WebsiteMobile Site / Apps TBD
  • Marketing and Promotion
  • Umbrella StrategyEvery site and feature tied to one brandAllows flexibility to change feature mix withoutlosing brand identity
  • Recognizable, MemorableLogos
  • Keep It SimpleFunnel everything to a single placeLet people take action quickly go.geneseo.edu/uknight
  • Marketing and PromotionCross media effort through many channels Website Print Social Media Email Blog In Person
  • Online Presence
  • U-Knight Homepage
  • Login for Every Page
  • Quick Links on AlumniHomepage
  • Alumni Blog
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Social Media Directory
  • U-Knight and Social MediaTutorial Videos
  • Print Advertising
  • Email Promotion
  • In Person Engagement
  • Registration Kiosks
  • Registration Kiosks
  • Social Media BusinessCards
  • Social Media BusinessCards
  • Staff Manuals
  • Results
  • Results After 1 Year Almost 4,500 (90% to goal and 9% of all alumni) registered users Over 55% (600) of class of „11 signed up before graduation 2,660 Facebook fans on new page 10,000 unique visits to U-Knight homepage
  • Results After 1 Year 15,000 alumni directory searches performed 250 Class Notes submitted online 2011 SUNYCUAD award of excellence for U-Knight as Best in Category: Alumni Programs
  • Lessons LearnedCreating an online alumni communityinvolves a ton of offline workSuccessful implementation requires anentire division, not just one personUsing traditional media to promote newmedia works, cross media is the goal
  • Lessons LearnedPrivate networks can be relevant inconjunction with public networks becauseyour alumni trust youPrivate network software contains a ton ofbloatware, so be skeptical
  • Lessons LearnedIf the vendor‟s writing isn‟t up to par, scrapit and write it yourselfSelf-service ID tools save tons of customerservice time
  • My new moment ofpanic… • Purchased Harris Career Advisory Network in July • LinkedIn Classmates just released Oct. 20 • Is our new module irrelevant overnight? • %#$! • Stay Tuned!
  • Next Steps
  • Social Media Mashup Page
  • Event Curation Using Storify
  • MobileMobile
  • Fran ZablockiOnline Community ManagerSUNY Geneseo www.franzablocki.com zablocki@geneseo.edu @Zablocki