Leveraging Social Media for Alumni Engagement

By Andrew Davies
social media for alumni engagement banner image

Cover image generated from Adobe Firefly, modified by Andrew Davies

Social media has become a powerful tool for digital alumni engagement and fostering a sense of community among graduates. Here are specific examples and tactics to leverage various social media platforms effectively.

Thanks to its unmatched accessibility that allows graduates to connect seamlessly from any location, social media stands as a powerful instrument for alumni engagement. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer real-time interactions, cultivating a profound sense of connection and involvement. While the visual allure of YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest adds to the experience, making it effortless to capture and share cherished moments. Furthermore, social media turns engagement into a dynamic two-way street, enabling direct communication between alumni and their alma mater. It simplifies the art of staying connected, breaking through geographical barriers, and creating a vibrant, delightful alumni experience.

So here are a few ideas on how to use the unique capabilities of each of the major social media platforms to boost alumni engagement:

1. Facebook: Building a Central Alumni Engagement Hub

With a user base exceeding 3 billion, likely, the majority of your alumni are already active on Facebook. This poses the best opportunity to connect with alumni where they are. 

  • Post Relevant Content for Alumni:
    Even if your institution already has a main Facebook page, establishing a dedicated alumni page is essential to maintain engagement after graduation. Keep in mind that this space is more personal for alumni connections, so focus on sharing human-centered stories rather than just institutional updates and donation requests.
  • Get Alumni Involved with Interactive Content:
    Apart from commenting, you can boost interaction with alumni on Facebook by using its polling feature. Ask a question and encourage people to vote on answers for more engagement.
  • Host Virtual Events:
    Use Facebook Events and Facebook Live to put on virtual reunions, webinars, or Q&A sessions with notable alumni.
  • Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC):
    Prompt alumni to share pictures from their time at the university using branded hashtags. Alumni engagement tool Alumni Access offers one suggestion,
  • On your Facebook or Instagram account, post a compelling photo from an old yearbook. Make it a contest to see which graduation year can generate the most reposts or re-shares of a photo.”
GSU's Alumni Facebook page.
GSU’s Facebook page does a great job highlighting alumni success stories as well as alumni events.

2. LinkedIn: Professional Networking and Mentoring

With over a billion active users worldwide, and the defacto professional social network, LinkedIn poses a massive opportunity to engage alumni in ways that matter most to them. 

  • Create Affinity Groups:
    Alumni have diverse interests and needs, so think about creating separate LinkedIn groups for various academic departments or special interest groups within the alumni community.

    According to the online giving platform Advancement Form“… you could create a general alumni group for the purpose of discussing things relating to your school. Or you could create a group for linking employers to job-seekers, connecting mentors with mentees, or helping alumni connect in other cities.”
  • Engage Actively in the Groups:
    Start conversations, ask interesting questions, answer alumni queries, connect people, and offer online training. Remember, success comes from focusing on what truly matters to your alumni, giving them opportunities to learn, network, and stay connected.
MIT's alumni association LinkedIn page.
MIT’s Alumni Association does a great job posting a mix of alumni spotlights and articles to their LinkedIn page.

3. Twitter (X): Real-time Updates and Alumni Engagement

The platform formerly known as Twitter excels in providing a real-time and concise platform for alumni engagement. Its quick and concise nature makes it ideal for sharing instant updates, event announcements, and brief highlights. Alumni can easily stay connected with the latest happenings, share their achievements, and participate in discussions through short, impactful tweets. As Robert Bochnak, social media manager for Harvard Business School Office of Alumni put it in his post on Linkedin,  

“I’d be hard-pressed to draw a causal relationship between my work and increases in, for example, alumni donations. But my work on Twitter does have a BIG impact since it’s been invaluable in helping us build a sense of community among our alumni. We do this by bringing them together based on everything from shared personal and professional interests to geography.”

  • Share Timely Updates:
    Twitter allows organizations to share timely news and updates, enabling them to capitalize on the immediacy of information dissemination
  • Directly Engage with Alumni Accounts:
    Some organizations use a direct, high-touch engagement approach to connect with their alumni on a personal level, discussing topics of mutual interest.
  • Promote Alumni Accounts and Encourage Engagement:
    Alumni organizations can promote their Twitter accounts through other communication channels and encourage regular engagement by asking questions, doing polls, and using hashtags
  • Live-Tweet Events:
    Live-tweet alumni events, conferences, or webinars using event-specific hashtags to engage a wider audience.
  • Host Twitter Chats:
    Organize regular Twitter chats around relevant topics, fostering real-time conversations among alumni.
  • Highlight Alumni Achievements:
    Regularly tweet about alumni achievements, showcasing the diverse accomplishments of graduates.
National Louis University Alumni Association Twitter feed showcasing a variety of engagement content.
The Twitter home of the National Louis University Alumni Association shows a good mix of alumni spotlights, event promos, and calls for engagement.

4. Instagram: Visual Storytelling and Engagement

Instagram shines as a visual storytelling platform, making it an excellent tool for fostering a sense of community and nostalgia among alumni. It’s perfect for sharing vibrant images and videos that capture the essence of campus life, events, and achievements. Instagram Stories and IGTV offer opportunities for more immersive content, while features like hashtags and location tags facilitate easy discoverability and connection. 

  • Instagram Stories:
    Use Stories to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of campus life, feature alumni takeovers, or promote time-sensitive announcements.
  • Interactive Content:
    Leverage interactive features like polls, quizzes, and Q&A stickers to boost engagement.
  • Alumni Spotlights:
    Regularly feature alumni spotlights with visually appealing content, showcasing their journey since graduation.
U Miami Alumni Association Instagram page showcasing various engagement content.
U Miami Alumni Association uses its Instagram profile to showcase a mix of stories, reels, and posts with a wide range of media from event snapshots to nostalgic content.

5. YouTube: Video Content for Engagement

YouTube is a great place to share exciting long-form videos like alumni stories, events, and campus updates. Alumni can easily watch and share these videos anywhere around the world, creating a sense of community that transcends geography.

  • Alumni Success Stories:
    Create a series of video interviews or profiles showcasing alumni success stories and career journeys.
  • Virtual Campus Tours:
    Develop virtual campus tours for alumni who may not have visited in years, fostering a nostalgic connection.
  • Webinar Recordings:
    Share recorded webinars, lectures, or panel discussions, providing valuable content for alumni who couldn’t attend live.
UMass Amherst Alumni Association YouTube channel.
UMass Amherst’s Alumni Association has a comprehensive YouTube channel

The UMass Amherst Alumni Association has a vibrant YouTube channel, playing an essential role in engaging and mobilizing alumni, as well as enhancing the student experience. Along with campus-specific videos like Homecoming or Volunteer Resources, the channel covers a variety of useful topics like Professional Development, Personal Development, and Financial Wellness.

6. Pinterest: Imagery for Discovery

While primarily an image discovery tool, Pinterest’s spot as the fourth most popular social media site in the US makes it an ideal platform for alumni associations to showcase and curate imagery that sparks nostalgia and pride.

  1. Create Nostalgic Boards:
    Curate boards that evoke nostalgia, such as “Throwback Thursday” featuring old campus photos, events, and traditions.
  2. Provide Useful Information:
    Share useful information, such as career advice, job search tips, or infographics on industry trends.
  3. Tell a Story:
    Use Pinterest to tell the story of the university, including its history, achievements, and notable alumni.
  4. Problem-Solving Content:
    Create content that solves common problems faced by alumni, such as personal finance tips, work-life balance, or healthy living.
  5. Showcase Campus Beauty:
    Highlight the beauty of the campus through stunning visuals, architecture, and natural landscapes.
This case study from Hillary Frazier, social media specialist at the University of Michigan, showcases the many unique ways they used Pinterest to engage with prospects, students, and alumni.

Best Practices for All Platforms:

  • Consistent Branding:
    Maintain a consistent brand identity across all platforms, reinforcing a unified alumni experience.
  • Engagement Initiatives:
    Launch engagement initiatives such as alumni challenges, contests, or themed months to encourage participation.
  • Cross-Promotion:
    Cross-promote content across different platforms to maximize reach and engagement.
  • Analytics and Feedback:
    Regularly analyze social media analytics to understand what resonates with the audience. Collect feedback through polls or surveys.

Leveraging these specific tactics on various social media platforms allows alumni marketers to create a dynamic and engaging online community, fostering lasting connections among graduates.