How to Level Up Your Alumni Engagement with Videos

By Andrew Davies

Videos are like the Swiss army knife in the digital toolbox of today’s savvy alumni relations professionals.  As attention spans shrink and online content booms, video lets you deeply engage with your alumni audience.

This article unlocks the secrets to producing impactful video content, from best practices to avoiding common pitfalls.  After each topic, I’ll offer some actionable advice on using video to build meaningful connections with your alumni community – the kind that truly resonates.

Benefits of Using Video for Alumni Engagement

  • Higher Engagement:  People tend to pay more attention to videos than text. Studies show viewers retain information much better from video (around 95%) compared to text (around 10%). This translates to a better chance your message will resonate with alumni.
  • Emotional Connection: Videos can evoke emotions and tell stories in a way text can’t. Showcasing alumni achievements, campus life, or student experiences can create a sense of nostalgia and rekindle the alumni’s connection to their alma mater.
  • Accessibility: Videos are convenient to consume. Alumni can watch them on their own time, on various devices, making them a time-friendly engagement tool.
  • Diversity of Content: Videos can cover a wide range of topics, from alumni success stories and faculty interviews to virtual tours and event highlights. This variety caters to different interests and keeps alumni engaged.
  • Shareability: Videos are highly shareable on social media platforms, potentially reaching a wider audience of alumni and generating greater interest in your institution.

Best Practices for Alumni Video Engagement

1. Know Your Audience

To create truly engaging alumni videos, segmentation is key. As you well know, alumni have varied interests so consider tailoring your video content by graduation year, department, school affiliation, or hobby. Showcase updates relevant to different subgroups in your alumni community. Highlight faculty achievements or alumni success stories that align with their academic background. Did they participate in sports clubs or volunteer work? Feature videos showcasing those areas with alumni involvement. Target content geographically, with virtual events for spread-out groups. Finally, recognize major donors with personalized messages or videos highlighting the impact of their contributions. By segmenting your audience in these ways, you can ensure your videos resonate with each alumnus.

Actionable steps to get to know your alumni audience:

Look at Your Existing Database: Start with your existing alumni database information (graduation year, major, etc.) and combine it with website and social media data to get a sense of possible interests.

Surveys and Polls: Conduct surveys or polls to find out their preferred content formats, topics of interest, and communication channels (e.g. some might respond better to emails, others to social media.

Alumni Advisory Boards: Involve alumni representatives from diverse backgrounds to provide direct feedback on your video content ideas making sure what you’re planning resonates with their peers. This could be done individually or in focus group sessions.

Personalization:  Consider using alumni names in video greetings or mailings that accompany video content. Tools like Hippo Video can help you customize video messages at scale similar to email platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact. You could also segment email blasts with custom video links tailored to specific alumni interests. Or create a video series with specific alumni segments in mind, e.g., “Career Advice for Recent Graduates” or “Entrepreneurship Stories from your Fellow Alumni.”

By segmenting your audience and taking actionable steps to understand their preferences, you can create targeted video content that truly resonates with each group. This will lead to higher engagement and a stronger sense of connection with their alma mater.

Email customization for personalized alumni outreach.

2. Focus on Storytelling:

When crafting alumni engagement videos, prioritize compelling storytelling. Evoke emotions through visuals, music, and authentic alumni testimonials that spark nostalgia, pride, or inspiration.  Structure your narrative with relatable challenges overcome or goals achieved by alumni, creating a clear conflict and resolution arc.  Avoid overly scripted or promotional content. Instead,  let genuine alumni experiences shine through, showcasing their passion and personality. If your video tackles a common alumni challenge like career changes or skill development, ensure it offers clear solutions or resources at the end. By incorporating these elements, your videos will resonate with alumni on a deeper level, fostering a stronger connection.

Actionable Steps to tell better alumni stories:

  • Interview Alumni: Talk to alumni from diverse backgrounds about their experiences, challenges, and successes at the institution and beyond.
  • Focus on the “Why”: Don’t just showcase what alumni do, but delve into the motivations and “why” behind their achievements.
  • Use Strong Visuals: Combine impactful visuals like campus scenes, alumni photos, and relevant data to enhance the story.
  • Consider partnering:  Your university’s film or journalism departments are great assets when it comes to video production expertise.

By incorporating these elements and taking actionable steps, alumni relations professionals can create impactful video stories that resonate with alumni on a deeper level, fostering a stronger connection to their alma mater.

As part of their annual Giving Day, JUM created a humorous video telling the story of their lost mascot and how the entire campus came together to find him. JMU Duke Dog is Lost Fundraising campaign video

For more on using video storytelling check out this post by Outbrain.

3. Keep it Short and Sweet

To grab alumni’s attention in today’s online world, short and engaging videos are key. Aim for videos under 2 minutes, ideally closer to 1 minute, as viewers have limited attention spans. Remember, shorter videos are more likely to be watched entirely. If that seems impossible give your desired topic, then consider creating a series of concise videos on on that theme instead of one lengthy production. This bite-sized approach will keep alumni engaged and wanting more.

Actionable Steps for Keeping alumni Videos Short:

  • Focus on a single clear message per video. Don’t try to cram too much information in.
  • Script tightly: Every line should contribute to the core message.
  • Edit ruthlessly: Cut out unnecessary pauses, dead air, or extraneous information.
  • Use strong visuals and storytelling: Visuals can convey information quickly, reducing the need for lengthy explanations.
  • Leverage text overlays: Briefly highlight key points or statistics visually.
  • Optimize for mobile viewing: Many viewers will be watching on their phones, so prioritize clear visuals and concise messaging.

By following these steps, alumni relations professionals can create impactful and engaging videos that capture attention within the first minute and leave a lasting impression on their alumni audience.

In just under 90 seconds, this Giving Day campaign video from Campbell University’s Alumni Engagement office shows how each alumni’s gift directly impacts multiple aspects of campus life.

4. Optimize Alumni videos for Different Platforms

Videos for Facebook might be longer than those for Instagram or TikTok. Tailor the format and length for each platform. Alumni relations professionals need to be platform-savvy when it comes to video optimization. Here’s a breakdown of key considerations and actionable steps, including helpful software tools.

Actionable Steps to Optimize Alumni Videos:

  • Aspect Ratio: Pay attention to the ideal aspect ratio for each platform. YouTube and Vimeo favor 16:9 (landscape), while Instagram and TikTok are better suited for 9:16 (portrait) or 1:1 (square) formats. There are online tools or editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve that can help you resize your video without compromising quality.
  • Video Length: Tailor video length to each platform’s user behavior. Keep YouTube videos under 2 minutes, while Instagram Stories and TikTok videos are best under 60 seconds. Use editing software to create shorter versions for specific platforms.
  • Upload Directly: For viewers, convenience is king. When you upload videos directly to social media platforms like Facebook, they can watch them right away, without needing to click through to another website. This seamless experience leads to better engagement.
  • Captions and Text Overlays: Many viewers watch videos on mute, especially on mobile. Use captions and text overlays to convey key messages. Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have built-in captioning tools, while software like Premiere Pro offers advanced caption-editing features.
  • Engagement Features: Utilize platform-specific features to boost engagement. Add polls or quizzes on Facebook or Instagram Stories, and encourage comments and discussions on YouTube.
  • Batch-Edit and Resize: Use editing software like Kapwing, to create multiple versions of your longer videos with different aspect ratios and lengths for various platforms.
  • Leverage Platform Analytics: Track video performance metrics on each platform (views, watch time, engagement) to understand what resonates with your audience and tailor future content accordingly.
NYU Alumni Changemakers video edits
NYU Alumni Changemakers is an annual campaign that requires a lot of videos optimized for each of their social media channels created from a longer honoree video.

For more on repurposing video for social media check out this extensive post by the video geniuses at Wistia.

By following these steps and utilizing video editing software, alumni relations professionals can ensure their videos are optimized for maximum reach and engagement across different platforms, fostering a stronger connection with their alumni community.

{E.g. Queensland University of Technology took advantage of the widescreen capabilities of Youtube to showcase their donor drive video in a cinematic way. The same video was then cut down to work well on Facebook

5. Encourage Alumni-Generated Content:

When it comes to alumni engagement videos, alumni-generated content (UGC) offers a powerful advantage. UGC brings authenticity to your videos by showcasing real alumni experiences, fostering a sense of connection for viewers.  It also injects a diversity of voices and perspectives, creating a richer sense of community.  And as a bonus, UGC can be a cost-effective way to supplement professionally produced videos, stretching your resources further.

Actionable Steps for Leveraging Alumni-Generated Content:

  • Run contests and challenges: Encourage alumni to submit videos on specific themes (e.g., “A Day in My Life as an Alumnus” or “What I Miss Most About Campus”). Offer incentives for participation like alumni swag or recognition.
  • Use social media platforms: Many platforms have features like Instagram Stories or Facebook groups where alumni can share short video clips about their experiences. Repost or feature compelling content with proper credit.
  • Partner with alumni influencers: Identify alumni with strong social media followings who can create video content promoting your institution or events.
  • Make it easy to contribute: Provide clear guidelines and a user-friendly platform for alumni to submit videos (e.g., upload forms, email addresses).
  • Obtain permission and credit creators: Always get written permission from alumni before using their video content and credit them properly in your final video.
  • Set clear guidelines: Briefly outline video quality expectations (resolution, format) while still encouraging creativity.

By following these steps, alumni relations professionals can tap into the power of UGC, creating dynamic and engaging video content that resonates deeply with their alumni audience.

MIT Alumni Youtube channel
MIT’s Alumni Association’s Youtube channel has an entire playlist dedicated to alumni-generated videos where they cover topics that would only relate to MIT grads. Topics like ”You know you went to MIT if…” and “Do you speak MIT?”
ASU alumni video instructions
ASU even created a set of instructions to encourages alumni to share videos with their community.

6. Promote Alumni Videos Across Multiple Channels:

Share your videos on your website, social media platforms, and alumni newsletters. Utilize email marketing to reach a wider audience.

Email: Craft compelling subject lines that pique curiosity and mention the video content. Briefly summarize the video and provide a clear call to action (CTA) to watch it.

Social Media: Leverage eye-catching visuals and snippets from the video to grab attention on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Utilize relevant hashtags to increase discoverability.

Alumni Website: Feature your videos prominently on your alumni webpage, embedded with a clear CTA to encourage viewing. Consider creating a dedicated video library section.

Actionable Steps for Promoting Alumni Videos:

  • Schedule Posts in Advance: Plan your social media promotion calendar to ensure consistent content flow and avoid bombarding alumni. Utilize scheduling tools to streamline the process.
  • Cross-Promote on Different Platforms: Announce your new video on email and social media, encouraging viewers to share it within their networks.
  • Partner with Alumni Groups: Reach out to alumni group leaders on social media or via email to share your video content and encourage them to promote it to their members.
  • Track and Analyze Performance: Monitor video engagement metrics across channels (views, clicks, shares) to understand what resonates with your audience. This data helps refine your promotion strategies for future videos.
  • Personalize When Possible: As I mentioned before, segment your email lists and tailor video recommendations based on alumni interests. Consider sending personalized video greetings or updates.

By following these steps and tailoring your approach to each media channel, alumni relations professionals can effectively promote their video content, maximizing its reach and impact within the alumni community.

When thinking about using video as part of your engagement toolkit,  create videos tailored to their interests and experiences. Focus on impactful storytelling that evokes emotions and keeps it concise. Optimize your videos for different platforms by adjusting size, and length, and incorporating captions. Don’t forget to nudge viewers to action with clear calls to action. Embrace the power of user-generated content for authenticity and cost-effectiveness. Finally, promote your videos across channels and leverage data to analyze their performance. By following these steps, alumni relations professionals can create a winning video strategy that fosters deeper connections with their alumni community.