Francis Zablocki, online alumni community manager at SUNY Geneseo, discussed his school’s experiences with online communities.
I’m going to roll this session blog a bit it differently than others as this topic hits a bit closer to home for me than other sessions I attended. I have been and still am involved with an alumni community just like Fran is working on and can really relate. His experiences and successes are a lot better than mine.
Online communities geared toward alumni have been on the scene for awhile, but making one successful in the heyday of Facebook and LinkedIn is a huge hurdle. BUT… If you do it right, it can be a huge asset for your alumni. You just have to be relevant and give your alumni a place where they are comfortable.
Fran arrived at SUNY Geneseo after the software for the community had been purchased and was told to make it successful. A year after launch, they have met most of their membership and other pre-set goals. To do so, they made sure to make a collaborative project team. One person can’t do it all.
The community is powered by information and interaction, that is what makes it unique from the “big two” so the information needs to be fresh, the features you offer need to be beneficial. Keep your information updated and choose the features carefully. Just because the software offers it, doesn’t mean you have to use it.
“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t really apply in this arena. Not all of your alumni users are comfortable with the technology or can find it. The community has to be promoted in every fashion imaginable. Cross-market, use print, social media, and personal visits to spread the word of how awesome your community is. Then, help them be successful. Create video tutorials, revamp the FAQ section and be available to answer questions.
Private networks can be relevant: your alumni trust you!