Maybe you're aware that Facebook has never allowed organizations to have their own Profiles on the site - only individuals could. Recently they added a feature they call Pages, which provides companies, bands, teams and other organizations (like schools, for example) to have their own presence outside of the Facebook Groups.
People who want to show their support or affinity can click the "Become a Fan" link on an organization's Page in Facebook. So if you're a fan of, say, the Los Angeles Times, you can visit their page and "become a fan." People looking at your Profile in Facebook can see what you are a fan of, and if they are interested they can click through from there and view the organization's Page as well (and maybe become fans themselves).
I was trying to get my brain around the differences and similarities between Pages and Groups, and between Pages and individuals' Profiles in Facebook. And there's the question of who, if anyone, should create and maintain an institutional Facebook Page for your school, and whether you want alumni to become fans of their alumni association. More about that in a future posting.
Meanwhile, I decided the best way to figure it out was to try it. I created a Facebook Page for the Alumni Futures blog. I encourage anyone interested in exploring Facebook's Pages function to take a look; the feed from this blog is posted there as well (using the RSS import feature of the Facebook Notes application*). I would like visitors to post their ideas for topics and ideas worth exploring on the blog. (And of course I'd love for them to become fans.)
The verdict is still out over whether Pages are actually useful, and of course there was a huge popular backlash against Facebook's collection of data via its Beacon system, which delivered info about purchasing habits of individuals using third-party commerce sites. But I'm not participating in Beacon, so you can be a fan of Alumni Futures without having to worry about Facebook stomping on your privacy (any more than they already might).
Here's a link to my Page, plus some others, to give you an idea:
By the way, Facebook has introduced Friend Lists, so you can separate your friends into categories - work, school, family, and so on. As Mashable points out, though, there's a missing piece of the puzzle. You guessed it: Privacy. In the words of Download Squad, you should be able to...
...control what information is available from your profile. For example - do you really want your co-workers seeing those drunken photos from the party you had last weekend? We thought so.
It's also important to realize that these groupings don't show up in your profile; it's just for your own management of (and communications with) your Facebook connections.
[Note: This posting was written by Andrew Gossen, Senior Associate Director at the Alumni Association of Princeton University. Andrew has a wide range of responsibilities, including oversight for alumni education programming. Thank you, Andrew, for being the first guest-blogger on Alumni Futures!]
What if active social networkers pitted their alumni networks against other schools’ affinity groups in an online game? A glimpse of what might be possible emerged this past October with the advent of GoCrossCampus (GXC).
GXC is a small startup that offers a “locally social online game.” Similar to the classic game Risk, which has devoured countless hours of people’s time in both its board game and online versions, this online game invites affinity group members to work together
to conquer territory held by other affinity groups. The game can be
customized to any location and scale – a dorm, a campus, a region – and
the affinity groups vary according to scale. At RPI, for instance, the
school's dorms recently competed against one another.
Anyone with a valid e-mail address at an institution can participate in that school’s contests.
GXC and the Ivy Council initially pitched the Ivy League Championship(screenshot above) to undergraduates at the competing institutions. Because high levels of participation are rewarded, however, students quickly realized that alumni might be the key to victory.
When appeals for alumni to join the cause appeared on online alumni discussion boards, I logged on to GXC to see what was going on. Something I would never have predicted was unfolding. We saw:
Students and younger alumni recruiting other alumni to sign up. Recruitment channels included alumni discussion groups, special interest group alumni listservs, a Facebook group and more.
Over 250 alumni involved, ranging in age from the Class of 1968 to the Class of 2007.
A dramatic spike in the number of alumni registering for alumni.princeton.edu e-mail forwarding because an institutional e-mail address was required for registration.
An interesting and unprecedented reversal in the dynamic between alumni and undergraduates. Normally, undergraduates approach alumni for advice, direction, and jobs. With GXC the Princeton team’s commanders were a freshman and a sophomore, and approximately 1,450 Princetonians were happily following their orders.
The tournament grew so rapidly that GXC was forced to suspend play to resolve the technical issues that had cropped up, although play has resumed recently.
Reasons why GXC is worth thinking about:
An unusual opportunity for alumni and undergraduates to interact;
A powerful driver to inspire alumni to sign up for e-mail forwarding through your institution;
A chance to leverage institutional rivalries to get alumni to engage with other alumni;
An online forum based on affinity that people actually want to use - there are 8,627 people playing as of this writing.
Princeton has poured countless hours and dollars into alumni discussion groups, online educational programming, webcasting, podcasting and vodcasting, and this is hands down the most successful online interaction between alumni and students that I have ever seen. I don’t know if the GXC concept would be of interest to alumni on a regular basis, but on its inaugural run it attracted numbers of participants and an intensity of interest that are unprecedented in our experience. At the very least, this suggests that it will be worthwhile investigating other ideas for online interaction that seem implausible at first.
Alumni relations at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (USA), is on the verge of an overhaul, and to hear campus reps tell it, that's a good thing. Alumni relations has been swept up to a new level of visibility and accountability within the institution's operational structure. The details are numerous, but in a nutshell, a master plan for alumni relations is proposing the following - for starters:
The establishment of the Rutgers University Alumni
Association (RUAA), a new, single, all-encompassing volunteer structure
to include all Rutgers graduates from all campuses.
Automatic lifetime membership in the RUAA for all Rutgers alumni, without dues.
An expanded charter for the Board of
Governors’ Committee on University Relations to also encompass alumni
relations, and creation of a joint committee of the boards of Governors,
Trustees and Overseers.
Creation of "an alumni center or presence" on all three main campuses (New Brunswick, Camden and Newark).
Rutgers has more than 360,000 alumni, so this certainly should be a priority area for campus attention. Congratulations go to Donna Thornton, who has been promoted from Associate Vice President to Vice President for Alumni Relations. Rutgers President Richard McCormick in a "letter to the Rutgers community" on December 6, 2007, said he is committed to supporting "a vibrant alumni program." There's a healthy dose of standard cultivation rhetoric too, stating that the plan is really
an invitation to alumni to come home. Rutgers wants you to be a vital
part of its future, just as it has been an important part of your past.
Whether you have been a graduate for months, years, or decades, we want
to bring you back to the university—if not in body then at least in
spirit. We welcome and respect you, we value your achievements, and we
want you to be as proud of Rutgers as the university is proud of you.
This sounds great in a letter, and it is good to see a very visible, high-level, financially-supported commitment to alumni relations, resulting from a 14 month effort by a task force (and associated consultants). But of course the proof will be the institution's follow through on its ambitious commitment.
Linking alumni from separate campuses and numerous schools and colleges, while honoring their affinity to smaller campus units is a formidable challenge. We'll be watching to see how the alumni climate changes. The President expects the new governance and structure to be in place by the end of March 2008.
Click the following link for a full set of documents and background information:
[Updated January 12, 2008: I will not be attending the program after all due to a change in travel plans. But you should still plan to attend!]
It's now time for educational travel professionals to register for the 2008 Educational Travel Conference (Baltimore, Maryland, USA, February 4-7, 2008). I've mentioned it before, and this year the program is again very strong.
A special pre-conference Executive Manager Forum on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 will focus on "Enhancing the Success of Affinity Travel Programs." I'm involved as a panelist in a couple of sessions, but tThe range of expertise represented elsewhere on the program is what makes it a unique opportunity.
Carolyn Sheaff who shaped the famous UC Berkeley Bear Treks program is the organizer of the one-day Forum and has pulled together an all-star program, including
All will all be on hand to share their knowledge and experience in a discussion setting. Also of special interest is the opportunity for executive managers to network with others at their level in the same small, focused setting.
Several PowerPoint presentations from the recent Minary Conference on Alumni Education are available for download from the Princeton alumni web site (2007 conference chair Andrew Gossen is at Princeton).