More nuggets of wisdom from web strategist Jeremiah Owyang's excellent blog. This week he talked about corporate approaches to social web site strategies (i.e., "how should our company participate in social networks?"). Jeremiah wasn't writing about colleges and universities, but his comments on chipmaker Intel's approach apply to many kinds of organizations — including alumni associations.
In the context of the "build or join" dilemma — should we build our own online community, or join in on the ones our community members seem to be using? — Owyang quotes an Intel marketing manager:
Jeremiah has several survey-based sources of data showing that consumers trust their peers' views more than those of analysts, marketers or (ahem) bloggers.
Owyang then says something that I think it is critical to understand:
But how will we know if our participation in social sites is paying off? He says that we have to measure...something.
Alumni associations should probably try to measure awareness, as well as whether alumni feel (and are) knowledgeable about the institution today. A kind of "net promoter" score is informative as well, as Carnegie Mellon's Judy Cole commented here way back in March of 2007.
Bottom line, to quote Jeremiah: "Rather than coax users to your irrelevant corporate website, savvy brands will fish where the fish are."
I know, we think our association site is relevant to our alumni, because after all, they attended our school. But do they think it's relevant? Does it solve their problem? Fulfill their need? Represent something beyond an interesting curiosity? This is our challenge.
Photo of Icelandic fishing boat by Andy Shaindlin