This week they share some specific outcomes from these efforts, as well as a few challenges and success stories.
Key Outcomes from LinkedIn
Thunderbird counts 25% of its 40,000 alumni among its LinkedIn Group. Here are key results, with "how to" tips:
Outcome 1: Countered the impression that Thunderbird didn't do enough to help alumni obtain jobs
Katie Mayer, alumni relations coordinator, says: "Complaints about this issue have decreased from several per week to virtually none." How did they do it?
- Posting jobs and career tips regularly
- Giving real-time access to Career Management Center staff
- Encouraging alumni to post job openings
- Actively matching alumni with one another for networking
Outcome 2: Identified and tested a new giving opportunity
How did they do it?
- A Campaign appeal via LinkedIn, through a Group notification (which hits e-mail boxes and posts automatically as a "Discussion"). The appeal was a direct ask from Mayer, their community manager.
- "This was the second-most successful appeal of any kind all year, resulting in more than 100 gifts in a few days, plus numerous comments – all positive."
- Not over-reaching. Mayer: "This tool is powerful, so we’ve decided to use it only once per year. There was something about asking as a person, instead of as the institution, that touched this group."
Outcome 3: Created a closer relationship with alumni
Thunderbird now communicates with alumni more via LinkedIn than via e-mail. Mayer: "There's a more personal connection because of the profile photo and bio. Alumni feel that they already know us when we meet in person."
Outcome 4: Generated more balanced Group conversations
A larger number of members means more diverse viewpoints, instead of a handful of vocal alumni.
[Thunderbird communicates with alumni more via LinkedIn than via e-mail]
Key Outcomes from Twitter
Half of Thunderbird's content is purely informative and focused on international business – it is a global management school after all. Thunderbird's Mayer and colleague Samantha Novick subscribe to various digital news outlets to get timely content to share with followers.
For fun sometimes they'll post trivia questions from The Economist Book of Facts. Novick: "Since more than half our students are international, we Tweet holidays around the world. We schedule Tweets for certain times to take care of our alumni who are in time zones throughout Europe and Asia."
Outcome 5: Positioned Thunderbird on Twitter as a source of insight on relevant, important issues
"It bolsters our credibility and fosters lifelong learning," says Novick.
Outcome 6: Increased alumni engagement
Fast responses, retweets, favoriting their tweets, lists, mentioning them when they mention Thunderbird, and remaining transparent – even in controversial issues – all these factors increase interaction.
But what about Facebook?
Mayer: "We are focusing our Facebook presence toward prospective students, and haven’t generated as much interest with our alumni via Facebook." In other words, they have chosen specific channels and are pursuing an intentional strategy that fits their communication and engagement goals.
["It was an honest – and at times upsetting – discussion"]
Case Studies: Experiments Good and Bad
Mayer mentions two controversial experiments that generated mixed responses.
- A rap video (with student callers and Thunderbird's president dancing) generated negative student comments on YouTube. "They felt it looked unprofessional for an MBA school. Alumni mostly found it humorous, but the project was time-consuming and we couldn't measure its impact, beyond a brief increase in web traffic."
- Thunderbird's Director of Annual Giving asked the LinkedIn Alumni Group, “Why wouldn’t you give?” This generated more than 100 comments, some criticizing the school and others defending it. Mayer says it was "an honest – and at times upsetting – discussion that resulted in institutional changes as well as some online gifts."
Finally, Mayer tells a cross-platform success story:
- Thunderbird launched a Global Giving Competition during the last months of its Campaign:
"We divided alumni globally into geographic regions and pitted them against one another. Some regions were very competitive – there was a buzz about it across platforms. The best aspect is that it allowed us to discuss giving every day without angering or upsetting anyone. A tweet might say, “D.C. knocked New York out of first place this week! Who will win it in the end?” We updated a leaderboard every week and the winning region's donors' names were published in Thunderbird Magazine, they got a letter signed by the school’s president, and formal recognition at Homecoming. And little prizes along the way kept it fun."
These tangible examples show that online channels can drive meaningful, measurable engagement with alumni around the world. I found the lessons useful – did you?
Add to these ideas, or react to them, by leaving a comment.
Photo: Thunderbird campus (Glendale, AZ, USA) by Kristen Jarchow. Used with permission.