Matthew Herek (@mherek) currently serves as the associate director of young alumni engagement in the office of alumni relations and development at Northwestern University.
We need to talk about young alumni and social media.
The need to engage young alumni seems to be on the agenda of most development operations today, the theory being that compelling young alumni to be part of the larger alumni community from the get-go is easier than convincing someone who disengages to reengage later in life.
Next month at the CASE Social Media and Community conference, I’m doing a presentation about young alumni and social media. It’s based on my own experiences as someone who was once a young alum and is now in charge of the engagement strategy for 20,000 of them. I’m using my space in the blog to offer a sneak preview of what I plan on discussing:
(1) I know more at 32 than 24: “Young alumni” is a massive demographic term when it comes to social media. If you’re older than 29, you actually didn’t have Facebook in college. If you’re older than 25, there
’s a good chance you didn’t have WiFi in college. If you’re like me, in 2001, you used Dreamweaver to create a website that pretty much does what LinkedIn can do for you today.
(2) Avoid being the awkward guy at the cocktail party: We make the assumption that because people
have clicked the “like” button they don’t mind us showing up in their Facebook feed non-stop.
(3) Don’t put young alumni in a box before they are dead: It’s important that social media does not become the only place that we want young alumni to volunteer (Thanks for your interest in the club of Tulsa, how would you like to run our Facebook page?).
(4) Larger-than-life figures are not scalable: In 2008, President Obama used social media in unprecedented ways to galvanize volunteers and raise a huge sum of money. Universities are not the same type of transformative force as a presidential candidate. We spend too much energy trying to create a replica of that moment instead of learning lessons from it.
(5) Engage the flux capacitor: Young alumni have specific memories of their time on campus (we all do really). We often fail to use social media to shake an emotional response out of young alumni and there are ways to do this!
(6) Young alumni need a social media Yoda: Young alumni will care about what you know once they know that you care.
(7) First listen to understand: The temptation to use the social media megaphone is great. How often are you using the tools in question to truly listen to what young alumni are saying?
(8) Transmit the story, but don’t control it: Young alumni in particular put tons of content on social media. Think about using it to tell their story to a wider audience.
As the conference is still a month away, I’ll be fiddling with this presentation until then. Maybe you’re coming and have something specific you want to see discussed. Let me know in the comments section.