Jen Doak (@jpdoak) is the online communications specialist at CASE and an alumna of the University of Connecticut. Kristin Simonetti (@KMSeditor) is a senior editor of CURRENTS at CASE, a former alumni communications professional and an alumna of Elon University .
LinkedIn announced its new university pages feature this week and there’s been a lot of buzz, much of it suggesting that the pages could be a real boon for alumni and prospective students. So what should advancement professionals know about them?
- Mike Richwalsky, senior director of creative services and e-marketing at John Carroll University, provides a thoughtful rundown of the pros and and cons of the pages.
- Evertrue gives LinkedIn’s university pages a thumbs-up, saying they are “a great step forward for prospective students to discover their perfect college fit as well as for current students and alumni to land their dream job.”
- College Web Editor provides a useful tutorial on how your institution can get a university page.
Jen Doak (from an alumna’s perspective): My undergrad institution, the University of Connecticut, has a nice looking page:
The alumni tool is right up at the top. Unsurprisingly, UConn has many alumni in the Connecticut, New York and New Jersey tri-state area who work in insurance. I didn’t recognize any of the notable alumni listed on the university page, but it’s still a cool feature. You can see featured groups, institution updates—neat, UConn is the No. 1 coolest school, according to the Sierra Club—and you have a one-click option to add UConn to your profile, if you’re a student.
I found the “similar schools” feature a bit confusing. It seems to list institutions by similar alumni career outcome and not by the characteristics of the school itself—valuable for career networking but less so for prospective students. I see the commonalities between Rutgers, the University of Illinois and UConn, but not the smaller, private University of Hartford. Sure, many alumni also work in insurance, but a prospective student would be misled if she thought the two institutions were similar in scope or atmosphere.
Institutions hoping to be successful on this platform will want to use a lot of images, video and all-around humanizing career-related content to make pages more appealing, particularly to younger (and probably not as career-minded) members.
It’ll be interesting to see how popular LinkedIn will be with the young ’uns, especially with Instagram and other more social networks hogging the students’ spare bandwidth. LinkedIn’s terms of service changes allowing teenagers to join could affect independent schools. However, it remains to be seen whether teens will actually use LinkedIn—or if independent schools and colleges will incorporate it into their students’ learning experience.
Kristin Simonetti (from an alumni communications perspective): I’m not going to lie—I felt a pang of disappointment when I found out my undergraduate alma mater, Elon University, wasn’t among the 200 institutions chosen for the first wave of LinkedIn’s university pages. But after trading my loyal alumna ball cap for my alumni relations enthusiast fedora, I concluded that University Pages offers something really great for institutions and their graduates.
It creates a one-stop alumni shop on LinkedIn.
Think about it: Graduates used to have to to spend time searching for groups related to their institutions on LinkedIn—now the university page aggregates them. It offers alumni a real-time snapshot of just how big their networks are by showing the first -and second-level connections available to them thanks to their alma maters. You don’t have to search for the powerful “find alumni” tool (which, ironically, is kind of hard to find on its own)—LinkedIn’s stuck it right in the center of the university page. And, all you need to do to get to the university page is to click its link in your profile or do a quick search.
That said, from a former alumni communicator’s standpoint, I have the following questions:
- Alumni relations shops already struggle to find that delicate balance between too much and too little communication with graduates—would expanding the institution’s LinkedIn presence help or hinder that challenge?
- Many career services and alumni professionals try to keep their institutions’ LinkedIn presence focused on career development and networking. Will the enhanced capabilities of the pages alienate graduates seeking a social media environment focused less on nostalgia (i.e., Facebook) and more on business?
- Will yet another social media platform whose audience falls under the jurisdiction of many offices—student affairs, career services, alumni relations and communications and marketing—give rise to territorial disputes?
What we’ve read about LinkedIn’s university pages suggests that they could be potential silo-smashers for advancement offices, both within disciplines and when it comes to working with campus career centers. Communications and marketing offices have opportunities to personalize their LinkedIn footprint. Alumni relations offices have opportunities to identify alumni and highlight famous graduates. For fundraisers, there’s the ability to research prospects and help them to keep up with potential and current donors. All disciplines can create, steward and connect with their communities on LinkedIn. The challenge is, of course, to make these connections clear across campus and use them for cross-department collaboration and training.
What do you think of LinkedIn’s university pages? Let us know in the comments. And be on the lookout for Kristin’s article on LinkedIn in the October issue of CURRENTS.