LinkedIn as an alumni connection tool


At the start of the semester I was approached by our Career Development office about my thoughts for connecting alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff with each other professionally. They wanted Gettysburg people to be able to find other Gettysburg people in related fields. Although we have an alumni log-in community called myGettysburg it didn’t connect all the audiences to each other.

We pulled together a collaborative group from my office, Career Development, Alumni, and Parent relations. After spending an hour putting LinkedIn to the test we decided that it was the tool for Gettysburg to use to connect our audiences professionally. We had about 1150 people in the Gettysburg College group on Feb 1. We renamed the group the Gettysburg College Professional Network and had a goal to increase the number of people in the group to 1,832 (the year the college was founded) by April 7 (founders day).

Our campaign was a huge success and we ended with over 1,900 users. As of today we have close to 2,100 users and have created an active community. Users have posted questions ranging from networking in a new city to what kind of events our regional alumni clubs should be hosting. Alumni are posting jobs available in their companies and younger alumni have reported finding jobs and contacts through the network.

One of the most interesting things that we have seen are the number of new Class of 2014 parents who not only want to join but already are asking to host internships on behalf of the College.

As a free tool that gives us the ability to connect all of our audiences we could not have designed a better system. Career Development and Alumni Relations have taken clear ownership over the network as well and have begun weaving it into their yearly communication plans.

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16 Responses to LinkedIn as an alumni connection tool

  1. Good move overall to promote LinkedIn’s network-building capability across the campus community – not just among alumni. This has been potentially viable, especially for small colleges, since LinkedIn introduced its Groups function four or five years ago. I do, however, disagree when you say, “we could not have designed a better system.” You could have! There are a lot of flaws and missing features in LinkedIn, mostly on the reporting and group administration side (i.e., the group members won’t miss them, but as your group grows in size and activity, you sure will).

    Keep us posted on the pros and cons of this tool. Overall, your willingness and ability to collaborate across internal silos is what will make the group valuable to the institution. Whether it’s valuable to the members depends on whether they know about, use it, and have clear expectations for realistic networking outcomes.

  2. Paul Redfern says:

    Andy – you are probably right and I should amend my post to say

    “we could not have designed a better system given our budgetary constraints and quick implementation time.”

    thanks for the comment -

  3. Travis says:

    Good to see you blogging again. Great way to bring together so many different audiences for a single purpose. Some good results for such a short period of the tool being implemented too. I passed this on to my friends at my friends at my alma mater’s Career Service office.

  4. This example is such a clean and easy use of Social Media; it’s no wonder that it is successful. And, as Andy S. says, the bringing together of groups across campus is a big plus, too. That aspect of what you’ve done increases my conviction that campuses need to transition their Communication/Marketing Department structure more towards the model that uses Community Managers to advance overall brand.

  5. By the way, there’s a discussion about this same topic taking place on the CASE discussion board on LinkedIn right now.

  6. Mauro Mondino says:

    At first the idea looks good. LinkedIn is quite easy to use and free of charge.
    However, a rather important medium-term issue is alumni and current students’ participation rate to the group. I suspect the participation rate figures are quite low, maybe less than 10% for the last 10 years’ graduates. Further, how would you manage the spread of alumni across different platforms (LinkedIn, myGettysburg and God knows what’s coming next..)? To me this question is key for strategic alumni planning.

  7. Paul Redfern says:

    Mauro – thanks for the comment – We have about 24,000 alumni so our participation rate is a less than 10% but our group includes parents/faculty/staff/students as well.

    I think you ask a good question we do offer an alumni only community in the myGettysburg tools but they are focused a little more on the things that you can’t do on facebook/LinkedIn and other social media tools.

    We decided long ago that you can’t compete with those tools.

  8. Bob Golobish says:

    Thank for this post. I will share it with our team.

    It is late spring, we are trying to apply a little “miracle grow” to our alumni group, which is called Marian University (formerly Marian College). We are a small university and our group is small.

    The alumni office took over management in October 2009 when group membership was 116. From October through May of this year, we used a variety of tactics to promote Linkedin to the MU community. On June 1, 2010, we had 253 members. The group had more than doubled in size.

    On June 1, we started a pretty aggressive recruiting effort. We assigned the project to a summer work study student. We contacted graduates, faculty, and staff in the group and encouraged them to reach out to their Marian University connections. Today, June 15, 2010, we have 274 members. We are going to wrap up the project on July 1. Our objective is to achieve a 20% increase for the month. So, we still have a ways to go.

    Again, thank you for sharing your effort.

  9. Mia Horninger says:

    We are trying to do something like this at Marian University, Indianapolis with our own alumni network. I would be interested to know what sort of tools you used in your campaign and how you were able to motivate users to utilize and participate in your professional network group more frequently.

    I have been working for the past two, nearly three weeks to increase our network size and have only increased it ten percent. I feel that we may be missing a vital tool.

    Any response would be much appreciated!

  10. Pat Donahue says:

    I agree with the comments on LinkedIn’s usefulness — and its limitations.

    Two observations in using it to reach out to alumni:

    1) When folks RSVP for events posted on LinkedIn, the no-show rate is much higher than with traditional means of response, although lower than with Facebook; and
    2) LinkedIn has been very helpful in locating alumni in specific regions/career fields/majors, for career panels, mentor nights, etc., and also learning about other interest groups they’re connected to.

  11. Paul Redfern says:

    Mia,

    We had a pretty comprehensive communications plan which included promotion in our monthly all alumni and parent e-newsletters, printed parent newsletters, Facebook, direct email to young alumni, homepage features, etc…

    Our promotion spanned about 2 months Feb 1 to April 7.

    hope this helps
    Paul

  12. I agree 100% with Pat on this one. We tried the RSVP route on LinkedIn with one of our clients and the no-show rate was much higher then the traditional approach. Probably wont use it again.

  13. Jason Parker says:

    I, for one, was excited to hear about the project. I do, however, think that we need to host on- and off-campus trainings as well as consider webinar trainings. The more invidiuals understand the value of linked in, the more they will add to discussions and the more the group becomes a community.

    You do have a great vision for Gettysburg–glad to know I wasn’t the only one promoting social media usage.

  14. I agree that Linkedin is a great tool for connecting people professionally. We use it among our language school students and everyone is quite happy to be a part of it. Some people are used to other social networks, but Linkedin tends to be more a professional and serious platform. We also use it for professional connections we make with other schools and agents.

  15. [...] The busiest day of the year was May 26th with 138 views. The most popular post that day was LinkedIn as an alumni connection tool. [...]

  16. [...] In May of last year I wrote a post titled:  LinkedIn as an alumni connection tool [...]

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