Did you find this post because you applied the term “alumni engagement strategy” or something like it into the search field of your web browser? Maybe you searched for me, “Ryan Catherwood.” The former scenario is much more likely than the latter, I realize, but it’s true that I want you to think of me when you think of alumni engagement. My friends at Higher Ed Live want you to find me when you search for advancement or alumni engagement related topics too. We’re working together to utilize concepts in search engine marketing, personal branding and thought leadership in order to increase our visibility on the web. Hopefully, interesting people will introduce themselves to me and advertising/sponsorship business will come flooding in as a result of our combined efforts over time.
I believe we should all be taking a similar approach with our institutionally-based digital alumni engagement strategies. If we can help position our alumni as thought leaders or just make them more “searchable,” then everybody wins, right? It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Think of all the entrepreneurs, marketing pros, journalists, photographers, educators and business folk in your alumni base who might want to be found on the web! Then imagine all that professional advice as content on your site that might promote all your alumni programs and initiatives as a bi-product of that web traffic.
The first part of the challenge is to create a website that can be a home for potentially thousands of individual pieces of content. Then you’ve got to be able to curate it somehow and provide what amounts to digital archives attached to individual alumni contributors. Your central communications team might have a few thoughts on sharing all of that alumni-supplied content and how to construct guidelines. We’ve attempted to create this platform for the UVA Global Network here at the University of Virginia that relies on the magic of crowdsourcing content.
Now we’re at the part where we need to convince alumni and parents of U.Va. that our platform, the UVA Global Network, could and should be a big component of their own personal branding efforts. It helps to find a few personal branding gurus amongst the alumni population. I was lucky to find Alex Katzen (CLAS ’12) who understands the concept and wants to take it for a test drive. She wrote a great editorial called, “Managing Your Online Presence,” and it shows up in Google Search results on the second page when I search for her name. Here is a link to the digital archive we’ve created for her and any other member of Wahoo Nation. Over time, her regular content submissions should drive up search results of her name and lead interested people to her digital archive on the UVA Global Network site.
I think the other important step is to make content submission really easy and approachable for someone in 15 minutes or less. Not everyone has the time or desire to write lengthy editorials.
Ultimately, this is about developing and executing on a methodology for measuring digital alumni engagement. All of our content contributors are recorded as attendees of an ongoing digital event in our central database. Most universities record event attendance as a method to track and validate engagement on the road to giving.
I would love your thoughts and feedback both on this approach and the UVA Global Network website.