As part of the #NetTalks Alumni Engagement Webinar Series, Beth Kanter, nonprofit social media and engagement guru, taught an important lesson during her recent presentation: you must invest in building your online alumni ecosystem, and then you can turn to activating it to achieve your stated goals.
You don’t just want people to “like” you. And you don’t actually want them to start engaging the moment they become alumni. And you don’t really want to share information about your program with them. Really.
- Because “liking” your Facebook page or your content is just the beginning. It’s potential, but it’s not the goal. You want alumni to follow you, engage, advocate for you, and donate. The “like” is merely one early step along this path.
- Because beginning to engage should happen before they become alumni – focus on developing long term relationships and mature communication channels that flow in both directions!
- And finally, because you want to be in conversation with alumni, not broadcasting information at them.
Building your online alumni ecosystem cannot be based on one-directional broadcasts, nor rest primarily on reminiscing about the past. The opportunity to leverage social media and networks is huge, but requires that we pivot our approach to be more empowering, more conversational, and more personal. (Join the next webinar with James Fowler on Feb. 19th to learn about “Mobilizing the Network: The Power of Friends”.)
Take this example from URJ Camp Kalsman: When beginning to hire staff for the summer, they turned to their alumni (and potentially current older campers and parents of current campers) on Facebook to ask, “We are in the midst of hiring our summer staff and we want to hear from you! What do you love to see in a camp counselor?” By asking a question, the camp invites engagement, values the perspective and experience of alumni, and gains important insight for their future hiring. They’ve moved from “liking” to “engaging” and those who respond actually may influence the experience of future campers.
Beth also showed several examples from schools that are using reminiscing as an entry point to strengthen their network. Their “Throwback Thursday” photos are intended to go beyond reminiscing – they are getting alumni to tag their friends in the group photos, which creates or re-creates a strong group dynamic and builds energy.” It’s not about the school, it’s about the relationships that were fostered there. The Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn, NY had 78 comments on a photo from the 1970′s, as alumni talked with each other and reconnected with old friends.
Moving from engagement to activation, The Jewish Community High School of the Bay featured photos of beloved teachers and coaches holding signs (“Coach says GIVE!”) that prompted alumni to join in the communal effort to reach their fundraising goal – tagging friends to contribute and asking for photos of their favorite faculty.
Social media is social as much (or more so) than it is media. As a professional seeking to engage and activate your alumni community, consider yourself more “party host” than “alumni magazine editor”. To play this role, you must have the right tools in your toolbox and know how to use them. However, doing it well goes far beyond technical proficiency. Be a good listener, steward conversations, and empower your biggest fans to enrich the network with their voice, actions and relationships.
If you missed Beth’s webinar, view her presentation here. To learn more about activating an alumni network, join the next #NetTalks webinar with James Fowler on Feb. 19 on “Mobilizing the Network: The Power of Friends”. Register here.
I was putting together a presentation for Jewish communal folks on developing an effective professional presence online, including some bits about the personal/professional continuum, some about reputation management, some about privacy vs. publicy, and other technical tips. Before I finished the presentation, I asked my network: What advice would you give? Here are their answers…
Rebecca: Creating separate lists for professional contacts and adjusting privacy settings accordingly.
Arnie: Ask questions consistently. Value people’s responses. Engage them in conversation. Respect them. Maintain a sense of humor and a sense of perspective.
Deborah: Just like in in-person communication, consider verbal, vocal (tone) and non-verbal (appearance). They all make an impact.
Stephanie: Nothing is truly personal. You must always represent yourself professionally, even in your personal spaces (i.e., your hobby blog, your “personal” Twitter.
Liz: Don’t just “sell” your programs and/or yourself. Also answer others’ posts, share others’ ideas/posts, participate in the on-line community.
Peter: Be a digital role model (easier said then done).
Ken: Don’t just talk to your own pals. Better yet: try and make new pals, as often as possible.
Lisa: Be generous — respond when people ask or share. Also, re Stephanie’s comment which I 100% agree with, look at the ratios of personal sharing, professional sharing/promoting, generosity/appreciation for others, network engagement, etc. Only a small percentage should be the cute things your kids said (that don’t relate to anything else), otherwise professional contacts will have a hard time taking you seriously. All about the ratios.
Mimi: Connecting with people authentically, keeping things light/funny (the new professional) and warm! AUTHENTIC. GENUINE. REAL. HONEST. (Grabbing my thesuarus here ;)).
Asaf: To the point about reputation maintenance online, I think the best term is personal branding. I think from a professional point of view, people should consider their online presence as supporting the brand that is them. This relates to what they post,where they post, and to whom they post.
Isaac: To be a brand you need to have a consistent voice, tone, message and point of view. To be a personal brand, the above needs to be authentic and closely connected to your actual personality and style.
Big thanks to everyone who contributed to this post! Check out the presentation here.
What advice would YOU give?
There are over 500,000,000 users on Twitter – and I am one of them.
As President of a family foundation, I spend my day managing the foundation’s operations and staff, working with partners in the philanthropic and organizational world, and searching for new, innovative projects to invest in. Our foundation advocates for and advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the Jewish community. Our focus is on creating lasting change and I work tirelessly in pursuit of creating a fair and flourishing community.
I speak at conferences, conduct interviews with journalists, meet with legislators, and do whatever is necessary to push the issue of inclusion onto the agenda. Like you, I have a very full schedule filled with meetings, phone calls, site visits, and still more meetings.
And then I started tweeting.
Most of my philanthropic friends and foundation colleagues do not use social media, for a variety of reasons. I myself was unsure of how effective Twitter could be in helping to change the status quo. But I embarked on this experiment six months ago to see if I can build community around the issues the foundation advocates for. I understood that it takes time to build an audience and find one’s voice online. Change does not happen overnight.
Of utmost importance was having a Twitter strategy in place. I knew in advance who the influencers I wanted to engage were and connect with, what type of content to push out. Certainly I had much to learn: how to engage, how to effectively use the platform, when and how to post and how to conduct conversations. Through trial and error I have learned and the early results are encouraging – there has been a definite increase in the number of conversations, retweet and mentions. (Notice I didn’t mention number of followers- that’s not a metric I’m using to measure success). Additionally, my tweeting has brought increased exposure for our foundation’s official account and we have seen a marked upswing in traffic to our blog.
So far, so good.
People ask me why I tweet – especially those who think Twitter is where people post about their morning coffee! I see Twitter as an integral tool to furthering our mission. Here’s why:
- Tweeting allows me to see who the players and influencers in this field are. Connecting with them allows us to share experiences and knowledge.
- Twitter is helping to position our foundation as a thought leader in the inclusion arena.
- It allows me to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and raise awareness of the issue.
- By showcasing the wonderful work being done by our partners and grantees, we advance their individual missions and contribute to “grantmaking beyond the buck.”
- Social media opens my eyes to other projects out there, the latest news and trends and that allows us to have a finger on the pulse and assist us in becoming a smarter funder.
The central reason why I tweet is because people connect to other people. Putting a face on our foundation’s activities helps create a more intimate conversation and can bring more people into the fold. People connect to my passion, my sense of urgency to create sustainable change and as President, I have a unique voice on the issue people want to hear.
Funding innovative projects is not enough – we want to move the needle. The value of social media is the ability to reach the masses, meet people where they are hanging out and engage them. I want to tap into the energy and passion young people have for issues of social justice and encourage them to become involved, advocate and be at the forefront of change in society. I want to use my newfound connections to urge organizational leaders to make their communities more inclusive.
When I look back in a year or two, I hope to have raised awareness and to have caused more people in the Jewish community to realize the importance of the issue. This will go a long way to realizing our foundation’s mission, one tweet at a time.
Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla of social media - ignore it at your own risk. For most of us, at least SOME of our audience/community is active on Facebook, so it's important to be there, reach the right people, and be seen consistently. But recent changes to the way Facebook functions are making it harder for your fans to see your posts and engage with them. Putting a small budget towards Facebook advertising can help keep your engagement up. With that in mind, here's a short introduction to a quick, easy way to make sure your posts get seen by more of your people. Additional resources are posted below. Check it out, and let us know if you give it a try!
And some additional resources:
This Tuesday, the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy cohort participated in a Twitter tutorial, digging into the tool and exploring ways of maturing your practice on Twitter. Among other things, we talked about ways schools can develop new content to share on this fast-paced, link-driven network. Here are our top twenty. What are your suggestions?
20 fun ideas for Twitter content:
- Post your school's sports scores, plays and results.
- Tweet photos and bios of your new teachers.
- Post your daily lunch or snack menu if you have one.
- Tweet school cancelations or delays due to weather.
- Tweet articles from local newspapers that discuss your school or issues you care about.
- Share a classroom highlight or insight with a photo or Vine video.
- Tweet a unique school picture of the day for a caption contest.
- Take photos of rehearsals for a school play or concert and/or post a short Vine video to encourage people to attend.
- Tweet quotes from school meetings that are informational or memorable.
- Tweet job openings at your school.
- Tweet upcoming admission, alumni, and other events as reminders.
- Gather "Questions of the Day" from teachers to post (for students as an assignment, or just to model curiosity and learning for your community!).
- Develop a personal learning network by following colleagues and experts in your area (education, Jewish education, specific ages or subjects).
- Conduct research using Twitter Search. Ask questions to tap your network.
- Create a Twitter List of Alumni, and share it!
- Curate and retweet items from related sources (parenting, development, local, Jewish, etc.).
- Do #FF (Follow Friday), #SS (Shabbat Shalom) and other weekly traditions.
- Share news about alumni and their accomplishments.
- Welcome new families to your school community.
- Follow other teachers, schools, alumni, and people in your community and listen to how they use Twitter.
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