Social Media 101 for Alumni Club Leaders

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This is the first of several posts intended to help you select, plan and share content on your social media. Social media has become a critical part of how universities and their club leaders connect with alumni.  It may even be a requirement that your University places on your chapter. We’ll tackle 4 topics in this series:

  • Which social media channels are right for your group?
  • Where can you get content for your social media and how frequently should you post to your social media?
  • How can you manage updates to all of your social media?
  • Tips for administering all your club’s social media

Spoiler alert! If you just want my recommendations without all the explanation, head on down to the bottom.

The Social Media Landscape

social-media-936543_1920So. Many. Options. There are so many options when it comes to selecting the right social media platform(s) for your club and so little time to manage them all. That’s why the key is to pick the ones that make the most sense for your group. You’ll hear me say throughout this series that you want to get maximum impact for minimum effort (a phrase I happily stole from Nigella Lawson).

I decided to go to the source – Google – to see the entire universe of social media platforms available and was amazed by the number. The vast majority won’t apply here so I’ve listed just the ones that may be candidates for your alumni club.

Social Media Platform Focus
Facebook General: photos, videos, blogs, apps.
Twitter General. Micro-blogging, RSS, updates
Instagram A photo and video sharing site.
LinkedIn Business and professional networking
Flikr Photo sharing, commenting, photography related networking, worldwide
Tumbler Microblogging platform and social networking website.
YouTube Video sharing, commenting.
Pinterest Online pinboard for organizing and sharing things you love
Google+ General
Snapchat Image messaging
1 Wikipedia, List of Social Networking Sites

Each of these has its strengths and weaknesses. And some, based on the focus, just may not be right for your group. So how do you know which ones you should pick?

Ask Yourself These Questions Before Picking A Social Media Platform

You can’t be everywhere and neither will your alumni base.  I suggest thinking about these three things when deciding which ones to pick:

  • On which social media platform are people, not just your alumni, most likely to “hang out?”
  • What are the demographics of the alumni in your area?
  • How much time do you have to manage your social media accounts?
  • Are there any social media platforms which don’t make sense for an alumni club?

Now let’s go find those answers!

Where Are People Hanging Out?

The table below will give you a good idea of the number of people that use each of the social media platforms and the demographics of each ones users. I know it seems overly scientific to look at this but my point is really this: you need to be where everyone is.  The reason is just the law of averages. The more people on the social media platform, the more likely some of those people will be your people. People that will want to hear about your club and its activities. And when the people who like, follow or connect with you on the platform see that info, they are likely to share that info with their followers and friends who may also be your people.  That’s the power of social media and why putting time into finding the right one(s) is kind of important.

Now more about knowing who your people are and where they are.

SMPlatform

2 Social Media Demographics for Marketers

Facebook Group vs Facebook Pages: What’s the Difference?

Most of us have a personal Facebook page. This is where you can post status updates, pictures and share content with your friends. The “standard” personal page cannot be used for non-personal content. In fact, Facebook will permanently shut down your page if you use it for anything other than personal reasons.Facebook has instead created 2 ways that groups and organizations can have a Facebook

Pages are for brands, businesses, and organizations to create a presence on Facebook, whereas profiles represent individual people. Anyone with an account can create a Page or help manage one, if they’ve been given a role on the Page like admin or editor. People who like a Page and their friends can get updates in News Feed. Other benefits? A custom call-to-action button, admins post as the organization rather than themselves, Facebook ad functionality, and you can connect it with other apps to expand its functionality.

Groups provide a space to communicate about shared interests with certain people. You can create a group for anything — your family reunion, your after-work sports team, your alumni club!  The benefits?  Members of the group can post and share content, all members of the group can be invited to Facebook events, and admins can customize the group’s privacy settings depending on who you want to be able to join and see the group.

3 Facebook Pages
4 Facebook Groups

What Are Your Demographics?

demographics
This is a sample of alumni ages using Class Year. Looks like we have a large number of alumni between the ages of 39-68. Where’s the best place to reach them? (Answer: Facebook)

It’s possible that you have taken over an existing group and you already have a sense of your demographics.  Look around. Who comes to your events? Who replies to emails or comments on your existing social media? Chances are you can get a feel for their general age and background based on those interactions. Or, likely, they’ve volunteered their class year so you already know their age!

But what if you’re just starting up a club? How will you know where to find your alumni? Here’s where I’m going to geek out on you a little bit. Ask your university to provide you with alumni data (woot!). Your coordinator has access to alumni records that can give you some clues as to what kinds of alumni you have in your area. You just have to ask for that data. Along with Name and Email address, make sure you ask them to include:

  • Class Year
  • City with Zip
  • Job title and company if available

These additional pieces of data can help you determine 1) the age of the majority of your alumni (see the image to the right), 2) what part of town they live in (urban, suburban or rural) and 3) if they are professionals, small business owners, retired, etc. This will help you pick a social media platform but it will also tell you a whole lot more (more on that in a different post).

How Much Time Do You Have?

You should only pick the number of social media accounts you are willing to manage. Or that you have the volunteers to manage. That number is likely 2-3. And if you think that’s a lot (it is), don’t worry because I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve in the 3rd part of this series to give you maximum impact with minimum effort!

The takeaway is that you needn’t feel like you must have every kind of account. It’s not practical. It’s better to well have tended social media pages than lots of them with little engagement.

mobile-phone-1917737_1920

What Platforms Don’t Make Sense For an Alumni Club

So are there any platforms you can immediately take off the list? I think so. You can always make the case for having any of these platforms but from my experience these seem like ones that don’t make sense.

  • Tumblr – Save blogging for your club website or skip blogs and create visual stories on Facebook or Instagram. They’re more engaging platforms and will have a wider audience there.
  • Flikr, Snapchat – Flikr, Snapchat or Instagram but not all three. I get that they are slightly different but still pick the one with more global usage and that attracts the demographic you are trying to reach. I don’t know much about Flikr and, frankly, I can’t figure out how to use Snapchat. 🙂
  • Pinterest – this platform is really best suited for business-to-consumer marketing and “vision boarding” rather than alumni communication. Skip it.
  • YouTube – and here I’m really meaning creating a YouTube channel and sharing it with your alumni. If video is really your thing then maybe but other platforms allow you to upload video (Facebook, Instagram) or post a link to a one-off video you’ve loaded to YouTube.
  • Google+ – just, no. There I said it.

There are so many options when it comes to selecting the right social media platform(s) for your club and so little time to manage them all. That’s why the key is to pick the ones that make the most sense for your group

My Social Media Recommendations

I’ve been managing social media for  alumni clubs for all of my 7 years in club leadership. Here’s what I would do if I had to start a new club:

  • Create a Facebook Pages account. Facebook has so many people on it every day that this is almost a requirement for any alumni club or non-profit.  But why do I recommend Pages? Because you have all the benefits of a business page like the call-to-action button and Facebook ads.  The downsides? Your alumni won’t be able to start posts or share content and you can’t invite the members of your page to an event. Groups is great for both of those things. What I DON’T recommend is having both a Facebook Pages and Groups account so pick one and go with it. You won’t regret either one.twitter-292994_1920
  • Create an Instagram account. A few years ago I might have suggested Twitter as your other account but Instagram is becoming the better 2nd social media platform for clubs. For instance, our club takes a lot of pictures at our events and it’s so easy to upload a picture, add a little text to it and share it with our alumni. And because we can cross-post to Facebook, one upload can do double duty. The demographic for Instagram is younger and this is a great way to pull them in. ALSO Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will let you know when your Facebook followers are on Instagram. Many of those followers will find you on Instagram and follow you there too.
  • LinkedIn – if you can manage a third platform AND you are in an urban area, add LinkedIn. This is a great way to connect with your urban professional alumni in a spot where they will likely be.
  • Twitter – I’ll leave that to you. You can “set it and forget it” as it were by connecting your Facebook account to Twitter. This won’t get you a big following and some of your long posts will be cut short but you’ll have it in times when you need it.
  • Forego the rest (unless you have someone who is passionate about them and willing to post to them) Who has that kind of time? Instead, use the above referenced social media sites as content for your primary ones.

That was quite some 101 overview but there’s more! Watch for the next post in this series on what type of content to post.

Disagree with something you’ve read here? I’d love to know about it. Send me a note.

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