Why You Need More Than Social Media For Alumni Engagement


February 19, 2024

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

So your institution’s official social media pages are buzzing with activity. Followers keep coming,  engaging with your posts, and even tick ‘going’ on the events you put up – that’s a win! 

But are you relying too heavily on your official LinkedIn page or Facebook group at the expense of a sustainable alumni engagement strategy?

In this post, we'll share four reasons why colleges, high schools, and nonprofits need more than social media for epic engagement. Whether you're reveling in social media success or struggling with community building, we're here to help you take your alumni engagement program to the next level!

1. Boost Alumni Engagement by Owning Your Alumni Data

The more data you can harness, the more finely tuned and effective your approach becomes. But here’s the challenge—you have limited access when Facebook and LinkedIn own your alumni data, rather than your institution.  While you get a glimpse of your following and engagement statistics, there’s also the need to extract up-to-date information about your alumni.

Active alumni on social media regularly update their profiles with a treasure trove of information, including current phone numbers, addresses, and emails. Sadly, this goldmine of data is out of reach for syncing with your alumni database and alumni management tools.

When you rely solely on LinkedIn and Facebook for digital engagement, you're unable to fully leverage alumni data to continually enhance your engagement strategy. From tracking email deliverability to creating local chapters, to running text campaigns for fundraising, having this information is critical for your short-term and long-term community-building efforts.

By expanding beyond Facebook and LinkedIn, you retain ownership and control of your alumni data.

2. Take Control of Your Content Visibility

The algorithms of social media giants play a big role in determining the content displayed to users. Facebook, in particular, invests heavily to strike a balance between delivering a compelling user experience and maximizing profits.

A decade ago, every post you made would appear on nearly all of your followers' feeds.

This is called your “organic reach”– essentially, how many people see your posts for free, without you needing to pay for Facebook ad fees. However, over the years, organic reach on social media platforms has plummeted to almost negligible levels.

In Facebook's early days, when feeds were arranged chronologically, organic reach stood at a remarkable 100%. Now, the average reach for an organic Facebook post is at a meager 2.2%.

Consider this: even with a robust following of 2,000 on your alumni page, your posts may only be shown to as few as 44 people. Other platforms such as LinkedIn mirror this decline, where the average organic company content reach is also 2%

All of this said, we're not suggesting you choose one versus the other. While pushing content to feeds has limited exposure, people still want to see the latest when they visit your social media properties. So, having some presence on these sites is still important. 

Nevertheless, social media presence alone does not constitute a comprehensive engagement strategy. Consider additional initiatives, such as assigning chapter leaders to verify members' email validity. Then ensure your chapter or central marketing and communications teams send out regular updates and invitations to all alumni events. 

A private alumni community gives you maximum control of your content’s organic reach. You set and curate the messaging, all while managing promotion and distribution channels. 

3. Social Media is a Channel, Not a Platform 

If you're wondering "How can our private community possibly compete with Facebook and LinkedIn?" let us reassure you – these platforms are not your competitors but rather marketing channels. 

Like email and printed periodicals, social media platforms are advertising and communication channels. But while investing time and even resources in social media is essential, it's just one piece of the marketing mix. 

Determining how much time and money to spend on it requires careful consideration of the ROI vis-a-vis your broader alumni engagement strategy. Is your marketing site up-to-date?  What are the top 5 or 10 scenarios for an alumni to want to connect with you? Have you defined successful user journeys for each of them to be achieved through your web properties?  

Social media is a tool, not a platform. Recognizing the importance of a diverse approach enables you to use the right mix for your alumni data, connectivity, and engagement goals.

4. Social Media Works Best as a Gateway to Your Alumni Community

Successful alumni engagement does not require choosing between social media and a private community; both are needed. When you promote exclusive content from your private community on social media, it becomes an effective means to direct members to the setting where you own the data and control the content.  

A customized alumni engagement platform offers richer content, meaningful connections, and exclusive experiences beyond mainstream social media limits. 

However, “meeting them where they are at” means maintaining a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and even Instagram or X. Just make sure to define internally which types of content will be posted on each property to streamline communications and avoid redundancy.

By recognizing social platforms as the starting point rather than the destination, you position your institution to unlock the full potential of alumni engagement.  

Leveling Up from Social Media

In both the online and offline world, we naturally form social networks spanning various connections. However, your member community should transcend these loose ties, as everyone shares a common tie to your organization. With strong leadership and effective communication, they can have a common vision and goal. 

While social media is an effective catalyst to kickstart and support an alumni community, it is only the first step in building a unified digital engagement strategy. The essence of your community lies in nurturing meaningful interactions, fostering connections, and providing valuable resources and opportunities for your members—realms where social media alone has limitations.

A world of engagement and fundraising success opens up when you take a systematic approach to engaging every alum in your database. Explore 360Alumni's online community platform and discover new ways to foster lasting connections with your members.

Edited by Joy Therese Gomez

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