Measuring Alumni Engagement

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

Connecting with your alumni is only half the battle. How do you know when you have succeeded in your interactions? While you want to keep the lines of communication open between your higher institution and past graduates, you still want to make sure that the interactions you do have are meaningful.

Thankfully, there are a range of metrics and tools at your disposal to help you better understand the effectiveness of your engagement campaigns. By knowing which metrics to track and how to make sense of the data, you can be even more successful in connecting alumni to your college or university and seeing tangible results.

In this post, we are going to discuss which metrics you should be tracking and why they matter for your higher ed institution.

Alumni Participation

Alumni who actually participate - not just engage - are true assets to your institution. These past students not only talk about your program but also involve themselves on your campus. They may be student mentors or fundraising volunteers. Whatever role they play, they have faces that people actually know on campus.

While connecting with these graduates is always exciting, they don’t paint a true picture of what alumni engagement is for your school. Not everyone who is interested in helping out can do so. For instance, if your school is hosting a gala event, alumni need to be in town and available that evening to participate.

The best volunteer programs are those that are flexible and recognize that volunteers are splitting their time between work, family and other obligations. How do you reach out to these alumni and create programs that they will feel comfortable participating in?

Start by including a comment of “I wish I could volunteer, but…” on a volunteer form. This is an easy way to see how many alums are interested in donating their time but are unable to take part in what’s available. You can then reach out to this group specifically with ways they can get involved, such as through social media, online forums or guest posts.

In the end, alumni usually don’t mind being asked to volunteer or donate their time. The school they graduated from is a part of who they are. The key is offering a wide range of opportunities so that it’s easy for alumni to participate.

Social Media Discussions

Though it might look great to have tens of thousands of followers on your social media profiles, “likes” and “follows” are really just superficial metrics. In other words, it’s not the size of your fan base that matters but the engagement you see from it. It’s better to have 2,000 likes and lots of engagement rather than 20,000 likes and little interaction.

Even with a decent follower base, it can still be difficult to get alumni commenting on, liking and sharing your posts. People are bombarded by information these days, and many take a passive route when scrolling through their news feeds. In order to get alumni reaching for the “love” button, you need to tap into their emotion.

A great way to start with alumni social media engagement is to participate in #TBT days or other #LookingBack campaigns. People love to reminisce about their pasts, so dig up photos of your campus from back in the day, a copy of your campus brochures or even a class that wouldn’t exist anymore (i.e., Introduction to Shorthand). Don’t be afraid to embarrass some of your staff or faculty either. We’re confident that hairstyles and clothing trends have changed a lot - and you probably have visual proof of it!

For further engagement, ask alumni to share their own photos from their time at your school using a branded hashtag. This is a great way to not just get engagement from your own followers but bring in new ones from friends tagging friends, etc. Additionally, follow other smart practices such as soliciting feedback from alumni, responding to their comments and encouraging their support.

Email Connections

Sending out emails is a direct way to reach your alumni and share specific news with them, but how do you know that your emails are getting seen, let alone open and read?

It’s easy to get carried away with superficial metrics, such as the size of your subscriber list, but what you really need to focus on is the quality of your email list. Start by measuring metrics such as email opens, click through rates and call to action clicks. This will give you a clear picture as to how many alumni are actually opening your emails, reading through the content and taking steps to complete specific actions.

If you’re not seeing much engagement from your emails, it’s a clear sign that you need to revamp your higher ed email marketing strategy. Email is a highly effective marketing channel, but getting it to work isn’t always easy. Don’t give up, though. The key is discovering what types of content your alumni wants to read about and what CTAs they are likely to follow through with.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, alumni want to be connected to the college or university they graduated from, but they don’t want to feel pressured to donate time or money at every turn. That’s why it’s important to have a wide range of options that encourage students to engage with your school - even if it’s just posting a picture or contributing a quick post about their experience at your program.

Also do your part in recognizing your alums by featuring students who have done international work or highlighting alumni events like homecoming. If every interaction leads to “Donate Now,” you’re going to lose engagement along the way. Save this for when the time is right and keep your social media and email channels more focused on the alumni journey and how your school fits in.

About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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