How Online Networking Events Can Help You Rally Your Alumni Community

Apr 29, 2015 - Joe Matar
Every alumni coordinator will tell you that in-person alumni networking events can be expensive, not to mention time-consuming. Traffic jams and personal commitments make events feasible only for alumni who are a stone’s throw from the chosen venue. The unfortunate result: often, all your time spent planning a great networking event ends with lackluster attendance. To make matters worse, sometimes alumni recognize that in-person chapter events aren’t well attended, and then decline opportunities to participate, creating a cycle of disengagement. Alumni often have a hard time seeing the value and resources available in their alumni group — and if they don’t attend networking events, they’re not likely to learn more about what you and the university have to offer. Regardless of your budget or the size of your alumni staff, your goal is simple: foster activity, engagement and success among your alumni… and let’s be honest, boosting alumni giving doesn’t hurt, either. Here’s how live online events can help you bring more energy to your alumni community, and why hosting one could be the best move you make. (Click here to tweet this advice.)

Social media is no longer the best alternative to in-person alumni events

Social media seems like an easy go-to to bolster alumni activity. But if you’re trying to build meaningful connections, social media can’t always deliver. Savvy schools have Facebook and Twitter accounts for their alumni associations, but neither tool is built for true engagement. It’s hard to cater to your new alumni, older alums, sports-lovers, business crew, and so on, when you only have 140 characters per tweet. Facebook and Twitter are particularly tricky for alumni networking because they’re primarily social tools — not networking tools. Beyond the fact that Facebook changes which posts rise to the top of your feed every two weeks (or so it seems), your alumni aren’t likely to interact on your page in a professional-networking capacity. Unless you can somehow create a spring-break-themed networking page... but we wouldn’t recommend it. LinkedIn is seen as a more professional social network, but its discussion tools don’t offer much insight into what participants want and how to encourage them to engage with others. Finally, you can’t overlook how hard it can be to keep track of social media interaction. If you think it’s challenging to keep track of Twitter followers or Facebook fans who majored in one topic, think about how those alumni feel when they’re interacting with your feed or page. How often have you left a comment on a LinkedIn discussion and never looked back? Your alumni do that, too — and engagement drops off before it’s truly begun.

Live online events attract more participants and result in better ROI

If you’re a bit fed up with trying to get social media to do the work for you, then it’s time to look at a live online networking event. Think of it as a chat room mashed up with speed networking. Every alum who attends gets to have one-on-one conversations with other alumni. You can bring together a certain group of alumni — business majors, for instance. Or, match up new alumni with an older group, or job seekers with recruiters. Hosting an online event comes with major perks for both you and your participants. It’s easy to see who attended, what their background was at your school, and what they are hoping to get out of the event. Alumni who join the conversation receive contact information for each person they chat with during the event, so there’s no awkward Googling later, and connections made during one-on-one conversations can truly last. Live online events don’t promote themselves, but social media channels are perfect for promoting these events. It’s so easy for someone to click a tweet or Facebook link and hop over to a short registration page. You’ll want to start promoting your online event at least a month in advance, but don’t forget other promotion methods too: a banner on your website, dedicated email to your alumni list, or maybe even some personal emails to active alumni. Online networking is undoubtedly here to stay. So whether you choose to use Brazen’s platform or another tool, get on board. Your alumni will thank you for it. Ginny Manocha is the Director of Accounts and Customer Success at Brazen. Ginny describes herself as curious learner and loves reading about new trends between business, technology, and marketing. Follow her @ginnymanocha or connect on LinkedIn.