LinkedIn Makes Engaging with Alumni Easier than Ever
Leverage the power of LinkedIn to build relationships with your alumni.
Keeping in touch with alumni is always a challenge. Most of us maintain contact with individuals through a variety of channels, including Facebook, email, and phone, but these methods often require individual records scattered among a variety of databases stored in different places. For me, it’s even more difficult to keep all of this information in a single place because I oversee the admissions and recruiting function for three different graduate business programs. But then I discovered how I could leverage the power of LinkedIn.
About three years ago, I created LinkedIn alumni groups for each of my three programs. Creating groups in LinkedIn is easy – you’ll just need to choose whether you want the group to be “open” (allowing anyone to join) or “closed” (allowing people to join by invitation only). You can choose to have one or more group managers. LinkedIn group managers act as moderators and approve/deny requests to join groups. I made my LinkedIn alumni groups “closed” to help cut down on possible spam. Plus, I wanted to ensure that the audience for any messages I sent to the group was undiluted, and that my audiences consist only of alumni. I also set up each group as “opt in” only. I never “force add” alumni to any of the groups.
I invite students to join the LinkedIn alumni group upon matriculation for their autumn semester. I re-invite everyone in late spring, right after graduation, in case they missed the first invitation. Once a week throughout the year, I go into LinkedIn and find a random alumnus in each group. I write a note to that person along the lines of: "I saw that you recently were promoted to XYZ in ABC Company. Congratulations! In case you haven't heard, here are some things that have been going on in the program ..." Alumni are always appreciative to hear from someone at the college.
Small Time Commitment, Big Upside
I found that even with three programs, keeping in touch with alumni via LinkedIn takes no more than 15-20 minutes per week of my time. In addition to the individual notes to alumni, I can also post messages to the entire group. I try not to use this method too frequently – once a month at most, and I limit messages addressed to the entire group to topics of general interest (e.g. ranking news for the program, a significant announcement from the college, etc.). I use Facebook to contact certain alumni, but that really depends on the specific alumnus. If I know the alumnus very well and I know s/he is active on Facebook, I will use Facebook.
"In absence of this information, I default to using LinkedIn since its mission is to connect like-minded professionals, whereas Facebook is designed to be more informal/social – an important distinction."
Director of Admissions and Recruiting
My office does not have alumni in its routine communications mix, serving primarily prospective and admitted students, so communications with alumni tend to be ad hoc and on the “spur of the moment.” While I’m not currently measuring the effectiveness of this technique in a quantifiable way, I can definitely point to a growing list of alumni who are willing and eager to help with requests to speak to prospective students. I can say that when I reach out to an alumnus via LinkedIn, more than 75 percent of the time that person will reply with: “If there's anything I can do to help, let me know.” Voila! Another alumnus I can connect with in the future to speak to prospective students. A big plus for my recruiting.
About the Author
Robert Chabot is the director of Admissions and Recruiting at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.
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