How Cornell University Measures Social Engagement and Delivers Customized Content to Thousands of Alumni

Who

The digital team within Cornell University’s Alumni Affairs & Development office oversees communication with 255,000 graduates via the alumni website, email, and social media.

Challenge

Cornell was implementing an alumni engagement dashboard and wanted to measure social media interactions. But with more than one million Facebook interactions to analyze, the university needed an automated way to connect each reaction, like, and comment to alumni profiles in its database in order to calculate the impact of the team’s digital outreach.

Why EverTrue

With its ability to tie Facebook engagement to individual constituents and to map a person’s social history with the university, EverTrue was the solution Cornell needed to build a more complete alumni engagement dashboard.

EverTrue represents a leap forward for alumni relations and development. With tools like this, we can see what people are interested in right now and produce a better user experience for alumni.

Andrew Gossen
Andrew Gossen
Andrew Gossen, Executive Director of Digital for Cornell University Alumni Affairs & Development

“We wanted a tool that could help show that alumni are still engaging with us even if they don’t attend an event,” Mike O’Neill, associate director of digital engagement, said. “The value is getting data to prove that and the ability to pull more detailed reports about our alumni. These reports help us target them more efficiently in our Facebook posts and ads.”

During the 2016-17 fiscal year, Cornell identified 8,070 alumni who were only engaged with the institution digitally—representing nine percent of the total number of engaged graduates. These Cornellians interacted with content from university Facebook pages or attended its live stream events, but didn’t appear on the “traditional engagement radar” by attending an event, making a gift, or volunteering.

“The social information shows us how our alumni are interacting with us,” Mike said. “This is information that we can’t get anywhere else, and that alone is valuable to what we’re doing.

Cornell defines an engaged Facebook constituent as someone who has liked five or more posts or who has made at least one comment on its pages within the current fiscal year.

Cornell University Facebook Post - EverTrueThis image displays mock data

The team doesn’t stop at merely measuring this engagement. Cornell takes the next step and exports lists of these alumni from EverTrue to use in further outreach via Facebook ads or email marketing campaigns as a way to move alumni through the engagement funnel.

“We’re thinking about all the other stuff we want these people to do and focusing on that with our outreach to see if we can get them to bite,” Ashley Budd, director of digital marketing, said. “We’ll ramp up awareness and cultivation on social media to get this audience paying attention, then jump into their inbox or send a targeted Facebook ad with an offer when they’re more likely to take action.”

The team also uses EverTrue to build segments for annual fund and crowdfunding appeals. A few weeks before a campaign is due to launch, Mike and Ashley share relevant content on Facebook. Using EverTrue, they can then track people who like or comment on the post and build a list of interested prospects to solicit.

Cornell continues to invest in social outreach to engage greater numbers of alumni, families, and friends by finding creative ways to grab their attention online, whether it’s broadcasting lectures by rocket scientists, posting alumni success stories, or even sharing photos of puppies who are being trained at the school’s Guiding Eyes for the Blind program.

“EverTrue represents a leap forward for alumni relations and development,” Andrew Gossen, executive director of digital, said. “With tools like this, we can see what people are interested in right now and produce a better user experience for alumni.”

Click here to learn more about tracking social engagement with the EverTrue Platform.

Social data from EverTrue is information that we can’t get anywhere else, and that alone is valuable to what we’re doing.

Mike ONeill, Cornell University
Mike O’Neill
Mike O'Neill, Associate Director of Digital Engagement for Cornell University Alumni Affairs & Development