Looking to Activate Your Alumni? Take a Cue from Rollins College.

These days, not having a social media presence for your organization is almost like not existing at all; your alums belong to social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest—the list seems endless. Connecting with them on these platforms, then, should be a top priority for your advancement team. Not only does social media help strengthen bonds with constituents but social media has also been proven to deliver ROI on marketing efforts. Best of all, alumni who are engaged with your institution online are more likely to give.

Rollins College, a private liberal arts school in sunny Florida, has taken full advantage of social media’s benefits. 33% of Rollins’ alumni graduated in the last 10 years, and the college’s Alumni Relations team used social media as a new outlet to reach and activate its Millennial demographic.

We got the inside scoop on Rollins’ social media strategy from Rollins’ Director of Alumni Relations Cat Hackenberg. She and her team created Facebook and LinkedIn pages specifically for their alumni community with incredible results.

Treat Your Facebook Fans as Friends, Not Donors

There’s always a conversation happening on the Rollins Alumni Facebook page. That’s thanks, in great part, to Program Coordinator Lindsay Walker. With over 3,000 fans and over 11,000 likes on all its posts combined, the page is buzzing with activity. Alumni turn to the page on a daily basis for news, announcements, and entertaining posts that help them remember their time at Rollins.

To keep up this high level of engagement, Lindsay sticks to a smart content strategy that “aims to create a positive connection with the college,” according to Cat. She and her team specifically do not use Facebook as a platform to solicit giving. Instead, they use it as a medium to educate alums on why it’s important to give. Alumni, now conditioned to recognize (and ignore) ads on Facebook, respond more favorably to culture-heavy content than direct asks, as Rollins can attest.

Here are the components that Rollins uses to create its friendly, engaging posts:

Strong, Fresh Cover Photos

The Rollins advancement team regularly changes its Facebook cover photo to reflect upcoming events or holiday seasons. Your cover photo is the first image alumni see when visiting your Facebook page—why not tell them about the next big thing happening at your school?! From promoting Alumni Weekend to wishing fans a happy Valentine’s Day, Rollins uses high-quality, custom-designed cover photos to spruce up the page. Most importantly, though, each cover photo is deliberate and fits into Rollins’ greater alumni relations strategy.

Don’t have dedicated team resources to design your cover photos? Try free programs like Smilebox and Pagemodo, which provide templates and guide you through customized cover photo creation.

Creative, Conversational Posts

As with its cover photo, Rollins makes sure that each and every status update contributes to a broader content strategy. Among other strategic guidelines, posts encourage likes and comments, educate the audience on the impact of giving, and/or reinforce a positive relationship between Rollins fans and the college.

Cat and her team are sure not to let these guidelines limit their creativity. A sampling of their posts during a given week might include spotlights on awesome alumni, #TBT (aka Throwback Thursday) posts, games and giveaways, and a slew of other content. To top it off, the Rollins team always uses photos to accompany the text. As a general rule, Facebook posts with photos perform better for likes, comments, and shares when compared to copy-only posts. Plus, who doesn’t love a gorgeous shot of campus scenery??

Timely Responses to Audience Interaction

With so many creative and interactive posts, Rollins’ page is constantly lighting up with likes and comments from alumni, and the Rollins team makes sure that the conversation is never just a one-way street. They listen to what fans are saying and keep them well-informed. They reciprocate fans’ efforts and enthusiasm by liking every comment and, when appropriate, responding to comments and questions. This helps build a rapport with alumni, create trust, and encourage further engagement.

Mandatory Ads and Post Promotion

Rollins is also ahead of the game when it comes to budgeting for Facebook. The team understands that it can’t rely solely on organic reach to run a successful page, especially now that Facebook has deliberately limited organic reach. Accordingly, a significant part of the Rollins strategy includes setting aside funds for Facebook ads and post promotions to ensure that they reach the largest audience possible.

For example, using Facebook’s paid “Boost Post” feature, Rollins can give wide exposure to posts about important alumni events like Alumni Weekend as they approach.

If your dedicated Facebook budget doesn’t give you the flexibility to run similar ad and promotion campaigns, read our post to learn why “Your School’s Facebook Advertising Budget Should be 10x Bigger.”

Use LinkedIn to Unify and Connect Your Alumni

Cat and her team have had incredible success on LinkedIn, as well, thanks to a somewhat unorthodox move. They created a single LinkedIn group for all of Rollins’ alumni, regardless of their undergraduate or graduate affiliations. Rollins’ perspective is that all of its alumni share the common bond of experiencing Rollins, so why segment them? Rollins’ unified approach on LinkedIn, aligned with the “One Rollins” philosophy, facilitates connections between all of the college’s alums, helping them more easily network with each other.

And the single page implementation has worked:  Membership in the LinkedIn group has grown by 50% since Cat joined the Rollins alumni relations team; there are now nearly 5,000 members (and growing!). You, too, can grow your own LinkedIn alumni group in just minutes—we’ll show you how with our step-by-step guide.

What’s next for Rollins on LinkedIn? The team is experimenting with regional and interest-based subgroups within their alumni group to offer more focused networking opportunities for alumni.

Whether your office is social media savvy or just entering the socialsphere, Rollins College’s Facebook and LinkedIn tactics are great springboards for your own alumni relations success. In addition to fostering relationships between your school and its alumni (and your alumni with each other), Facebook and LinkedIn should be key components of your Social Donor Management. Click here to learn more about how social media can help give you dramatically better alumni data.

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