5 Alumni Reunion Ideas to Upgrade Your Game in 2016

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In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, what happens at reunion doesn’t necessarily stay there. And that’s a good thing for your alumni relations team. In fact, we took a deep dive to compare digital vs. in-person alumni engagement to prove just how important digital engagement should be for your institution. 

Although sometimes you wish alumni didn’t feel the need to share all the debauchery, having a robust amount of user-generated content can never hurt.

But what can you do beyond the tweets and Instagram updates to keep your alumni enjoying the weekend? Here are five alumni reunion ideas to upgrade your game in 2016.

1. Create a Storifiable Moment


You’ve got to organize all those Instagrams and tweets somehow, right? Alumni love being included in the official Storify.

2016 Step Further:

Create an official photo for each reunion class. For instance, Boston College invites freshman to participate in a class photo on the football field, which gets shared everywhere. Can you do the same with alumni? Communicate that you want to take a picture at a certain time and place. Invite a professional photographer. Use that photo in the Storify and on the web for next year. You’ve created a new tradition and one all alumni will look forward to.

2. Leverage Relationships With Alumni Ambassadors

via Arizona Alumni

What happens when you want to get the word out about an event? Do you just spray and pray? If you’re savvy with social media, you probably already know who your most socially engaged alumni are. You’ve enlisted their help as social media ambassadors for promoting events like alumni reunion.

2016 Step Further:

Invite your alumni ambassadors to come by your table and pick up a small gift while they are on campus. Meeting these alumni face-to-face and getting to know them on a personal level will help you succeed in your role. This works two-fold:

  1. It’s a gift from you—stewardship is something all donors and volunteers love.
  2. Other alumni will want to know how to get a gift. Guess who now has a list of new volunteers to help build online engagement?


 3. Use a Social Media-Specific Discount Code


Many colleges and universities use Facebook to their advantage. Cornell University has individual pages for every class and links to the appropriate Facebook page from the main reunion site. Oberlin College uses its Alumni Association Facebook page to remind alumni about early-bird registration deadlines.

2016 Step Further:

If you are trying to get alumni reengaged with your institution, do what any other brand would do: Offer a sale. Promote an early-bird discount for three weeks and provide the online code via Facebook only. My hypothesis is this:

  • More sign-ups towards the beginning of registration
  • More “likes” on your Facebook page
  • More engagement with your Facebook page in the future

If alumni know they can get special deals by following your institution on Facebook, they’ll do it. Plus, because of the additional eyeballs, you’ll get more engagement on the rest of your Facebook content—such as giving messages, campus news, and alumni spotlights.

4. Play That Funky Music


What’s a party without music? While I worked at Boston College, I made “Tailgate Mixes” for every football game—home and away. I’d add songs like “Carolina in My Mind” if the team was on the road at North Carolina State or “Eye of the Tiger” if we were playing Clemson University.

2016 Step Further:

Music is nostalgic. Memories can flood back from hearing just one chord. Make a Spotify playlist for your reunion attendees featuring the top songs from their years on campus. What was popular in 2006? What about 1981? Having individual playlists for each class is a great way to connect with your alumni.

Is it more work for you? Yes.

Does it have ROI? It’s hard to track—but it IS a great way to build relationships with alumni. Ask them for song suggestions and feedback about your playlist choices. The first stage of a relationship shouldn’t be a request for a donation. Think about the big picture here.

5. Experiment With Live Streaming


Everyone comes back for reunion, right? Not always.

Boston University’s (BU) Alumni Weekend page has an entire section dedicated to those who can’t return to campus. In it, BU encourages alumni to be there in spirit by following along on social media. But the Terriers go above and beyond: BU live streams certain events. If you want your alumni to feel connected to campus—no matter where in the world they are—live stream reunion.

2016 Step Further:

If you haven’t experimented with Periscope yet, now would be the time. For example, if a faculty member is speaking at the reunion, ask them if they will stay after and do a 10-minute Periscope session. Advertise the live stream to “those-here-in-spirit” and encourage them to prepare questions for the professor. See how many people engage with the live aspect.

Or, thanks to Facebook’s live streaming option, invite the faculty member to sit down and go live on Facebook after their talk. Ask questions submitted by alumni who are following along at home.

Alumni reunion may be all about tradition, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t explore new tactics for building alumni engagement around the event. Try something different and take these strategies for a test run at reunion 2016—you may be surprised how much your alumni appreciate it.

Stephanie St. Martin is the marketing content manager at The Ariel Group. Prior to this, she was the social media manager for Boston College University Advancement, i.e. the person behind @BCAlumni on social media. When she’s not in the digital marketing trenches, Steph can be found writing, playing/hosting trivia, and driving around the USA in hopes of seeing all 50 state capitol buildings. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter if you dare.

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