So, your advancement office has a great social media plan. You’re pushing out quality content, and your alumni are sharing and re-tweeting your posts using hashtags.
But how can you amplify that social chatter and get even more alumni engaging with you online? How can you increase the reach of your content—especially when a portion of your alumni base isn’t even using social media? (Don’t count out alumni who aren’t on social media; you just have to get a little more creative about how and where you surface the content to them.)
If these are the types of questions you grapple with every day, you may want to look into using social media walls. There are plenty of content curation tools available that can aggregate your best social media posts and display them in one place—whether on your website or on the big screen at an event.
Below are some of the ways that a social media wall can add value to your alumni engagement efforts, plus a few questions to ask yourself before you launch one for your institution.
Live Social Media Walls at Events
If you’ve ever been to a sports game, you’ve seen it before: it’s halftime, and a brightly lit Jumbotron is cycling through dozens of tweets from fans.
Content curation has been a tried-and-true tactic in the athletics world for a while now, and for good reason—the ability to display social media content on a Jumbotron makes TV timeouts and halftime shows that much more fun and engaging. Plus, because fans want to get featured on the big screen, they’re much more likely to use the hashtag and post about the event from their social media accounts in the first place.
Why not apply this type of technology to our alumni events?
You don’t need a Jumbotron or fancy equipment to make it work; a few TV screens or a projector will do. Just think about the impact of aggregating all of the amazing thoughts your alumni are sharing on social media. They’re excited to be at your event—so showcase that excitement!
Whether it’s reunion or a campaign kickoff, a live social media screen can build more buzz around the event and put a much-deserved spotlight on your most engaged alumni.
Social Media Curation for Your Website
Many institutions have also started placing social media walls on their websites (and microsites) to support giving days and other campus events. Just like with content curation for events, these walls can capture and display live social media activity from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.
Let’s look at a few ways that schools are using social media walls on their websites.
University of Washington
This year, the University of Washington created a social wall focused on graduation, encouraging seniors and their families and friends to post pictures of the weekend using the UW graduation hashtag. For those who couldn’t be there in person, the wall helped capture and spread the excitement of the event.
College of Charleston
The College of Charleston has a number of different feeds on its “social stream,” including one called “I Want Your Job” that highlights alumni who have interesting or unique careers.
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University’s social media wall pulls in content from a variety of university-run social media platforms (even Flickr!) to keep website visitors in touch with their latest and greatest content.
SUNY New Paltz
On SUNY New Paltz’s “social media hub,” they do a fantastic job of sourcing content from both student and university-run social feeds to show off what’s happening across campus.
Thinking About Launching Your School’s First Social Media Wall?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you get started:
- Do you want to showcase your school’s official social media content, or do you want to pull in content from alumni and friends of the school through hashtags? Showcasing your administration’s social media feeds is simple to set up and more cost effective, while collecting content via hashtags may require an additional investment in promoting certain hashtags amongst your followers.
- Where are you going to place your social wall? To get the most out of your social wall, you’ll want to put it on a webpage that gets solid traffic. For example, if alumni only visit your development page when they want to make a gift, that may not be the best place for your social wall. Rather, put it on a page that you know gets a lot of alumni traction.
- Do you have enough activity to warrant implementing a social wall? If you’re going to launch a social wall that pulls content from student and alumni accounts, then it’s imperative to have the infrastructure and strategies in place to stimulate more content. Most higher ed institutions cannot take a “sit back and watch” approach. You need to cultivate social media activity through social media ambassador programs, signage on campus, student interns, and cleverly crafted marketing campaigns.
Once you’ve answered these questions and you are confident in your social media presence, your next step should be to research social media wall tools and determine how they might support your office’s engagement and fundraising goals. From boosting online engagement to bringing non-social media users into the conversation, content curation via social walls could be a powerful way to amplify your institution’s brand and mission.
Tim Ponisciak is director of graduate alumni relations at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. Tim also runs the blog Alumni Catalyst and is passionate about promoting how higher-ed institutions can learn from marketing agencies, advertising agencies, and great brands. Tim loves old movies and board games, and is currently trying to visit all 30 major league ballparks.