Have you ever noticed that people don’t need to be told where to go once they are on the ice at a public skating rink? Everyone starts skating (or in my case – falling) in the same direction around the rink without having to given instructions. They don’t even post signs or paint arrows under the ice. Everyone intuitively understands that by skating in the same direction we’ll all have a good time.
When you put a group of like-minded people together in the right environment, they tend to start heading in the same direction without needing to be told what to do. The same can be true for your alumni. Frankly, the direction in which they skate is irrelevant. Here’s the punch line:
As long as your alumni are skating together they will find a way to create value for the group, the communities in which they live and – by extension – your college.
They key is to get your alumni on the ice together and let them take it from there. While there are many ways to approach this concept with your alumni, LinkedIn (specifically the Groups feature) is a great platform for doing so. In addition to being free, it eliminates geographic barriers that keep your alumni from interacting with one another. Additionally, LinkedIn will be appealing to your alumni given the professional networking opportunities.
Here are six easy steps to getting started:
1. Create a LinkedIn Account
If you College or Foundation does not already have an account, you will need to create one and share management access with the appropriate staff members.
2. Create the Alumni Group
Creating a group is fairly easy and can be done in less than half an hour. While you can and should create multiple groups for various professions, I recommend starting with one and growing from there as you develop your own best practices.
3. Recruit Group Leaders
The key is having the group created and moderated by alumni. Recruit a few alumni to lead the charge on bringing the group together. Let them set the tone of discussions, goals, projects, etc. Remember, the idea is to let the group evolve organically.
4. Provide Resources
Be sure to provide Group Leader with alumni contact lists and other helpful resources so they can reach out to peers on LinkedIn to invite them to participate in the group.
5. Check In
Certainly you will want to stay in touch with the Group leaders to support them as needed and it’s even okay to join the conversation on occasion. Keep in mind, however, the purpose of the LinkedIn Alumni Groups is to give your alumni ownership of the their interactions with one-another.
6. Don’t Ask for Anything
Avoid the temptation to flood the Alumni Groups on LinkedIn with volunteer opportunities and event invitations. Doing so may have the opposite effect and could discourage active involvement in the group if they feel tricked into being a captive audience. Over time, participation in the group will enhance their affinity for your college and increase their support and participation.
If you’re not sure how to use LinkedIn Groups or would like to talk through some of the finer details of the strategy, leave a comment or feel free to email me at email@example.com. I will gladly spend a little time helping you get started.