Sam Huleatt, IntelliGrad.com
Despite rapid advances in online social networking, higher education continues to view online networks more as a threat than as an opportunity.
Schools work diligently to engage their alumni and build loyalty through traditional channels like: alumni homepages, digital newsletters, print magazines, telemarketing campaigns and alumni meet-ups. However, a reliance on only traditional marketing methods is missing out.
It is the opinion of IntelliGrad online networks hold the key to increased alumni loyalty, donations and mentorship.
Websites such as MySpace.com and Friendster.com allows users to set up individual user profiles, highlighting interests and emphasizing self-expression.
On Friendster, users can upload multiple photos, create blogs and indicate their relationship status. These designations enable discovery, allowing other users to search for then connect with other as friends, or associates.
MySpace.com, Friendster.com and Facebook.com report active member bases in the millions and MySpace.com was recently purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp.
Of particular interest to schools should be alumni can find and reconnect with on another. In fact, this already happens on other networks: the ability to search for classmates and other graduates by school name is common place.
While one might think this prominent feature involving school brands creates clear opportunities for partnership, but this has not been the case.
1) Major online social networking sites are profit oriented and have no need to work with schools
2) Major online networks present a potential liability to schools because they are not truly ’closed networks’ and
3) A school’s largest alumni segment, alumni over 30+ years of age tend not to be as interested in social networking
First, the online social networking websites are independently operated, indeed many are owned by large investors seeking maximize profits by generating advertising revenue. As such, websites such as MySpace.com have no incentive to partner with schools. Even Facebook.com whose entire business model derives from exploiting the brand equity of colleges and universities makes no attempt to ’give back’ to the schools they profit from.
Second, the major social networks are a major potential liability for schools. Since these websites are not truly closed circuit networks, anyone can access an account or pretend to be an alumnus. MySpace.com and Friendster.com have no way of verifying the validity of a user’s information.
Third, the majority of a school’s alumni base, those persons over the age of 30, continue to demonstrate an unwillingness to join the major online networks. However, we anticipate this will change. In fact IntelliGrad is designed to appeal to a slightly older demographic by focusing on the functionality desired by business professionals of all ages.