Social media has made building international alumni programs easier than ever. As Allie Hill, director of international alumni relations at Emory University, puts it, "Social media has helped us connect with alumni who we didn't even know were living overseas."
She says that by doing targeted e-mail ads, they have been able to significantly increase the turnout at alumni events. "We have also been able to link graduating students to alumni through social media platforms like LinkedIn, which have resulted in jobs and internships," she says.
Kate Mickle, admissions director of MBA programs at the University of San Diego, says they also use LinkedIn to connect with alumni. "The most challenging aspect is making sure that our contact information for alumni is up-to-date. We have found that our school's LinkedIn group helps maintain those connections and sense of community. Alumni are usually very responsive and willing to help when they hear from us," she says.
International Alumni Coordinator Leo Harten says Green River Community College uses Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect with alumni. He also suggests focusing on country-specific platforms such as LinkHey or YuMe in Vietnam, and QQ or Weibo in China, the latter of which is particularly important as Facebook is banned in China. "Having our alumni in many different universities, cities, and countries, the easiest, most effective, and inexpensive way to reconnect is by using social media," he explains.
One way Harten uses social media is to invite alumni to events, such as recent gatherings in Indonesia and Hong Kong. Ninety alumni attended the event in Jakarta and 45 joined the event in Hong Kong. "About 90 percent of the invitation communication is using social media like Facebook or Twitter," Harten adds.
Gretchen Dobson, former senior associate director for domestic and international programs at Tufts University, reiterates that social media is integral to building alumni networks. She also suggests getting alumni involved with maintaining an institution's social media. "Institutions will build alumni Facebook or LinkedIn pages for alumni and, often, a strategy exists for increasing outreach with sub-sets of alumni such as classes, shared interest groups, and regional chapters. By encouraging alumni volunteers to share in the maintenance of these sites, alumni and staff create more opportunity to interact and an additional channel for sharing the news of the institution and the class, shared interest group, or regional chapter with their online members," she says.