#CASECMT: social networking for alumni groups

The original post contained some incorrect information about Caltech’s alumni base. This updated post reflects the correct numbers. The offending blogger has been duly reprimanded.

Once again I’ve fallen behind on my plans to summarize last week’s CASE Conference on Communications, Marketing and Technology. But you know how it is, once you get back to the office and get sucked in. So it goes.


Elizabeth Allen of the Caltech Alumni Association (and recent guest blogger in this space) put together a nice presentation on how alumni groups can use social networks to connect with alumni. She focused on three social networks Caltech Alumni Association is using– LinkedIn, Facebook and the photo- and video-sharing network Flickr. I was most interested in the LinkedIn angle, since that’s the network many people tap for connecting professionally.

Caltech Alumni started the LinkedIn group in 2005 without a lot of fanfare. According to Liz, Caltech sent two email newsletters to some 20,000 13,000 alumni with known email addresses, and also worked with LinkedIn to send a note to LinkedIn members who indicated they were Caltech alumni. (There’s also a link to and description of the LinkedIn group from the alumni association website.) From those low-cost efforts, Caltech Alumni has a LinkedIn group of 2,017, or 10 15.5 percent of the emailable alumni. (Update: Caltech has about 20,000 alumni in total, not 20,000 emailable, as I originally stated in this post. Caltech has email for about 13,000 of those alumni. Thanks, Liz, for setting the record straight.)

Why does this work for Caltech? In one sense, it makes the association more relevant, because through LinkedIn the association is facilitating global connections. Alumni from across the globe are part of the Caltech organization even if they live in regions where no alumni chapter exist. Also, using LinkedIn leverages that site’s mission of helping people build business and employment networks — something that’s important for a technological university like Caltech. (This is a model that could work for our campus, since many of our graduates also are in the science and engineering fields.)

Caltech also uses Facebook (with an alumni group and an alumni page, where Liz can send RSS feeds of events) and Flickr for sharing photos of events, etc. Caltech made a conscious decision to use third-party social networks instead of creating a separate, exclusive network hosted by the alumni association. The reasons: third-party validation (especially from LinkedIn, I would assume), and most alumni who are into social networks are already online in those venues, so why make them create yet another password and log in yet another time?

If anyone has questions about Caltech’s use of social networking, I’m sure Liz would be happy to respond. You may email her at elizabeth AT alumni.caltech.edu.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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