Matrix: Impacts to Alumni Organizations In A World of Social Networks

I’m here in Phoenix Arizona as a keynote speaker to the Council of Alumni Associations Executives, these are the fine folks that manage alumni orginizations where you may have gone to college.  The reason I’ve been invited to speak as a professional speaker is their world, like many other industries, is being severely impacted by the social web.

All middlemen and aggregators are being impacted by social. Take for example, brokers, associations, sales people, classified listings, journalists, music labels, encyclopedias, and even analysts are feeling the threats of these simple –yet interruptive technologies.

Now, college grads may use social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with each other –without being part of fee based alumni organizations. Connecting directly to each other using a few mouse clicks, they can fuse lifelong bonds, help each other personally and professionally in near real time.

Yet, many savvy orgs have realized the opportunity. Altimeter Researcher, Christine Tran did research for my presentation and we found that some Alumni orgs like Stanford, Cal, Auburn, Purdue, and Brown are participating in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn with varying degrees of success.

I want to extend the conversation here online, and realized that a useful matrix would be very helpful in understanding the risks and opportunities that are abound in at least five different use cases, they are:

Impacts to Alumni Organizations In A World of Social Networks: Five Use Cases

Use Case Opportunities Risk Resources Needed
Do Nothing Ignorance is bliss, at least for the short term. Bypassed as alumns self connect rendering the org irrelevant. An updated resume.
Use tools to talk to them Try to lead the discussion, by using the same tools.  See how Caltech alumni and Rhode Island School of Design John Maeda on Twitter does Not saying anything of value to alumni members. Part time staff and committed resources in a budget-stricken environment
Advocacy Program Get existing alumni members to tell other non-members they should join through social tools, low cost marketing.  Read my checklist. Some may not want to evangelize, limited control of message A formalized program, and a way to encourage behavior
Aggregation of members voices Inexpensive way to create ongoing content and uplift existing members.  See how Stanford does it Limited message control, content may not all be signal Aggregation tools either manually on blogs, or an automated one that requires dollar investment
Organize online and real world events Facilitate an event that’s difficult for members to self-organize on own. Members may seek to self-organize if costs are excessive. Utilize existing social tools that offer events management: Facebook events


For Alumni Organizations, Social Technologies Is Akin To Harnessing Fire

In the long run, it’s never a zero sum game. It’s rare we see industries completely collapse from disruptive technologies, as the savvy will adopt and create new business models increasing value. The opportunities are great for college alumni organizations, these same tools that threaten their existence can be used to increase membership through advocacy and word of mouth, reduce costs in organization, and a wealth of content being created by their own members.

Oh yeah, I’m pleased that I was recently featured by my alma mater, SFSU, go ‘Gaters.

If you’re a graduate from a college (or high school) and can think of opportunities how the Alumni organizations can benefit from social technologies –or you’ve already displaced them by connecting directly with your peers, please leave a comment below.  Update: I met CalTech’s Andy Shaindlin, he writes a smart blog on this topic, also read Alumni Futures. Update part 2: He’s expanded the matrix.