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3.7 Alumni relations 


University alumni can be generous sponsors and donors but more than that they represent a significant body of expertise and knowledge that can benefit the institution and its current students, as well as being a network of potential champions for the institution. Social media offers the opportunity for the university to make this value proposition much more two-way and allow alumni to leverage the institutional network, in an environment where people tend to change jobs much more frequently than in the past and where personal contacts can make all the difference to businesses trying to win new contracts in an increasingly competitive environment.

Use of tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter to help alumni jobseekers appears to be more advanced in the US than in the UK. (LinkedIn makes supporting such groups very easy by providing a specific alumni tool). Robert Gordon University however has a toolkit in its Moodle learning platform which provides students with guidance on how to use LinkedIn for job searches and on staying connected and the University rates highly in various rankings for employability.

The use of social media seems to be far more focused on making and maintaining connections than direct fundraising. A 2009 survey of 562 (mainly US) institutions found that fewer than 2% of institutions were carrying out fundraising via social media. Emory University, Atlanta, however began targeting fundraising early and in 2007 initiated the Blue Pig campaign giving undergraduates a blue piggybank to encourage them to donate to the University. From 2009 the blue pig was given a personality via a Facebook page and Twitter account. Staged events such as a “pig-napping” were used to raise funds and the rate of undergraduate giving increased significantly. At one point, Facebook closed down the page, due to it having too many updates. The accounts no longer appear to be active but this example is nonetheless interesting because of its creative linking of social media activities with physical artefacts and events.


 
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