Three risks of managing corporate alumni on social media

October 04, 2015

Many organizations are tempted to establish and manage their alumni community on a social media network like LinkedIn. This is a dangerous foundation.

The "Rented Land" Problem

On a recent episode of his podcast, content marketing thought leader Joe Pulizzi talked about the flaws of building a content platform on "rented land." The same principle applies to your alumni community.

With all the LinkedIn groups and communities present on other social networks, it seems easy to let one of these sites handle the infrastructure and hosting of your alumni programs. However, this approach exposes your organization to three very significant brand management risks.

Risk #1: Public damage to your brand.

Recent surveys show marketers putting increased emphasis on branding, which has brought about a corresponding rise in budgets. Your corporate alumni community falls under the brand marketing umbrella.

Not everyone leaves your organization on a good note. Some alumni may be unhappy with your organization, and the vocal ones may take to public forums to air their grievances.

If your alumni group exists in a public space under another company’s content rules – e.g. LinkedIn – you are completely unable to control what happens, including the management of destructive comments from alumni who left on negative terms.

Risk #2: Not being able to do brand damage control.

If your brand does sustain public damage, you may be able to fix the situation, if the person running the alumni community gives you the necessary permission to do so. That's assuming you catch it in the first place. If you’re uninvolved or not hosting and regulating your online alumni community, it's much less likely you will identify anything damaging to your brand.

Today, 72% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. The potential damage that can be sustained when you don’t have control over your brand online is massive. Even if you’re the best organization in the world, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time: It only takes one unhappy person to create a negative stir that you are powerless to take care of on an external network.

Risk #3: Not being able to control your brand outside of your organization.

Not all alumni have a solid understanding of your brand and what you want it to say and mean. Letting an alumnus take over your alumni community online, especially if you've had a recent rebranding, is at best counteractive to your brand.

It's imperative that you:

  • Own and control your own corporate alumni space
  • Have a corporate alumni manager (or managers, depending on the size and breadth of your program) who understands your current brand
  • Engage your alumni – and your current employees – from day one to prevent future damage and create brand ambassadors instead

There's nothing wrong with creating an alumni community on LinkedIn, or making social media a part of your alumni management efforts. But the home base of your alumni management should be an environment owned and controlled by your organization: no one else.

Interested in learning more? Read our article “What Your Alumni Program Has to Do With Employee Engagement”, or learn more about our alumni software.

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