Read his entertaining post-victory post, with a typically amusing title: THE EAGLE HAS LANDED; This State Senate Campaign Goes Over The Top; The Cursed Hows and Whys of Reporting Delays; A Constant And Unending Stream of Thank-You Lines; Not To Mention a Touching, Nostalgic “Way We Were” Photo Montage of the Campaign 2009 To Now
Two good articles from Michael Stoner’s blog.
The first is a profile of Andy Shaindlin, writer of the Alumni Futures blog, one of the premier voices on the use of electronic communications for alumni engagement.
A key excerpt of the Q & A…
Today, alumni certainly have more access to more networks than they ever did. How has that changed the dynamic for institutions and for alumni relations professionals?
That’s right—the technology behind online connection is no longer something that one nerd in the alumni office experiments with, like it was in the early ‘90s when I was running online courses via listserv. It’s everyone’s job now to utilize these tools and participate in the activity on networks such as Facebook.
But it’s not only about having more networks. Alumni also have more access to all their networks. What’s more, as access to disparate networks becomes centralized, the networks themselves are linked together. This makes the networks simultaneously more powerful and less focused on the alumni population, because diversification tends to increase network value.
So institutions no longer have a monopoly on access to the network and can no longer impose homogeneity on it. The data are being liberated. Instead of going through the alumni association to locate classmates (for example, by buying a printed directory) alumni now just do a quick Google search or look on Facebook or LinkedIn. A fraction of people are findable that way, but that fraction is growing very rapidly. As the networks coalesce and the Internet’s “identity layer” connects separate sites, it will become even easier for alumni to find and communicate with each other, without help from us.
So again, maybe we need to update Bob Reichley’s original question—which is about alumni relations, not about technology —and ask, “What can we offer alumni that is relevant to their needs, and that they can’t get it as easily, or as effectively anywhere else?” Can we solve a problem they have? Can we deliver something unique because of what our institution is like, or what it does?
Read the whole blog post here.
And the other is a profile of Leisha LeCouvie, director of Parent and Affinity Programs at McGill University.
Here’s the intro…
Like many with extensive experience in alumni relations, she was aware of social media and social networks but didn’t know her RSS from her Facebook.All that changed when the Council of Alumni Association Executives (CAAE, an association of leading alumni professionals) made her the 2009 Forman Fellow. These fellowships are awarded to mid-career alumni professionals who are considered to be future leaders in the profession. Forman Fellowships provide travel funds for recipients to visit and conduct research at several CAAE member institutions.
The travel allowed Leisha to visit University of California Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of British Columbia and learn about their social media outreach to alumni. She also surveyed CAAE institutions about their social media activities. This work resulted in a research report, which she presented at CAAE’s meeting this summer.
You can read the whole interview here.
And you can read/download her informative research report “The Use of Social Media for Alumni Relations and University Development” here [PDF].
I, too, shall give it an obligatory posting…
I got a nice mention in the new Fast Company cover article on Facebook co-founder, and Obama online organizing director, Chris Hughes…
Neil Jensen, a professional webmaster for the University of Vermont who was an experienced blogger and former Howard Dean volunteer, was on the MyBO site from day one, moderating groups and helping volunteers new to campaigning to get their bearings. “The person whom I communicated with the most was Chris,” he says. “I would ask Chris for a semiofficial response to things like campaign finance, like what are the rules for setting up events as a volunteer and getting money.” Jensen then used the listservs and blog functions on MyBO to get the information out.
When the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy bubbled up, MyBO also paid dividends. Vermont volunteer Jensen had set up and moderated the Obama Rapid Response Group, where bloggers and volunteers posted sophisticated, fact-checked responses to negative news stories about Obama. After William Kristol wrote a column in The New York Times claiming that the candidate was in the pews on the day Wright delivered a particularly controversial sermon, “one of our rapid-response people went online and found Barack’s schedule in Florida and posted it to the listserv,” says Lonnee Hamilton, a volunteer who started Pasadena for Obama. “Our group brought it to the Times, and it printed a correction!”
This CASE article is a must-read for understanding the potential and limitations of applying the techniques of the Obama campaign to development and alumni relations…
Can that same technology be applied to the academic arena? Absolutely, says Richard Mintz, director of the New York office of Blue State Digital, the company considered the technological mastermind of Obama’s campaign. “Any organization whose members have a natural emotional commitment or inherent sense of loyalty is very ripe for this kind of program,” says Mintz. “I think the potential for alumni fundraising is very exciting.”
Interesting story in yesterday’s NY Times on the challenge of keeping in touch with alumni in the age of social networking…
Alumni magazines serve many purposes. They highlight the news and research at their institutions, and serve as prettied-up fund-raising vehicles. But their main appeal — as dormitory common rooms for grown-ups — has increasingly been usurped by Facebook and similar Web sites.
“Over all, universities have been reluctant to embrace social media as a communications channel because they fear a lack of control,” said Sam Huleatt, a Johns Hopkins alumnus. “Most schools now understand that they must establish some presence if they wish to remain relevant in the lives of their graduates.”
Johns Hopkins recently adopted InCircle, a Facebook-like application only open to students and alumni, Mr. Huleatt said.
The details that people include in class notes has evolved over the years, perhaps reflecting a younger generation’s tendency to share more. While some alumni magazines cling to the milestones of marriages, moves, births and deaths, others let people vent about personal issues, often in a way that is well-suited to online conversations.
“They’re talking about everything from their latest career move and how they’re managing it, to raising children with disabilities, taking care of elderly parents,” said John MacMillan, editor of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.
The management of class notes is an important issue, since fund-raising efforts hinge on making graduates feel connected to their schools.
Very interesting article on the house that Flickr built, by Flickr team member, George Oates…
Although cultural differences and personal prejudices about The Way Things Should Be have challenged us at FlickrHQ, we never mediate group dynamics: our members must be left to their own devices. Any time you construct specific rules of engagement, they are instantly open to interpretation and circumvention, and we want our members to negotiate their place with each other, not with The Authority.
Steady, careful growth
Any community—online or off—must start slowly, and be nurtured. You cannot “just add community.” It simply must happen gradually. It must be cared for, and hosted; it takes time and people with great communication skills to set the tone and tend the conversation.
When Flickr was born, Caterina Fake and I spent many hours greeting new members personally. We opened up chat windows with each new visitor to say “Hi! I work here, and I’d love to help you get started, if you have any questions.” We also provided public forums where staff were present and interactive. Those decisions proved crucial, because apart from creating points where we could inject a certain culture, it was all so personal.
If you want to stir your audience on a rapidly growing community site, take advantage of what we learned—hire a community manager. Or two. You’ll need a clever communicator with a lot of experience being online to help welcome people and provide ongoing support as your community grows. Show your personality and be available. Flickr’s tone is not necessarily suitable for every community, but the point is, the tone is evident everywhere you look.
Personal voice, unobtrusive design
I adore it when people tell me that Flickr makes them feel a certain way. From the outset, I worked hard to make the site seem as if there was a person behind the screen talking to you. As we churned out pages to piece the site together, I obsessed about copy all over the place to make Flickr sound human. From the labels on submit buttons—“Get in there!” to log in, to the copy that shows up if something goes wrong—“Forgotten your password? Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us,” or “An empty comment box? That won’t work!” Exclamations like Yay! Woo! Bonk! Rock! Yee har! make people feel like they’re progressing and doing things well.
We consciously chose to make the site design appear plain and simple, despite its deep complexity. A white background, blue links, sans-serif font, and largely gray palette all present the site as a straightforward place. The look of the place must never overwhelm the photos themselves. We also tried to create an egalitarian playing field. At a glance, visitors can’t differentiate a professional photographer with an enormous lens from an enthusiast just getting started in photography. There is no indication of “quality” apart from the content itself. That also means that it’s up to the viewer to decide for themselves which photos they like to look at and explore without prejudice.
Fantastic cover article in the new Rolling Stone that discusses the Obama campaign’s advances in using the Web as an organizing tool…
It’s Presidents day, two weeks before the Texas primary, and Adam Ukman has come to the small city of San Marcos to train precinct captains for Barack Obama. A soft-spoken native of Houston, Ukman has served on the campaign’s front lines in Iowa and Utah, organizing grass-roots supporters to secure decisive victories in both states. This evening, more than eighty residents of San Marcos have crammed into a yellow clapboard recreation center on a street dotted with shacks that date from the Jim Crow era. “Our job is not to run in here to tell you how it’s going to be,” Ukman tells them. “This is your campaign. Not our campaign.”