This blog will be discussing the importance of Alumni Networks and how schools making a bad impression can undermine this importance.
Most people when asked would agree that first impressions are critical in life.
According to Forbes you have around 7 seconds to make a favorable first impression. According to research from the Universities of Glasgow and Princeton it is even quicker with humans making judgements on someone’s trustworthiness within the first 500 milliseconds of hearing their voice.
First impressions are also critical in the world of alumni networking and are can play a part in the importance of alumni networks.
So imagine you are an alum visiting your school’s alumni network (be it an alumni website, alumni directory or alumni app) for the very first time and experience one of the following symptoms:
a) You can see the last post of a discussion or any activity for that matter is more than x months ago.
b) The design and user experience looks like it was cutting edge in 1996.
c) There is zero integration with social networks and little effort made to make things easy for you to use the product.
d) The profiles shown are clearly out of date and have not been updated for a while.
In short the site looks like a dead alumni network.
How likely after experiencing such a welcome is it that your alumni will contribute any content or make a return visit in the near future?
The theory of dead alumni networks: the more dead and inactive a site looks, the more dead and inactive it becomes.
Schools are often tempted to combat the symptoms of a dead alumni network by simply adding more and more content. This can be a counter productive move as the feeling of activity when visiting your site is based not only on the absolute level of user activity, but also in how proportionate it is to the the amount of content you have provided. You want to spread whatever level of activity you have over the smallest area possible.
There is some good news however. The theory of dead networks also works in reverse. If a site looks active and engaged, (even if it is not) then this in turn leads to more activity and more engagement and reinforces the importance of Alumni Networks and in particular your Alumni Network.
Some obvious conclusions from the law of dead networks:
Firstly when it comes to content for your alumni, ‘less can be more’. Only provide content that is truly exclusive or that can engage alumni.
Secondly cut out any ‘nice to have’ sub groups. You should only allow space for affinity groups or clubs which can generate sufficient activity. Select carefully your alumni software.
Finally, a school needs to do everything it can from a user experience to make their sites looks fresh, engaged and active and something that it is in constant use. Your site needs to look like it is bursting with activity to fully encourage alumni networking.
Let the theory of dead alumni networks unleash your school’s potential. Activity leads to activity. Make a good first impression and show your alumni that they can be proud members of an active alumni network.
Make alumni networking great again.