Ithaca College, where I did not go to school, is one of a number of colleges that have begun launching social networks for alumni in an attempt to forge closer bonds between alumni, especially younger alumni, and the college.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “many of the sites have struggled to attract alumni and keep them interactive with the devotion they show to their online profiles on other networks [like Facebook and MySpace].”
No real surprise there, as a college-based social network is by nature exclusive of anyone who didn’t attend that college…and that’s just not that fun once you graduate and broaden your horizons.
Colleges simply cannot do better than an open social network like Facebook if the utility is interaction with friends, and they are better off not trying to replicate it.
The seeming no-brainer use for social networking by colleges is professional connections. LinkedIn is already there, yes, but it exists as a network that allows you to mine connections that you already have…which, as I am finding from the number of emailers who write in to ask for suggestions on getting that first agency job, isn’t all that helpful if you are a new or newish graduate and don’t really have a network that you can mine.
A social networking site for students and alumni of a college similar to LinkedIn in terms of the content allowable for uploading – resume, recommendations, etc – with a directory of all alumni who have signed up and free messaging to and from both would be a great way to encourage interaction with alumni with the college as a hub.
Not to mention the fact that it offers an opportunity for people who are looking for jobs and looking for hires to connect based on the shared identity as an alumni.
Usage rates, especially daily log-ons and number of users, are not going to be very high, especially early on…but there are basically no ongoing costs once the infrastructure is up and running and the utility it gives, especially with Career Center involvement in posting jobs, etc, definitely makes it worthwhile.
More worthwhile, certainly, than the Alumni magazine that almost certainly rarely gets read.
At least with the network people are actively using it and, one hopes, getting significant value from it.
We’ll see if colleges begin to move in that direction.