By Cara Quackenbush
Principal Analyst, Development
I am often asked by many a dubious advancement VP, “why should I invest in social media?” and “how do you know it’s worth the cost?” Many feel they’ve been pressured to have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, etc., with no real evidence to support why this is important. And they have a point.
As a largely untested tool for advancement purposes, we’ve quickly learned that social media doesn’t really replace tried and true solicitation methods like direct mail or the phonathon. Plus, not unlike many marketing efforts, it’s next to impossible to trace giving or engagement directly back to its use. A lack of industry data on the ROI of social media has meant that investments in this medium to date have largely been made on hunches and a general desire not to be left behind by the herd. Until now.
Encouraging evidence from the 2013 Alumni Pulse Survey suggests that investments in social media is paying off in a measurable way: Alumni who prefer to receive news and information from their alma mater through social media channels are more engaged and give more than those who do not.
Here are just a few things we have learned:
- For the first time, Facebook has entered the Top 5 communications methods preferred by alumni to receive news and information from their alma mater.
- Gen X and Millennial alumni who prefer to receive information through Twitter were 36% more likely to attend an alumni event in the past year and 40% more likely to say they’d like to attend an event in the coming year.
- Alumni who prefer Facebook Twitter or LinkedIn are more likely to agree that alumni should make a gift every year and more likely to say they plan to make a gift next year.
Findings also suggest that social media isn’t just for the very young. Remarkably, the media habits of those who graduated 10-20 years ago—who are soon to be entering their peak earning years—don’t look much different than those of young alumni*. As all of these young-ish alums mature in age and giving capacity, they will surely hang on to their media habits just as previous generations have theirs. It seems that the more effectively we’ve been able to cultivate the better-positioned we will be when they get there.
So if the good news is that we are on the right track, the challenge is that it also takes years to develop true institutional expertise and mastery of a new communications medium (remember those early email campaigns?). My hope is that data like that from the Alumni Pulse Survey will enable advancement leaders to justify investments they’ve already made in social media or allow them to make a case for the first time.
*Young alumni is defined as those who graduated within the past 10 years.