This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies (and other organizations) around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today we’re talking with Sean Kramer at Barry University about how they use social media to connect with their large alumni community. Check them out at Barry.edu or follow them on Twitter here.
Tell me a little about your organization
Barry University is a private, Catholic university, which was founded in 1940 in Miami Shores, Florida, a suburb northeast of Downtown Miami. We offer business, nursing, health sciences, teacher education, and liberal arts programs, and currently have more than 9,300 students, a faculty of 871, a campus of 54 buildings, and 39,922 alumni.
How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?
Barry University has moved to an almost exclusive online system for new student applications. In 2009, over 90% of our applications were completed online. Taking a cue from this trend, Alumni Relations also moved closer to a virtual alumni program in 2009. We eliminated 95% of our snail mail and relied much more heavily on evite and traditional web invitations for announcements and information.
When did you start engaging in social media?
I personally started engaging in social media in 2004 and immediately recognized its impact on our student population. As Facebook developed and began capturing greater numbers of users, I found it effective as a marketing tool. Students would pay more attention to the emails and invitations that came across their Facebook account then from their official university emails.
Since then, our office has been actively utilizing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote our events, services and benefits to our constituencies.
Who manages your social media efforts?
Our Coordinator of Student and Young Alumni programs is currently responsible for all of our social media presence. This year we will be hiring a Coordinator of Social Media who will be solely responsible for all of our online marketing.
What networks are you active on?
We currently utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and our own online community (Imodules).
Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?
Facebook and LinkedIn have worked to drive a tremendous amount of business to the Alumni Association. By having targeted messages with specific action items (ie. RSPV for an event, donate to the annual fund, visit an affinity partners website), we have been able to increase overall giving, attendance and royalty dollars to the Association.
Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind
I was contacted last year by an alumnus who was interested in supporting our efforts on LinkedIn. He was specifically interested in connecting with other Barry alumni in a specific profession. By utilizing LinkedIn, he was able to form a specific subgroup of alumni within that profession and networked his way to a job.
What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?
Twitterific is an excellent application that allows us to work across platforms.
For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?
The ability to impact people immediately and have them respond. A perfect example of this is the ability to tweet messages to encourage donations to a particular cause via text messages. Tweets and status updates are paid much more close attention to then emails which tend to be deleted. Brief to the point messages seem to fit today’s consumer interested in getting the information quickly and determining instantly if it requires a response.
What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?
The most challenging part of social media is dealing with the rapid changes within the medium itself. Determining whether or not fan pages vs groups will work, coordinating groups and messages within LinkedIn, limiting the total amount of text in a tweet.
What are your social media plans for 2010?
Alumni Relations as a profession will change significantly in the next 3-5 years. 2010 will see Barry University begin to move away from traditional alumni events and begin focusing on virtual events, microblogging and Tweetups. We are excited to engage our constituencies in a new concept of events that fit more closely with the time constraints of our demographics.
Watch for us to create online videos, podcasts, virtual happy hours, Skype events and more!
I appreciate Sean taking the time to talk to us, and I encourage you to check out Barry.edu and follow them on Twitter here. We’re always looking for interesting companies and individuals to talk to, so if you know of anyone that would like to be profiled, please contact us.