Leveraging Your Alumni Community To Drive Value & Opportunity

by Community Admin in Alumni Leaders Podcast, Video   |    Last Edited: 03rd March 2021

In this episode of the Corporate Alumni Leaders Series, James Sinclair of EnterpriseAlumni hosts expert panelist Jono Bacon, a leading community and collaboration speaker, author, and podcaster, to talk about what Community 2.0 means.

Panelist:

Jono Bacon is the founder of Jono Bacon Consulting and an expert on all things community-related.  His services to organizations include building powerful, productive, and engaged communities and ecosystems, both internally and externally, where people can thrive.

Previously, Jono served as Director of Community at GitHub, Canonical, XPRIZE, and OpenAdvantage. He is also the author of People Powered: How communities can supercharge your business, brand, and teams and The Art of Community.

Over the years, he’s worked with names such as Huawei, GitLab, Microsoft, Intel, Google, Sony Mobile, Deutsche Bank, Santander, HackerOne, Mattermost, SAP, FINOS Foundation, The Executive Center, data.world, and Creative Commons.

Over the hour, James and Jono unpack the issue of driving alumni engagement value through internal buy-in, delivering value, and being in the trenches.

Alumni Engagement Value: 5 Key Takeaways To Work Through

1. There is A Difference Between A Community Of Alumni & An Alumni Community

The rules of engagement for building and developing a successful community have not changed: deliver value, put your people first, and build a foundation. However, many companies start with the ROI and the results they expect.

As a result, alumni programs often become stagnant as they fail to recognize or tap into the incredible power in the communities they have built. This is the difference between a community of alumni vs. an alumni community.

2. Alumni Strategy Has To Enable & Empower Alumni To Help Each Other

The greatest driver of community growth is not inviting more people, hiding churn, or facilitating a marketing effort to drive one-time engagement. It’s when the community self-assembles and starts to generate meaningful impact without you.

The past year has reframed the conversation as companies are now replacing buzzword empathy with actual empathy, and are openly talking about their responsibility to support their former employees. They are recognizing that their alumni strategy has to enable and empower their community members to help one another.

3. You Need Someone In The Trenches In The Community

Communities are something that form naturally because we are a social species and find comfort in connecting with like-minded people. This is why there are groups of ex-colleagues out there who are connecting even though their companies may not have a formal alumni network. The key to creating a strong alumni community is to replicate this feeling of ease and effortless connection.

However, alumni initiatives are often driven from the top down, with decisions being made by C-suite roleplayers who aren’t really entrenched in the community itself. This is why it’s a good idea to have the project-driven and promoted by a community manager who understands the needs of the people who will form a part of it.  

4. Treat Alumni Like Disney Treats Their Guests

When you go to Disney World, everything from where you park your car to where you buy your tickets, where the parades go, and when the restaurants are open has been carefully considered. It’s been tailored to maximize your guest experience at every turn.

Alumni community creators should take the same approach by being intentional about how people experience the platform from the moment they join. Ask yourself – who is my audience, and what do they want? What are the challenges, problems, and roadblocks that our audience has, and how do we construct an environment where we can authentically serve them?

One of the big mistakes many companies make is creating benefits that their people have not expressed an interest in. Your company’s logo gets them through the door, but if you want alumni members to stick around and engage with one another, there has to be something more at play, and it has to speak to their needs, not yours.

5. Work On Unlocking Talent & Enthusiasm Within Your Community

Everyone who is in your community has talent, expertise, enthusiasm, and time – even if it’s just ten minutes. Your challenge as a community manager is to entice them to spend that time, expertise, and enthusiasm by connecting with and engaging with their peers on your platform.

This calls for very authentic communication. When people have a good experience with something or someone, they develop a sense of reciprocity based on that positive affiliation, and they are more likely to engage with it (or them) again.

If your community is just another broadcast mechanism to spread information about the company’s products and services, it will fail. You may get some views, but it won’t actually meet the needs of your community. Recruiting more, selling more, all that ROI only comes after you’ve created a happy, welcoming, valuable space for people to connect.

Highlights and Notable Quotes From The Conversation

Success is opportunity combined with preparation. Being intentional about how you engage with the alumni on your corporate platform paves the way for success. This goes for everything from the content you create to the swag you share.

Treat everyone like your best customer, and they will, in turn, serve you. If you treat your people well, they will pay it forward to you in the long run. When you’re of service to people, good things happen.

Zoom out and take a step back to understand why you’re building an alumni community. Often, one of the best ways to improve your alumni content and communication strategy is to zoom out and understand why you’re creating it in the first place. The focus has to lie on offering your ex-employees the opportunity to learn and grow outside your walls, rather than force-feeding them info about your business.

If you can relate to the challenges associated with building an authentic community that engages itself and delivers real, impactful value to its members, watch the webinar. Learn how you can programmatically deliver value at scale to supercharge your alumni community from the inside out.

Presenters:

James Sinclair, Principal of EnterpriseAlumni

Jono Bacon, Founder of Jono Bacon Consulting