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What to do with Alumni and Friend Web Sites you Don’t Control

StrategyOver the last number of years there have been a number of companies that use the Internet to create online communities of alumni. These companies typically provide a number of free services such as contacting and networking opportunities, the ability to post bios, resumes, photos and other information.

They may also include additional fee based services that allow for additional functionality such as blind contacts with other individuals.

Alumni organizations should be aware of these sites and the levels of functionality and types of services they provide since they can often become direct competition for an institution’s official alumni and friends site.

You should also be sites that may have been started by individual alumni or groups and at the least, if appropriate, try to incorporate links to these sites from the main site.

This helps keep an institution aware of these sites, whether they are being maintained and updated, and in some cases can eventually lead to incorporation the information within the main site.

For both commercial and non-commercial sites, review the data posted, counts of alumni by classes and other relevant statistics to try and determine the growth rate and interest in these sites. You can use these statistics to help plan for new features in your own site or to lobby for additional resources if it becomes clear that these sites are diverting traffic and interest because your official site does not have comparable functionality.

Some sites also allow posting of events and other items on bulletin boards or forums. You can use this feature to advertise and promote your institution’s events and in some cases can even direct visitors back to the official institutional site by promoting new content or features that have been added.

These sites can also be used in research and data cleanup, since individuals my post name, addresses, emails, marital status, class notes or other information that may be public on these sites.

Exchanging Data

For communities such as InCircle, if you exchange data with the vendor, make sure you have an agreement for getting information back so that you can update your primary database.

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