Are traditional Alumni Associations passé?

A few months ago, a representative from my alma mater called to confirm my personal and professional listing information for a book they were putting together–an alumni directory. It was free to be included, but (of course) I could purchase a copy for myself for the low, low price of $65.


We’ve seen or heard of these books before. They’re right up there with those “Who’s Who” books that are completely bogus collections of folks who paid to be included. In fact, I think my parents paid for me to be in the Who’s Who of American High School Students publication back in 1995. Yes I was a great student, top 5 percent of my class, but it was at one of the worst high schools in the nation so I really doubt that I was spectacular enough to be included in such a prestigious (looking) national publication. Nonetheless, there’s now a book with my name in it on a shelf in my parents house.

I understand why a college would want to put these books together (of course it’s to make money) and I love to support my undergrad college and their fundraising efforts, but I just couldn’t get past this one question: How is this book better than LinkedIn? The caller was getting annoyed with me for asking it again and again. But, think about it: This book will be outdated the day it’s printed. This book cannot possibly include the number of alumni I can find via LinkedIn using a simple university search. This book is heavy and expensive to produce, print, and ship.

This book, however, is an example of the “olden days” of alumni relations and fundraising tactics that are (unfortunately) still alive today, probably due to those old people at colleges and universities across the United States failing to realize that new technology is making these types of programs and approaches obsolete.

Case in point: With last week’s official launch of LinkedIn University Pages, colleges and universities now have easy access to thousands of graduates who have “claimed” them in their online profiles; whether they’ve official joined the college’s on-campus Alumni Association or not is a totally separate matter. This is powerful stuff. For example, a college may boast an “official” Alumni Association of a couple hundred, but through LinkedIn University Pages, the “virtual alumni association”–a bi-product of the tool’s creation–could be in the thousands.

Read about the establishment of LinkedIn’s University Pages

College’s and Universities should be looking at this tool and examining ways to cultivate the contacts connected with them in a social media capacity in order to convert it to a more meaningful, offline connection. This tool opens up doors for planning and announcing alumni events and fundraising campaigns…your pool and your “mailing list” of potential attendees and donors has now grown exponentially!

For marketing and PR professionals like myself, we can tap into the tool’s “notable alumni” feature to highlight how former students are using their training and degree today. We can ask to highlight them in our marketing materials, or solicit them as guest speakers for campus or community events. These “notable alumni” are also ones that the college Foundation will want to court, since LinkedIn merges both education and career metrics to showcase the college’s most successful grads. They are the CEOs, VPs, business owners, and trailblazers who have the capacity to give, and–with their already established connection to you–the higher-likelihood to give.

With the successful rise and obvious popularity of LinkedIn, the LinkedIn University Pages, and Facebook, will traditional, campus-controlled Alumni Associations survive? If so, what will they be able to offer (besides a book) that I cannot already get online? How will colleges and universities motivate and engage their online de facto alumni associations? This is a new challenge, and it’s an exciting one.

Tweet Tickers: What? Why? How?

What is a Tweet Ticker?

You may not know what a Tweet Ticker is by name, but you’ve surely come across a few while browsing the web. A Tweet Ticker is a widget that allows you to show–in a scrolling manner–multiple Twitter feeds in one place. A Tweet Ticker can be embedded onto a web page, and is continually re-populated with the latest tweets from the accounts connected to it. It is also (drumroll please)…another one of my personal inventions according to

Why use a Tweet Ticker on your page?

Tweet Tickers are a great way to market your Twitter account(s) on your website. It’s a step up from the common practice of  including simple links/logos out to your social media sites at the bottom of your main page, like this:

Images of icons/links on the bottom of CSULB's page at

These simple icons/links are on the bottom of CSULB’s page at

These simple icons/links are on the bottom of Southwest's page at

These simple icons/links are on the bottom of Southwest’s page at

If your business or educational institution allows multiple departments to have Twitter accounts to post department-specific information, a Tweet Ticker is a great way to showcase your “Official Twitter Accounts” all in one spot. To do so, you simply create a list and develop a Tweet Ticker widget from that list (more on this process can be found below).

Tweet Tickers do more than market the mere existence your Twitter account(s). They also give users a sampling of the kinds of information they will receive if they follow you on Twitter, and they don’t have to leave your home page to get that sampling since it’s embedded into your Tweet Ticker.

Where I work, we established a Tweet Ticker to give individual departments a means to push their information and announcements to our home page without having to go through I.T. It allows them to post to our home page through the widget without hassle and without the need for additional personnel involvement. Best of all, it’s instantaneous.

2 great Tweet Tickers

Before we get too far into the technical aspects of building a Tweet Ticker, here are two of my favorites from the educational realm. With so much information from so many departments to showcase, colleges tend to be fond of news-, facebook-, flickr-, tweet-, and anything-tickers:

1. Harvard University,

Tweet and Facebook ticker from

This custom Tweet Ticker is in an easy-to-read left to right scrolling format, and also includes a tab function which allows the user to view a Facebook Ticker too. The Tweet Ticker is attached to a “list” so that it feeds information from @Harvard, @HarvardAlumni, @GreenHarvard, and other “official” accounts from the college.

2. Penn State,

Penn State's custom Tweet Ticker is in a 3-column format, with feeds from the college's Facebook and various Twitter accounts showing.

This custom Tweet Ticker is in a 3-column format, with feeds from the college’s Facebook and various Twitter accounts showing.


Building a Tweet Ticker to feed a single Twitter account

It’s simple to create a Tweet Ticker, especially if you’re just feeding it with one Twitter account. Here are the steps:

  1. Log into your Twitter account
  2. Click the “cog” button at the top, and select “Settings”
  3. From this menu, select “Widgets”

    Under the cog wheel, in "Settings", you will find a link to create Twitter "Widgets"

    Under the cog wheel, in “Settings”, you will find a link to create Twitter “Widgets”

  4.  Select “Create New” and follow the prompts
  5. Copy and paste the generated HTML code into your website


Building a Tweet Ticker to feed multiple Twitter accounts

To create a Tweet Ticker that feeds Tweets from multiple Twitter accounts, you must first create a list. Then you will build a widget for that list (opposed to building a widget for one Twitter account).  Follow these steps:

  1. Log into your Twitter account and go to your “Home” screen
  2. A menu will appear on the left, and there will be a listing for “Lists” like this

    On your "Home" screen you will find a link to create Twitter "Lists"

    On your “Home” screen you will find a link to create Twitter “Lists”

  3. Select “Create List”
  4. Give your list a name, write a brief description, and choose if you want people to be able to follow this list too:The "Create a list" box from Twitter
  5. Find people to add to your list by typing their Twitter handle here. If you are a company with multiple Twitter accounts from different departments, this is where you can collect all of those accounts. Finding people to add to your Twitter list
  6. After you’ve created your list, you can follow the steps above to create your Tweet Ticker reflecting the tweets from all members of that list.

Are tweet tickers coming or going?

It was hard for me to find examples of great tweet tickers. They aren’t widely used and I can’t decide if that’s because they are just becoming known, or because they are on their way out. What do you think? Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think about Tweet Tickers.

“Hashtag planting” for tweet-tastic exposure

Today’s topic is Twitter and the act of “hashtag planting.” I know what it is because I invented it according to

Before we examine the act of hashtag planting and how you can use it to increase the exposure of particular tweets to a targeted audience, let’s first look at hashtags in general.

What is a hashtag?
Using a hashtag on twitter is a way for you to insert a keyword into your tweet.

Why use a hashtag?
Your hashtag keyword can be singled-out and followed or searched for via the Twitter “Search” function. You can follow a topic this way, or even insert yourself into a popular topic (for marketing purposes), which is what I call “hashtag planting.”

When you log into Twitter, you will see a menu on the lower left called “Trends”. These trends reflect much-used hashtags associated with the day for the location you’ve selected. Being a Long Beach girl originally, my list shows Long Beach trends.

Today’s popular hashtags for the Long Beach, California area are:


Hashtag variety
Some hashtags are to associate tweets with a particular brand or celebrity (#Gap). Some are simply fun social experiments (#WhenIGetMarried), or set up to convey sarcasm (#whyiseveryonesostupid or #TeamSingle).


hashtag #whyiseveryonesostupid tweet results

Hashtag Planting: Putting hashtags to work
Here are some tips you can follow to make hashtags work for you on Twitter:

  1. Compose your tweet and then go back and hashtag terms within the body of your tweet that are already popular or trending terms, and terms that are specific to your exact area/location.
    1. Good example: We r having a #MemorialDay BBQ today at our #CoastlineCommunityCollege campus in #FountainValley. Get a free lunch and tour our Vets Center.
      • Tweet is specific to a current and trending topic (#MemorialDay), a specific place (#CoastlineCommunityCollege), in a specific City (#FountainValley).
    2. Bad example: The #college is having a Memorial Day #BBQ today at our #Coastline campus in Fountain Valley. Get a free lunch and tour our Vets Center.
      • Tweet is not specific enough to the area and doesn’t take advantage of trending topics. #Coastline is too general and a search will pull up information about the ocean, sea, other businesses named Coastline, etc.
  2. Plant hashtags into your tweet to associate yourself with an already popular topic your desired target audience is following. For example, our college was hosting a video game seminar just one week after the popular Comic Con convention in nearby San Diego. The established, and already popular, hashtags for Comic Con were #comiccon and also #sdcc (for San Diego Comic Con), and thousands of “nerds” (our exact target market for this event) were getting real-time Comic Con news by following those hashtags. What better way to reach my target audience than to plant #comiccon and #sdcc into ALL of my own event tweets, even if my particular event wasn’t associated with #comiccon or #sdcc? This worked so well for reaching our exact target audience, our event was sold out almost immediately.ComicCon
  3. Follow, and use, trending hashtags. This is a type of hashtag planting, but usually to an untargeted audience. Still, it can garner you some good exposure due to the popularity of the trending hashtags of the day and shows that you are cool enough to actually pay attention to trending hashtags. For today, one of the trending hashtags is #tweatyourweakness. When I pulled up the feed for this, I came across this comical post:Screen grab of a twitter post for "Tweat Your Weakness" hashtag
    Since I work for a college, I couldn’t resist replying to this tweet with
    @_Snape_#TweatYourWeakness is trending. Obviously, Twitter’s weakness is spelling.” We have a class for that. .

So I’m curious, do you use hashtags in your tweets? If so, are they random, or is your use strategic? I’d be happy to hear about other ways to strategically use hashtags and if there’s such thing as hashtag analytics. Leave a comment below or contact me with your thoughts.