On September 12, LinkedIn opened its doors to students 14 years and older, marking the first time the professional networking site allowed membership from those not yet in the working world. This move came a few weeks after the site introduced University Pages, which are college-specific profiles that offer features tailored to a school’s community. With these Pages, LinkedIn aims to help educational institutions woo new students and stay connected with their alumni. Today, some 200 universities are signed up.
Unlike Company Pages, University Pages offer opportunities for personalization and emphasis on the aspects of the school that are most important to its administrators. At the top, there is a profile picture, usually of the school’s logo or seal. Immediately beneath is a photo of the campus, along with links to notable alumni speeches or recent images of the school. Leading off the main content is a widget displaying the top companies employing that school’s alumni, followed by a general information section where students and parents can learn more about the university’s history and current demographics.
Along the right rail, logged-in members can identify themselves as students, alumni, faculty or staff of that institution. The schools also have a place to highlight notable alumni, complete with embedded links to their LinkedIn profiles. For prospective students, an interesting feature is the “Similar Schools” callout, which lists institutions whose alumni share similar careers.
While University Pages give schools the opportunity to market themselves on LinkedIn, the professional and career focus of the site remains front and center. This is why some schools, such as Syracuse University, are putting management of their LinkedIn University Pages into the hands of the Alumni or Career Services departments.
For Syracuse, a social media manager was not previously assigned to handle LinkedIn. Now, with these new capabilities, the platform is becoming more important to the school, as the team figures out how to best leverage it. To learn more, we chatted with Kim Brown, Syracuse’s Assistant Director of Alumni Programs, who is overseeing management of the LinkedIn University Page.
Highlight Your Strengths
One of the biggest benefits of University Pages is that colleges will now be able to highlight one of their most defining factors: their alumni. This was impossible with Company Pages, but now schools have the ability to call out successful and notable graduates. Not only that, LinkedIn makes it possible for others visiting the page to network with those alumni immediately and easily.
“Our goal is to highlight SU, its schools and college, and our vast alumni network,” says Brown. “We’ll showcase the stories of SU and use this as a way to communicate with our alumni and friends and also to assist in admissions and graduate school recruiting processes.”
For universities that may seem similar to others with similar rankings, tuition, and geography, pointing out connections to important people and their companies could make a big difference to prospective students (and their parents). As a recruiting tool, LinkedIn University Pages provide a venue for schools to provide deep, relevant information to applicants. In some cases, the LinkedIn Page is even easier to navigate than a school’s website. And when it comes to attracting applicants, easier is definitely better.
It’s All About Careers
When Syracuse’s University Page went live in late August, Brown was starting to figure out how to make best use of the platform. Ahead of the first football game of the season, she posted that Scott Shafer was about to have a big career moment taking the field as Syracuse’s head coach for the first time.
“I would not have posted it like that on Twitter or Facebook because on those platforms I wouldn’t focus on the career side,” Brown says. “On LinkedIn, I try to tie the update to a bigger career happening.”
Brown recognizes that Facebook and Twitter are more casually social platforms, while LinkedIn users are more focused on news and information that relates to careers and professional concerns. That said, pictures and videos perform better than simple text or link posts, which holds true not only for LinkedIn but for other social media platforms as well.
One Size Does Not Fit All
While Brown knows posts with a professional focus are the most relevant and appropriate for the LinkedIn Page, she’s also found that different visitors are looking for different kinds of information. With over 100,000 followers, it would be a mistake to presume that one message fits all. That’s why Brown is so excited that the Targeted Status Update feature introduced to Company Pages in mid-2012 is available to University Pages now.
“That’s huge, because we can do different posts on our University Page. Depending on what part of the country, or what industry you’re in, or what company you work for, or how high up you are in your career, that’ll dictate what status update you see,” Brown says. “That’s something to us that’s extraordinary.”
Moving ahead, Brown plans to use this feature to tailor messaging to followers based on some of the criteria she mentioned above. Segmentation is particularly important to her because Syracuse, like many colleges, is divided into a number of schools that focus on various disciplines. Therefore, she could use targeted statuses to reach architecture students about an alumnus’ recent building project, or education students about a professor’s talk on tuition reform. For prospective students who want to know if Syracuse is the right fit, seeing such relevant posts could convince them to submit an application.
When it comes to providing value for a college, University Pages could become a boon for attracting prospective students. In a time when information overload can be stressful and fatiguing, Brown hopes Syracuse’s University Page will help the school stand out among a crowded field of competition.
Amina Elahi: Amina is a freelance journalist in Chicago. Her work has previously appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Grid and Popular Science, among others.