University Web Developers

University Web Developers

So this will be my first post in uwebd and I just wanted to say that it looks like a pretty good community and I'll probably be pointing my colleagues here sometime soon.

Anyway, on to my vaguely-worded question. I was wondering if anyone could give me an example of universities (or institution, or whatever..) where a social networking solution has been successfully adopted. By this, I don't mean the university has a facebook page with 5,000 fans. I mean the university opened it's own social network (either internally-implemented or through a solution like Ning or Elgg) that has actually gained widespread use.

The reason I ask this is because the topic has recently come up here at the University of Rochester and as I researched it, I came up with nothing but college social networks which had fewer than 10% of their population subscribed and seemed to have even fewer members that were active.

Thanks in advance!


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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Nate. Welcome to uwebd! :)

Have you read my posts on about our Ning community, Café New Paltz?
Article #1, article #2, article #3

It may be more niche than you're looking for, but thought I'd pass it along. Happy to answer any questions you have about it.
Hi Nate,
Last year we worked with a vendor to create a social network for our newly accepted students to try to get them more engaged before they came to campus. It was very successful in accomplishing that goal.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.
Jodi Bailey
Alfred University
Thank you both for your replies.

Rachel - your articles were exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

I'm curious as to how retention is on either of your sites. To me, getting a couple hundred members to sign up is simply the first hurdle. Getting as many of them as possible to keep coming back is something entirely different.
Unfortunately, this is a limitation of Ning. We have no data on member usage. I've requested it to the Ning peeps (all the way up to the CEO), so here's hoping it comes in the not too distant future.

You may want to check out what Elon U. has done over the last 2 years, see specific link to their E2 site, you can hover over the four audiences to get a sense of the level of participation. My son graduated 2 years ago as this site launched; I think it is well done.

kevin grasty
american university
Hi Nate,

I guess it depends on your definition of success. Amherst has ~20k active alumni, of which ~8000 have logged in to at least once in the last year, and we average 3-500 alumni logins/week. This is almost 3 years into a plan that at the outset aimed to build an 'everyone under one roof' (applicants->students->alumni, plus faculty and staff) website with many social networking features.

In some respects we feel we've succeeded - ~1/3 of our alumni base is engaged and logging in, and a significant percent are participating in career networking with our students. In other respects we're not as sanguine. By far the most common activity of a logged in user is to search for other alumni and to update their contact and other biographic information. Some of the other site features (creating web content, commenting on content authored by others, actively participating on their class year website) are not used nearly as actively as we hoped. We're adapting our strategy somewhat as a result, focusing on some of the tools that have worked and de-emphasizing other features.

We're also in it for the long haul, in the sense that 'everyone under one roof' means we begin acclimating our students to our site, its tools and features etc, before the arrive, they use it in their coursework (our CMS has largely replaced our LMS) and encourage their continued use as they graduate. Our expectation is that over time we'll see the usage numbers and % of engaged alums increase.
Hey Nate!

During my time at Butler University I implemented It's an area of integrated bloggers, forums and photos. Within 9 months of launch this area of the site was driving 40% of the Butler Admission's website traffic. We had back-to-back record years of enrollment and for Fall 2009 we pass the total # of 2008 applications with 4 months left in the recruitment cycle.

I have some blog posts on picking student bloggers, the community, etc, here:
Finding Student Bloggers + 4 part series on starting a blogger program
The Recruitment Long Tail - stats detailing successes with the community

And if you poke around my blog,, you'll find about 150 other posts on the topic.

Also - I have some ideas about how to engage your group and get them active. Shoot me an email at brad(at) if you're interested!

We've experimented with various things and the following are my anecdotal observations:

- the campaigns leveraging networks already in use, as opposed to building your own, are more successful (we've done both)
- and then click one of the day schedules to see the blend of YouTube, twitter and our own Drupal blog instance
- controlling comments and censoring heavily will kill you - if you don't want opinions don't use social media



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