Beyond Facebook: University connects alums online

Ninety-four percent of campuses reported a fundraising uptick in 2010.

A new alumni social networking website launched July 18 by Indiana University (IU) frames connecting with old friends and classmates as an interactive game, as higher education looks for more ways to combine alumni fundraising with social media outreach.

Called “Spirit of IU,” the site goes beyond the Facebook news updates that have become standard among university sites and offers contests and an online alumni directory that doubles as a game.

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“Universities have been great at saying, ‘Hey, look at me!’” said JT. Forbes, executive director and CEO of the IU Alumni Association (IUAA). “Instead we want to say, ‘Hey, let’s talk!’”

After signing up for a free membership, users gain points by uploading photos, participating in photo communities such as “IU Baby” and “IU Traveler,” and encouraging others to sign up.

By amassing points, users can earn prizes from the IUAA that range from coupons for IU merchandise to being profiled in the alumni magazine.

The site also hosts contests, the first of which is “Who Are IU’s Most Fashionable People?”

Users can upload photos of their favorite IU outfits for others to vote on, and then IU alumna Jessica Quirk, author of the recently released book, What I Wore: Four Seasons, One Closet, Endless Recipes for Personal Style, will choose the winner.

The site comes as part of IUAA’s migration from six issues per year of its print publication to four issues, with the additional content to be published online instead.

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