University Facebook Pages: Engaging the Alumni Community in the Digital Era


  • Adam Peruta Syracuse University
  • Christina Helm Colgate University


higher education, social media, engagement, alumni, university branding


This study examines how colleges and universities use social media in order to inspire higher levels of identification with the institution and build a sense of community within their alumni networks. Qualitative analysis of interviews with university social media managers is coupled with systematic content analysis of 66 university Facebook pages to propose a new model using four content themes to generate higher levels of engagement on social media: pride pointsrelevance, unifying imagery and nostalgia.

Author Biography

Adam Peruta, Syracuse University

Assistant Professor

S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications


The Alumni Factor (2013). The alumni factor: A revolution in college rankings. Avondale Estates, GA: Alumni Factor.

Bidwell, A. (2015). Two private liberal arts colleges will shut down. Retrieved from

Campos, P. (2015, April 5). The real reason college tuition costs so much. New York Times. Retrieved from

Judson, K. M., Aurand, T. W., Gorchels, L., & Gordon, G. L. (2008). Building a university brand from within: University administrators' perspectives of internal branding. Services Marketing Quarterly, 30(1), 54-68.

Kelly, K. S. (2012). Effective fund-raising management. Oxford, U.K: Routledge.

Levine, W. (2008). Communications and alumni relations: What is the correlation between an institution's communications vehicles and alumni annual giving & quest. International Journal of Educational Advancement, 8(3), 176-197.

Lombard, M., Snyder‐Duch, J., & Bracken, C. C. (2002). Content analysis in mass communication: Assessment and reporting of intercoder reliability. Human communication research, 28(4), 587-604.

McDermott, J. (2014). Why organic reach on Facebook is not dead yet. Retrieved from

Meredith, M. (2004). Why do universities compete in the ratings game? An empirical analysis of the effects of the US News and World Report college rankings. Research in Higher Education, 45(5), 443-461.

O’Neil, J. (2007). The link between strong public relationships and donor support. Public Relations Review, 33(1), 99-102.

Page Post Metrics. (2015). Retrieved from

Paine, K. D. (2011). Measure what matters: Online tools for understanding customers, social media, engagement, and key relationships. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons.

Parsons, P., & Wethington, D. (1996). Fund-raising appeals to alumni: Two experiments. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 51(1), 44.

Peruta, A. & Shields, A. (2014, October). From likes to admissions: The role of Facebook in the college decision making process. Paper presented at the Marketing Edge Direct/Interactive Research Summit. San Diego, California. Abstract retrieved from

Porter, T., Hartman, K., & Johnson, J. S. (2011). Books and balls: Antecedents and outcomes of college identification. Research in Higher Education Journal, 13, 1.

Preece, J. (2001). Sociability and usability in online communities: Determining and measuring success. Behaviour & Information Technology, 20(5), 347-356.

Stephenson, A. L., & Bell, N. (2014). Motivation for alumni donations: a social identity perspective on the role of branding in higher education. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 19(3), 176-186.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy. (2005). 1 September.

The Economist. (2014, April 5). Making college cost less. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (Spring 2015). National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Finance component.

Wæraas, A., & Solbakk, M. N. (2009). Defining the essence of a university: Lessons from higher education branding. Higher Education, 57(4), 449-462.

Wastyn, M. L. (2009). Why alumni don’t give: A qualitative study of what motivates non-donors to higher education. International Journal of Educational Advancement, 9(2), 96-108.

Waters, R. D. (2009). Measuring stewardship in public relations: A test exploring impact on the fundraising relationship. Public Relations Review, 35(2), 113-119.