Establishing a solid foundation is the key to any successful endeavor, and your Switchboard is no different.  To do this right will be a gradual process, and these first 6 months are where your time and effort pay off greatly down the road.  But, together we’ll work to generate the momentum needed for sustained success.

First, a rollout plan for these first 6 months is needed.  A solid rollout plan should include:

  1. Clear adoption, posting, and response rate goals for each month.
  2. Specific actions being taken to reach adoption, posting, and response rate goals.
  3. Scheduled stakeholder check-ins each month.
  4. Scheduled, regular check-ins with Tim Cooper monthly.

In thinking about the specifics for each of the points above, below are our recommendations from building dozens of Switchboards.

Calendar Planning

The institutional calendar is always jammed packed with events, communications, and everything in between, but many of these events can be leveraged to benefit both the event and your budding Switchboard.  Career networking events on campus?  Perfect! Alumni reunion of some kind?  Perfect!  Plan to use these opportunities as springboards in adopting new users and generating meaningful content.

Also think about where Switchboard specific communications will fall within the broader communications calendar.  You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but you also can’t just wait for the perfect opportunity.  Talk with the appropriate folks to get a sense of when Switchboard communications can go out each month, as well as what types of communications you want to send out.

Soft Launch

Before introducing your Switchboard to your entire community in a hard launch, introducing it to a smaller number of folks who’ll probably have a clearer understanding and excitement for the Switchboard is a dependable way of adopting new users and generating quality content.  The vast majority of our Switchboards have sent a single email to a group in their community for their soft launches (usually young alumni that are about 0-10 years out), and the resource library has a great exemplar of one that can be easily adapted for your soft launch.

If there is time for multiple soft launches, it is wise to utilize those opportunities, because it ultimately means more of an opportunity to adopt new, excited users and generate high-value content.  Other soft launches could be another email to another portion of your community (e.g. alumni 11-20 years out) or engaging a group in an in-person event (e.g. a portion of a career networking day on campus).

Once you decide when you want to do a soft launch, or a few, we will work on how to use the opportunity to maximize adoption and posting.

Hard Launch

Capitalizing on the momentum generated by the soft launch and activity up to this point, it’s time to make a community-wide announcement.  Since communities are not homogenous, it is helpful to target each population a little differently in order to show them how Switchboard is relevant to them.  While an email announcement is a surefire way to accomplish this, it is also helpful to leverage your social media, as well as prepare tangible materials to distribute at upcoming events.  The resource library has some great examples of emails and tangible materials that you can use for inspiration or copy.  

To ensure you use the time before and after the hard launch effectively, follow these helpful tips:

  1. Continue to promote Switchboard as often as possible to encourage a steady stream of new users, new content, etc.  Continually stoking the fire on the Switchboard maintains positive momentum that aids in adoption at key points during the year, and many ways to do this are simple, straightforward, and take minimal time to implement.  
  2. There is a clear difference between active participants and members, and active participants are the lifeblood of your Switchboard.  Put in the time to cultivate and support these people by reaching out directly to them if they are exhibiting great behaviors, stewarding all posts on the Switchboard, and doing what you can to provide value to the people that are participating on the Switchboard, especially within posts themselves.  They are needed to build a sustainable, valuable community.
  3. Utilize established partnerships and build more during this time to support the growing number of users.  This type of momentum shows the Switchboard is valuable and popular, which is appealing to many groups on campus.  If Switchboard could help other departments with initiatives they are spearheading, meet with those folks to bring them into the Switchboard fold.
  4. Align Switchboard adoption and posting with upcoming holidays and events to clearly articulate the value of your Switchboard, if possible, and generate more attention and interest in your Switchboard (Thanksgiving, commencement, reunions, and orientation events, for example).

Monthly strategies to reach 30 posts/month

Once you’ve moved past month 3 and the first hard launch, promoting the Switchboard in the community to generate 30 posts a month will become the main priority.  There are many ways this can be done:

  1. Many users can be adopted and inspired using traditional publications to shine a light on your Switchboard.  Here are a few examples of how this can be accomplished in school publications.  
  2. Devote a section of a monthly e-newsletter to promoting the Switchboard with calls-to-action, updates, and successes.
  3. Communicate with the community around specific calls-to-action via email.  Emails from the institution that don’t have any strings attached are welcomed by the community.  Here are some great ideas to get your wheels spinning.
  4. Deputize your Switchboard ambassadors to promote the Switchboard on their own and push towards smaller goals, such as inspiring 10 posts and 20 new users each month.
  5. Take time in monthly team meetings to talk about Switchboard and pushing towards 30 posts per month and supporting existing posts.  
  6. Team up with Communications to put out a Switchboard post monthly in various social media channels, such as popular Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  7. Check-in with stakeholders to reflect on wins and opportunities and divide responsibilities for 30 post push.
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