One thing that makes Switchboard so great is that most people immediately understand its purpose and how they should interact within a few minutes of looking through posts.  This is possible by ultimately understanding what you want your Switchboard to look like in the future and aligning seed posts and activity around that future vision.  In doing that, future users will model their posts and activity around what they already see, which creates a cycle in which all new users will model their activity and posting off of what already exists on the Switchboard.  Once the tone of your Switchboard is set, maintaining that tone is a simple and straightforward process.


Establishing the tone of your Switchboard

You know your community well, and taking what you know about them and applying it to your Switchboard is critical in establishing its tone and feel that resonates with the community. To help tease this out, answer the questions below:

  1. What are general characteristics of your students/alumni?  What do they tend to care about? 
  2. What do your students/alumni get excited about?
  3. What is unique about your community? Is this uniqueness something that the community embraces?
  4. When during the year are your students/alumni most active? Why?
  5. What do alumni typically want to interact with students and other alumni about?
  6. What do students typically want to interact with students and other alumni about?
  7. Where are geographic hotspots for your alumni?
  8. What campus traditions, events, and organizations are popular on campus and with alumni?

Now that you have answers to the questions above, you know who can help establish the tone early on and how to articulate the value and purpose of the Switchboard to inspire those first folks to bring this tone to fruition.  Using those answers, take time now to think about:

  1. Who you should reach out to as you adopt more community members (see Early Adopters lesson in Adoption module)
  2. How to tailor the messaging to the community to compellingly articulate the power and value of your Switchboard when promoting the Switchboard
  3. What to encourage new and existing users to do when they sign up

Maintaining the tone of your Switchboard

Once you have moved from the seed phase, there will be numerous opportunities to encourage the community to sign up for and participate on the Switchboard; alumni weekends, reunions, homecomings, chapter events, specific alumni communications, in-person demos with student groups and classes, and annual events that are unique to your community are all great places to encourage Switchboard adoption and engagement. To take full advantage of these opportunities and ensure that your Switchboard continues to further reflect the personality and ethos of your community, always think about this one simple question:

What do you want your Switchboard to look and feel like a year from now?

The answer to this simple, yet powerful question, as well the activity from the early stages of your Switchboard, will serve as your compass as you continue to build your Switchboard and create something that resonates with your community and something they are excited to use and will benefit from.

Action Items

Input these goals into the Goals section of Insights:

  1. Articulate your vision for your Switchboard a year from now
  2. Evaluate posts to see if they set the tone you want for your Switchboard based on your answers from earlier.
  3. Meet with stakeholders from two other departments and create goals around what they want the Switchboard to look and feel like a year from now. What are the goals for two other departments?
  4. Set a calendar reminder for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months from now to check the tone of your Switchboard

Additional Resources

  1. Forbes - “11 Tips for growing an active and engaged online community”
  2. Switchboard - “What alumni relations and advancement can learn from public radio
  3. Switchboard - “These data explain what makes young alumni’s priorities different.”
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