CHE has an interesting article (subscription required) about the latest trend in alumni outreach–customized social networking sites:
Trying to emulate the popularity of Web sites like Facebook and MySpace, hundreds of college alumni associations have begun to offer their own online social networks, seeking to stake a claim on the computer screens of current and former students, especially young alumni.
But many of the sites have struggled to attract alumni and to keep them interacting with the devotion they show to their online profiles on other networks. That makes the sites less useful to colleges, which want to foster closer ties with alumni and keep tabs on their whereabouts for fund raising and other purposes.
“Social networking is definitely hot, and people want to know what to do,” says Andrew Shaindlin, executive director of the alumni association at the California Institute of Technology.
The question, he says, is, Do these exclusive networks fill a need for alumni?
On that last question, I’m not convinced that it does (at least for younger alumni). My alma mater recently launched one of these sites, and while I’ve created a profile, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the site. Almost all of my college friends are on Facebook, and its much easier to interact with them there.