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Beth (Blahnik) Riebe ’04 (left), with Norby and John Sabo ’07 (right), pose on campus with their Road Trip-customized car, just before setting out on their adventure.

St. Norbert College Takes to the Road

The alumni office faces a logistical challenge each year as it brainstorms ways to connect with a St. Norbert College alumni base spread across the country. Organizing alumni events in cities with large populations of alumni is a no-brainer but what about places where grads are more scattered – places like Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri?

This summer there was one simple answer: Road trip!

John Sabo ’07 and Beth (Blahnik) Riebe ’04 (Advancement), along with Norby the Knight, set off on a 10-day excellent adventure that covered 3,300 miles during the latter half of July. The trip not only succeeded in creating opportunities for in-person interaction, it also generated a level of social media engagement that exceeded expectations.

“From day one, we knew we wanted to make this trip interactive with our alumni community,” Sabo says. “We posted to Facebook, Twitter and the college’s blog site during the trip, which created a reason for alums to ‘like’ our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.”

The impetus for the trip was an alumni golf outing organized by Mark Condon ’79, general manager at Red Rocks Country Club near Denver. A strong Denver-area alumni group had been conducting events the past few years, and the July 21 outing date worked with the schedule of college president Tom Kunkel.

“The golf outing had 22 players, which was more than we expected,” Sabo says. “The first group to sign up was from Baraboo, Wis. It included an alumni member who planned her annual trip to Colorado around the golf outing.”

On the way to Colorado, the road trip trio made stops at several places suggested by alumni through social media interaction. The group would post where it was headed and ask for thoughts on potential meet-up locations.

Alumni were more than happy to offer suggestions on Facebook, with one member even driving an hour to meet the travelers in Omaha, Neb. The group also made stops in Janesville, Wis.; Dubuque, Dyersville and Des Moines, Iowa; Kearney, Neb.; Colorado Springs, Denver and Morrison, Colo.; and Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo.

“In the past, our communication on Facebook was one-way,” Sabo explains. “We would post something and alums would comment. We wanted to start using Facebook as a two-way communication, and we thought this might be a cool way to start. We had some areas in mind to visit, but we didn’t have any specific locations for happy hours and dinners.”

Facebook and Twitter engagement made a significant jump during the trip, with a 569 percent increase in Facebook total reach compared to average and a 16.7 percent increase in Twitter followers.

“Our engagement is down since the road trip ended, but it still has increased from where it was before the trip,” Sabo says. “This was definitely something we can use as a template to visit other locations in the future.”

Nov. 13, 2014