Got Students? Get Social!

Ma’ayan Plaut

Social Media Coordinator, Oberlin College
http://2013.highedweb.org/mobile/EventDetail.aspx?guid=d6949373-2551-425b-8cc9-ea17e85ddf81

Student content. We all know it’s important, but Ma’ayan is proof. She began by telling her story from taking one picture a day in undergrad at Oberlin, to her current position as Social Media Coordinator because of her experience as a student content contributor.

#realtalk. Student content is real! Ma’ayan cited multiple student examples of “the realest of #realtalk.” Their content ranges from blog posts to small doodles and explanations.

Ma’ayan brought us a special surprise – VIDEOS OF STUDENTS! We had the chance to listen to students’ testimonials about blogging on campus. “Essentially you’re trying to create the realest version of yourself.” said one student, as well as “I want to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Student blogs can only be as successful as the content that exists on it. (So that means the LINK blog is pretty great, right?). Ma’ayan cited RIT in Rochester New York, whose content includes videos as well as live tweets. It allows prospective students to take a look at RIT and the surrounding community before they get their acceptance letter.

“We listen, we make something excellent happen through a partnership with the students, and listen again,” Ma’ayan said. This means that we need to “do the listening loop-the-loop” with our students, and our blogs. Continuously engaging our audience is important, but we also need to take the time to listen to our audience!

What kind of ways can we make this relationship better for us and our students? The first thing to remember is that student bloggers are NOT a “timesaver.” We must still maintain communication with them, and this takes time! Most importantly, your College or University’s story is your STUDENTS’ stories! They are living, breathing, thinking manifestations of your College/University…use it!

When we work with student content creators, we have a lot of hurdles to jump over. First, students are students first. They think like students, act like students, and go on mental breaks from being a student, which means that content might not always be flowing. Because of this, we have to talk to and trust our students, listen to what they’re working on, and act as a resource to them when they need the help. Communicating with students can happen in multiple ways, because we’re human, and we all communicate differently. Ma’ayan sends out fortnightly emails, where some Tweet, or talk in person.

Content creation – and ultimately collection – happens in different ways at different campuses. There are obvious pros and cons to a regimented schedule vs. a free flowing blog, but remember – it’s about the content!

Student content creators have an incredible advantage as they move into the workforce. Even though we look at student content creators as “good press” for our college/university, we’re giving them the opportunity to take ownership of their content, and bring it into a job interview.

What are we looking for in our students? First, think about your direct need. Why are we going to do this? Where are we going to put it when it’s done? Who are we making this for? Answer those questions, and then think about what type of personality you want your student content creators (and their content) to have. We also need consistent(ly awesome) stuff from them, so that our content can be awesome, right? Right.

So, we know what we want from students, but where can we find them? You can find them all over social media – Twitter, Instagram, even Google! Try reaching out to those students who are already creative so that you can capture it and reap the benefits! The creativity and passion from our students will strengthen the partnership that we have with them.

Incentives. Sometimes we have to scrounge and find money to pay students. Fortunately, we can pay them less than a full time employee, but we can also provide them with other things such as equipment, or training to reward them for their content and creativity. This will also help them down the road (potentially) more than a paycheck would.

Final thought: create a space where students can be themselves without any extra effort. Communicate with them to determine the ideal workflow for maximum contributions and creativity. Also, give students ownership of their content. This creates quality content because they are risking their own reputations, as well as allows students to benefit from contributing content when they move on into the professional world.