Tips for Working with Student Content Creators
Paul Hodgson, Digital Projects Manager (Content) at the University of Nottingham, recently spoke at our webinar on 'Working with student creators: influencer marketing and more'. Here he explains how he successfully established a network of student creators and shares tips to help you build yours.
An elusive mystery often brought up in HE marketing chat is ‘how do you engage with students in a way that actually works’? How do you get the best out of them to create content that meets your user needs? We found that the answer is (un)surprisingly simple: pay them actual money and treat them as an equal and valued part of your team.
How it started...
Our team at the University of Nottingham started working with students over five years ago. Originally dubbed ‘digital ambassadors’, we’ve grown our network from a handful of students to a diverse group of over 50 Student Creators with skills and experience in creating video content, using social media platforms and more.
We originally reached out via social media, advertising paid temp roles to work with us as ambassadors making vlogs and writing blogs. The response we got was highly positive, and as our number of ambassadors grew, we knew we needed some sort of central hub to communicate with them effectively and share job opportunities.
Looking for something ‘youth friendly’, we first landed on a Facebook Group. This never really took off the way we’d hoped, however, with limited engagement and posts often getting missed. Due to budget restraints(?), our options were few – but we knew we needed to find a more engaging and accessible platform to speak to our ambassadors.
The solution came from a visit to the YouTube Space in London, which we have access to as YouTube Partners. In order to drive some inspiration and generate content, we took a group of around 10 ambassadors down to the studios to shoot some fun footage around student life. In order to manage and organise the trip, we created a WhatsApp group where everyone could share their plans, thoughts and feedback. And so history was made!
The engagement we saw in this WhatsApp group was above and beyond anything we’d ever achieved on our Facebook group. Students were interacting with each other and planning collabs and we were in on it all! It became clear that a WhatsApp chat was a great approach, so we invited the rest of the creators in and worked with it from there on.
How it’s going...
After some time, the WhatsApp chat became very noisy, and job opportunity posts from our team were being lost in the hubbub. Not to mention an occasion where some less than appropriate pics and conversation were shared during nights out in Welcome week! Ultimately, we had to lay down the law and remind them that while casual chat was OK, this was a place where we wanted to communicate with them as professionals. We created a second WhatsApp chat solely for job postings and shortly after decided we needed to formalise even further. From here, we built briefing documents, decided on formalised fees for each type of content and created our official Student Creators Team on Microsoft Teams. This was before the Covid pandemic, so we adopted the whole O365 eco-system pretty early on compared to some colleagues.
Teams is great because it’s something that every student has access to. It has a mobile app and provides a secure space to upload documents and files. And all this means we’re now running like a well-oiled machine, with our students fully understanding the nature of their roles and how important they are to making content that meets our user needs. We still use the WhatsApp group for casual chat, and the jobs WhatsApp to signpost upcoming opportunities, but for us, Microsoft Teams is the clear winner when it comes to managing and growing our creator network
The 6 most important things when growing your own creator network
#1 Start small
Don’t go too big too soon. Start by recruiting a handful of students to work with and collaborate closely, then use them for user testing. Trust their insights, but know when to make that call on what not to do – remember, students don’t know everything, but they do know what their audience wants to see.
#2 Recruit the right students
However you recruit, ensure you have a clear role profile that outlines how you’ll work with them and, most importantly, that they need to have the skills to do the work immediately. Our application process involves a quick informal chat and a review of the content they’re capable of making. This proves that they have the kit, the skills and the level of communication required to deliver the information required. Also, set up your admin/finance process to be able to brief work into them and pay them easily.
#3 Pay them money
Obviously, this is going to mean getting your stakeholders/budget-holders approval, but students absolutely don’t want to be paid in gift vouchers or in free university merchandise. They can’t pay their rent with those things! Neglecting to pay them completely devalues their skills and work, so make sure you prioritise real payments for a job well done.
#4 Make them part of your team
Don’t just assign your creators work and leave them to it – treat them like a valued, important part of your team. That means respecting their contributions, taking their decisions seriously and showing how much you appreciate the content they’re delivering.
#5 Integrate creators and content
Be multi-channel and use creators to their individual strengths. Think about using their work on paid content as well as organic, and set up a process for sharing your creators with the rest of your institution. This way they could also create subject specific content or take part in user testing, focus groups and more.
#6 Promote creators impact
Shout about your creators to your stakeholders and beyond. Gather stats, comments, feedback and data on how their content performs and the impact it has on the student recruitment journey.
Working with students will almost certainly improve the work you already do, while bringing young and talented people into your team. It can take a lot of admin and teething problems to iron out, which is why starting small is important, but the outcome is absolutely worth the effort.
If you would like help with extending the reach of your student creator content to our global FindAMasters and FindAPhD audience, please get in touch with your Account Manager, email [email protected] or call +44 (0)114 268 4940. If you have TAP student ambassadors, you can now also integrate them with your Institution Profile on FindAMasters.com.
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