Student Generated Content: Part Two

This is the second post in a series on integrating student-generated content into communications, particularly in social platforms.

Identifying Student Content Generators: Where to Find Them, and What to Look For

One of the most important elements of student generated content is identifying the great students who will create it. The first step isn’t hitting the quad with a fist full of fliers to find help, but rather to identify your stakeholders and audiences. Who are you trying to reach (alumni, prospective students, parents, community members)? How will your content be relevant to them? What types of content will have the greatest impact? What are your goals for this project? The answers to these questions will differ from campus to campus, and maybe from department to department. But the answers will provide valuable insight into the types of content – and therefore, students – you should be looking for once you begin your search.

Finding Students: Where to Look and Who to Ask

Now that you’re ready to seek out student talent, make use of your colleagues and partners on campus for recommendations and leads. Speak with faculty members whom you trust to identify talented students. Talk with admissions, athletics, and student affairs. These groups work directly with students every day, and are your in-house experts. And don’t forget to engage with students themselves: talk to those active in clubs, campus activities, student newspapers and student government.

What to Look For

Interviewing students for this role is important. Take it as seriously as you would if hiring a professional. First, the basics: make sure the student has the skills and the talent to create content. Ask for samples of their work, dependent on the role you’re filling. Blogger? Ask for a writing sample (make it a quick test in-person, and consider doing it without computer-aided grammar and spelling checks). Photographer? Ask for a few of the shots they are most proud of. Videographer? Get a few samples of their work for reference.

Also important: their personality. Get a sense of who they are as a person, including their interests, experience, their professional, educational and personal goals. Also consider what I call “interestingness,” – background, where they’re from, and those characteristics that make them unique. World traveler? Sailing enthusiast? Accomplished pianist? Find out.

Finally, remember that one of the goals of working with students is creating and fostering a relationship with your audiences. The student workers you select should be personable – not only online, but in person. Find students who would be great to take to an event for alumni, donors or admissions.

Cautions

Set expectations for the students and for your staff. Make sure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities by avoiding confusion about what the students are there to do, and how they contribute to the team.

Do your homework: check the “digital footprint” of your potential student staffer. Take a look at their profiles on social sites, read their personal blogs, check out their online photo galleries. Make sure you have some sense of their online reputation up front. This accomplishes two things: 1) you get a better sense of who they are and 2) you are aware and prepared for issues that could crop up later (inappropriate photos, comments, etc). Depending on what you find, you may not want to hire the student in the first place.

And finally, Independent School folks working with kids or high school students: get parent permission. Even if your students aren’t minors, make sure you consult your legal team to make sure everything is on the up and up.

What other advice and insight do you have? Post a comment.

Next post: training!

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