Why Students Are Your Most Valuable Content Creators

By Robbie Fitzwater | Apr 13, 2017

For the last two years, we’ve embarked on an experiment with our social content. We took some of our most important content programs and handed them over to students!

We’ve had ups & downs, a few surprises, but overall it’s been a blast bringing students onto our team and enabling them to tell the Clemson story.

In addition to bringing down the average age of our office, they’ve brought new and creative ideas to the table that have kept us relevant to a younger audience and shifted our thinking about certain platforms. We made the move out of opportunity & necessity, and it’s been very valuable from a content perspective. Videos, graphics, GIFs, Snapchat, strategy…you name it, they’ve done it.

Here are the three main reasons our students are so valuable to our team.

We’ve expanded our resources

In today’s marketing environment, the demand for content continues to grow and grow. We’re all working to step up our game to create business value through our storytelling. With more and more platforms coming online, we have to continually shift resources from one platform to another. Our student team has worked to expand our bandwidth, grow into different platforms, and shift our mindset towards production & distribution.

One of the biggest impacts they’ve made on our team is expanding the way we view video. With extra hands on board, we can suddenly take more of a “video-first” approach to storytelling, creating short videos welcoming students to Clemson, consistent short weekly recap videos, and we can finally create the fun and creative campus experience videos that we’ve always wanted.

As a university, we’re always going to devote more of our attention to the “hard stuff,” the more serious and structured content that is the backbone for many university communicators, but with extra manpower we can devote more time to the “soft stuff”, the warm & fuzzy content that doesn’t have as much quantifiable business value but gives the university a soul and shows students what their life as a Clemson student will be like.

We can tell a better story

As university communicators in a digital age, we can sit around a table and pour over research about what’s going to resonate with our target audience, but we’ll never be able to understand that world as well as a student. We can all understand that we need to be on Snapchat, but we can’t truly understand how a student is going to use the platform like a student would. We give them the guidance around framing a story, the comfort of knowing we trust them, and they run with it!

They also have access to networks and students that we may never have. They can help to find a group of students and coordinate a more complicated shoot, find an influential student with a powerful story for a student takeover or even help you to recruit new students for your team!

We can fulfill the university’s mission

Teaching may not be on a higher ed marketer’s job description, but it has been so rewarding to see the students on our team graduate and have the skills they learn here translate to the real world! They’ve gone on to work for brands like Adidas, Sharpie & Kraft. The skills and experience they learn help them stand out once they graduate. One of our current team members has been working with us for a little over a year now and had over 4 million views on videos he’s produced (on a side note- he’s still looking for a job after graduation if anyone’s looking).

I love seeing them excel when they enter the workplace and letting their work do the talking. When someone asks how we produce so much video, I love seeing the surprised looks on their faces when they learn that our students create so much! We work at universities because we want to empower young minds, and there’s no better way to do it.

Here are a few tips for getting students plugged in to your content efforts:

Start small

We hand a few scalable projects over to our students and let them evolve them from there. We have a weekly recap video and student feature videos that we publish every week. We’ve given our students the autonomy to take the format and evolve it gradually. It takes them a little more time at first but once they get into a rhythm, they start cranking them out fast and move onto other projects.

Give them autonomy

Make them the master of different parts of your strategy. One student runs the planning and logistics of our student takeover account. Since she lives and breathes it, she can think strategically about it. She’s confident in the decisions she makes, intentional with the students she selects, and she can do a much better job coaching those students.

Think outside marketing

Not every student that comes to you will be a marketing major, so be open to students from other majors joining the team. Many of the skills they’ll use don’t depend on major, so let them bring different perspectives to the table.

Let them be creative

They will keep you on your toes with some unique ideas and ways to execute them. To be honest, some of their ideas genuinely scared me at first, but after we walked through their reasoning, I often give them the green light. While those ideas don’t always work, often they strike an authentic cord and spread like wildfire!

There’s no secret sauce for us when it comes to bringing students onto our team, but it’s definitely one of the most impactful moves we’ve made. Even though sometimes they make me feel old, our social content is much better for it!

Tell Us What You Think

How do you incorporate students into your content creation? What tips do you have for others looking to involve students?

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