Hire Your College Students: How to Create an Awesome Social Media Team
Pop quiz! Who do you think makes the best addition to your college or university’s social team?
A remote freelancer? Not really.
An alum? Helpful, but not the best.
Your agency: Helpful, but not the best.
Your mascot? Uh, sometimes, yeah…
Your current students? Absolutely.
As an agency, we can certainly help with content creation, strategy, and consultation, and we love doing so. But from our POV, there’s no doubt about it: Among your current students, there are a few that will prove to be absolute gold for your social marketing efforts.
Why hire students?
They know your college best—what it’s like to be there, right now. They speak your prospective students’ language. They’re ridiculously good at video editing. And, depending on which students you choose to work with, they may already come with a huge following—which could include your various target audiences.
Don’t have any students working for you yet? Here’s an easy 7-step action plan to get started and catch up with colleges who are already killing it at social.
1. Get a budget.
To pay or not to pay? During a recent AMA roundtable on student influencer strategy, the question came up: “If you have students creating content for you, do you pay them?” A resounding “YES” rippled across the Zoom screen. And we agree.
Even if it’s not a part-time job, even if it’s a few content pieces here and there, your students deserve some money for their time and effort—in addition to the work experience they can now claim on their resume.
So how much? That’s up to you and your budget, but one person on that AMA call shared her structure: $400 a semester for 2 pieces of content a month.
2. Assemble your social team.
There are really two kinds of hires you could make here. 1) Students who will post on their own personal channels about your college. “Influencers,” essentially. 2) Students who will create content specifically for your institutional channels.
Each one comes with obvious benefits, so we always tell our clients to go for both. But if you had to choose, see what makes the most sense after you go through the interview process. On that note…
A few quick tips for assembling your student team:
- Spread the word on your social channels, in your campus newsletter, and among faculty that you’re looking to hire a handful of students who are social media savvy and begin to collect applications.
- At the same time, be proactive and search for students with big followings. Go on TikTok, for example, and look up hashtags relevant to your college. Are any of the videos you come across made by current students, and what’s their engagement like? Lots of likes and comments? If you find someone who clearly knows what they’re doing, reach out to them and gauge their interest.
- Once you have a good amount of applications in, conduct interviews to get a sense of why they’re interested, what their experience is like, their preferred social platforms, and what they can offer you. Ask if they’re okay with posting on their own personal channels, or if they prefer to supplement your institutional accounts.
- Give your top candidates a quick and easy test—something like “Create an Instagram post that shows off the beauty of our campus.” It could be a video, a photo, a graphic; leave it up to them and see how they do. Look at the quality of their visuals and the captions they write.
- Make your decision and hire however many students your budget allows. Get them all together in person or over a Zoom and celebrate with a fun kickoff. (Toss ‘em some swag they can potentially use in their content!)
3. Hand out the assignments.
Give your team clear direction on how much content you’re paying them for, what platforms you need their help with, and deadlines. Ask them to pitch some ideas on the kinds of topics they’d like to cover and assign accordingly. You don’t want every single student doing a “look how beautiful our campus is” video at the same time.
Depending on what your current needs are—perhaps what you’re lacking on your social channels right now—here are some ideas of topics they could help you out with:
- “Check out my dorm”
- Specific CTAs: Sign up for our Open House, schedule a campus tour, apply today
- A day in the life of a [Your College] student (LIM College is great at these.)
- Dining hall reviews
- Favorite spot on campus
- Campus traditions
- Who your college is perfect for
- Why they chose your college
- Anything trendy (“Tell me you go to X College, without telling me you go to…”)
- FAQs, answered by the admissions team OR your student team (Love this one from Alfred University)
4. Let them go!
The more authentic their posts, the more they’ll resonate with your audiences. Of course, you should take a look before they’re published and make sure nothing offensive or inaccurate is conveyed, but for the most part, try to give them the freedom to create as they normally would.
5. Measure their success.
If they’re posting the content on their own personal channels, keep an eye on their accounts to see how much engagement their posts drive. Any likes, views, shares, comments? Ask if they can share any insights you may not have visibility on—either qualitative or quantitative.
If you’re publishing their content on your institutional channels, do the same. Keep track of which posts perform better than others, and how they compare to the non-student-made posts you push out. And if anyone comments, get in there and comment back!
6. Repurpose the content.
Got a hit post on your hands? Use it in other ways! Say one of your students shot an iPhone tour of your dining hall on Taco Tuesday and it got thousands of views and likes. Consider how else you can use it. Perhaps:
- On your college’s website in the dining hall section
- In your email nurture stream on the topic of student life
- Share it with your agency in case they could use the creative
- Reshare it on your institutional social channels (if it was originally posted on theirs)
- On a thank you page within your paid media campaigns
- Embedded in a blog post about campus food on your website
7. Reward your team.
Yes, you’re already paying them and giving them hands-on creative and marketing experience. But if they prove to be an invaluable asset to your social team, it doesn’t hurt to hand out some more swag (remember, apparel and tote bags = easy advertising) or show your appreciation with a special dinner party.
How CCA can help
We’ve managed over a dozen university blogs, created hundreds of social videos, and eat and sleep content strategy. If CCA can help in any way, let us know.
- Come for a one-day campus visit workshop to collect content or run interviews
- Provide a list of topics specific to your school
- Audit your social channels and those of your competitors
- Create a content strategy for your budget and goals
- Teach your students how to capture video and photography (but without making the end result look too produced)
- Manage your student social team and measure their progress
- Supplement your efforts with content we create on your behalf
Good luck with creating your social team!