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  • Writer's pictureJon McBride

From crowdsourcing to ambassadorship: Utilizing student feedback, content and workforce

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

The following piece is based off of my presentation on this topic at the Higher Ed Experts HESM19 Conference

Students want to hear from other students on social media.

That shouldn't be a revelation in higher ed social media communications and marketing.

But even though students are key to a university's social media strategy, they remain largely underutilized. How can we better leverage their knowledge, preference and expertise?

Let's take a look at three different areas that can build off of each other and into a process in leveraging the social capital of students on a college campus.

To do this, we're going to follow the student journey of Summer, who currently works in our office at BYU.

1. Crowdsourcing

The first time we met Summer is when she was recommended to us to do a takeover from the BYU Jerusalem Center. She did an awesome job.

Our takeover model has been largely dependent on crowdsourcing in general to help us find unique, engaging, diverse students to feature

There are lots of other ways we crowdsource outside of just finding takeover participants, getting meaningful feedback that informs some of our major social media projects

We were amazed to see more than 400 meaningful responses in this Google form in a story about mental health resources and how to help friends or roommates who are going through a tough time.

The answers we got from the crowdsourcing helped inform what our on-camera participants said in our final video project.

We shared other responses as text segments within the story

In all of our crowdsourcing efforts, we’re making connections with more and more students, students, like Summer, who we can invite to join our …

2. Street Team

BYU's street team:

  • 20 students

  • Different ages, majors, interests, styles

  • Found via social monitoring

  • Meet together twice per semester

  • Communicate through email often

  • Brainstorm social strategy

  • Collaborate on campaigns

  • Networking tool for them

  • Utilize for Insta story takeovers

  • Brainstorm social strategy

  • Collaborate on campaigns

  • Networking tool for them

  • Utilize for Insta story takeovers

The street team can be especially valuable in amplifying key university messages, serving as influencers and ambassadors. In this example, I sent a preview email out to the street team before debuting a major social project we'd be posting the next day.

We even sent them assets to share natively themselves. This process really helped us spread the Instagram story and reach a much larger, important audience through the students' own social connections.

You can read more about our street team model, as well as how three other universities run similar-yet-different models in my piece here:

From the street team, a few of our students stand out as being especially talented, engaged and/or capable, like Summer, and we can utilize those students even more by …

3. Hiring Them

The street team has become a great place to look when we're hiring a new student. We also open the position up to other students to apply to. And of course, we use our Insta story to crowdsource.

From there, we transition to email communication.

Obviously this isn’t a marketing email. This is long and there are a lot of words there, but this is a luxury we have with students when applying for a job … they’re invested in answering our questions and being thorough … and we can take advantage of that. Students DO read long emails, when they need to.

So yes … Here within the first email to an applicant, we’re already back to crowdsourcing again. We give them an exercise where we ask them to provide us with a few things.

We ask them questions about what THEY perceive as our social media strategy (which gives us some fascinating feedback with how our strategy is landing with our audience), we ask them what they feel like we should be focusing on more, we ask them to draft three posts we could potentially use from our accounts and more. This is some fascinating data for us to internalize and evaluate, as well as helping us evaluate job candidates

Here’s one especially good application that was designed and branded well, with designed specific posts, explaining ideas … giving us legitimate ideas to run with.

We'll get 100+ applications during the hiring process. Students really want to work in our offices, doing this work. They're invested in giving you really good content through your crowdsourcing within the hiring process. You've got to go through this process of evaluating candidates anyway, you might as well get something valuable while you're doing it.

Crowdsourcing like this is a much better use of time than simply evaluating 100+ resumes of students who don't really have any relevant experience to evaluate anyway.

Once you have the student hired, it’s my recommendation that you give your students viable, important, substantial projects to work on. Give them access and treat them with respect and compassion.

Summer has come in and totally transformed our takeover series.

Summer’s a supply chain management major. She created an all-online system that totally streamlines the process and logistics of takeovers.

Our student employees have been amazing and I’m so thankful for them.

I’ve presented at numerous conferences, written guest pieces and been on podcasts talking about a major project our office did, talking about sexual assault in Instagram stories. [LINK]

The impetus of that idea came from another student in our office … Bethany.

She presented the idea in my office, IN a job interview. This was years ago now, before Instagram stories were a thing and when Instagram was used mostly for selfies and pictures of food. But this student of ours had some foresight that I didn’t have.

Students can be much more capable and in-touch with campus needs than we often realize. Let’s utilize them.

In summary:

  • Pick the most strategic times and places to get your biggest crowdsourcing ROI

  • Leverage a street team or other student ambassador groups to help amplify your messaging and build ownership

  • Attract, hire and utilize student employees to contribute value to your everyday work

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