The newest generation of students entering college is unique from any other before it-- today’s prospective college students are digital natives. They grew up with technology tightly interwoven into many aspects of life
Being raised with technology not only means that technology has shaped how they interact with individuals around them, but also how they interact with places, spaces, and opportunities. In turn, technology has also fashioned how they expect to be engaged.
This also means that they cast a wary eye at being “sold” by big branding and they crave the personal stories of recommendations from family, friends, and other people deemed “just like me.” And every university is, in an of itself, a brand.
Incorporating user-generated content into your university lifestyle, marketing, and recruiting materials using the following methods will help you foster student engagement and give your students the full collegiate experience they desire.
Display User-Generated Content on Your University Website
Having a strong web and social presence is key for universities to showcase their campus, communicate learning opportunities, and demonstrate the value in attending your institution over the others.
User-generated content (UGC) is public content that is created by a user of a system or service. It can come in different forms, blog forms, fan sites, and videos, but social media shares appear to be the most commonly used form of UGC.
Placing user-generated content on your website can be instrumental in recruiting new students and faculty by opening a window into daily life on campus, as told and captured by current students with quotes, reviews, and photos.
By allowed students to engage with the content produced by other students, universities become less of a “brand” to be marketed, and more of an immersive experience.
Encourage Use of Hashtags
Hashtags are one of the best ways to procure and organise user-generated content from past and current students and faculty members. Creating a hashtag specific to your university is a great way to start, but you can use hashtags for people to use during special university events such as anniversaries, sporting events, awards and recognitions, or even student spotlights.
Always include your hashtag on posters, websites, or handouts so that students know how to share and be part of the conversation happening around any given event.
Be sure to track the success of your hashtag overtime and don’t be afraid to iterate based on the response of students. Tracking and automating your campaigns with social media monitoring tools can help you get the most mileage and engagement possible.
Create a Living Story That’s Unique to the University
Storytelling is one of the most engaging and powerful forms of human interaction, and every university has a distinct story to tell. Universities can tap into this engagement tactic by having alumni and existing students add to their unique history and story through user-generated content.
Alumni can share their stories, photos, and memories through social media to preserve the history of your campus and help keep traditions alive in the current student population. Existing students can do the same, and share their experiences to continually shape the story of your university.
When looking from the outside-in, prospective students can see different journeys of life on campus, after graduation, and all of the possibilities in-between. These snapshots help new students find their fit at your university and become eager to tell their own story.
Empower Student Social Media Ambassadors
In addition to your marketing team and organic collection of user-generated content, you can also include students in the process as social media ambassadors. Current students are fully immersed in the experience that your university offers, so their voices can be used to effectively (and proactively) start conversations online via social media. Using these discussions, you’ll be able to gather the candid reactions from students as well as collect compelling and highly specific content you can use for a variety of purposes in your institution.
Incorporating user-generated content in these ways can help universities gain exposure and engage students by mobilising their alumni and existing student body in the form of socially shared stories, reviews, and photos.
As you build out your strategy, it can also be very helpful to look into software solutions that help you curate, manage, and fully leverage all the user-driven content pertaining to your specific university.
In the age of digital media, there are many students that would be more than willing to actively engage in digital conversations with current, past, and prospective students. If given the right opportunities to share and promote their own content, you are allowing students to feel involved and supported by their university, while creating your own collection of marketing content.
This article was a guest blog post by TrustRadius.