Gathering user-generated content (UGC) in higher education is easier than you might think. Here are 6 easy strategies for empowering students to share their experiences.
By: Kyle Freelander
There’s an increased appetite for authentic content in our day-to-day lives, and it plays a powerful role in determining what brands people support and ultimately buy from.
Recent research shows 88 percent of consumers said authenticity is important when deciding which brands they support, and 59 percent said content created by other consumers (also known as user-generated content or UGC) is the most authentic type of content.
While these statistics are broader than just higher education, it’s just as important for institutions to leverage UGC in recruitment and marketing strategies. By amplifying current students’ voices, you build a trustworthy brand and give prospective students an authentic view of what it’s like to be part of your institution’s community — which can directly impact their decisions to apply and ultimately enroll.
Some institutions believe getting student-generated content is difficult or time-consuming — or that the only way is to wait for students to create and share content of their volition. However, taking an active and strategic approach to collecting student-generated content is easier than you may think and can save your team valuable time and money.
Below are six easy strategies for inspiring and collecting impactful student-generated content that enhances your institution’s brand, builds public trust, creates a sense of community, and engages prospective students.
1. Kick things off quickly by leveraging existing champions
Need to get some quality student-generated content — and fast? Ask your student ambassadors and other campus leaders. Student government officers, tour leaders, RAs, and other student leadership roles are great people to reach out to for help with this as well.
If there is certain content you know you need like student testimonials or authentic videos of campus, make a list or sign up sheet to keep things organized and ensure everyone is on the same page.
2. Spread the word to get more students involved
Student-generated content needs to come from every pocket of your student community to truly represent your institution.
Empower students to share their stories using outbound text messages, emails, flyers with QR codes, institution newsletters, and other key communication channels to get the word out. Let students know key information, including why you need their help, what you are (and aren’t) looking for, and how to submit or share.
It’s also a good idea to share a list of content ideas to get students thinking about how to participate (along with some examples of what you’re looking for).
While some students will create and share content just to have the chance of being featured in marketing materials, virtual campus tours, or social media posts, prizes such as gift cards can help further incentivize student participation.
You can have students submit directly to you and your team or ask them to submit via social media using a contest-specific hashtag.
4. Reach out to alumni
Current students aren’t the only ones with stories to share! Your alumni — especially recent grads — have relevant stories as well. After all, they’ve spent years at your institution making memories.
Alumni can share photos or testimonials (written or recorded) from their time at your institution, providing a unique post-graduate perspective. Here are some ideas for compelling content they can share:
Their favorite campus building (academic, dorm, or otherwise)
Their favorite class (and why)
A favorite on-campus memory
What made them choose to go to your institution
Why they’re glad to have graduated from your institution
Where their degree from your institution helped get them
5. Run seasonal campaigns for fresh content
With content, it’s critical to regularly evaluate where you may have gaps or can use new approaches to better convey important information. With student-generated content, that might mean running seasonal campaigns or contests to spark fresh submissions and create an even stronger picture of what it means to live, work, and play at your institution.
Some seasonal campaigns to consider:
Share a favorite seasonal activity on-campus
Show off a can’t-miss local store, restaurant, or shop
Reflect on your favorite campus event from the past semester/year
Introduce a favorite professor or staff member (especially during relevant appreciation weeks!)
6. Don’t forget to reach out to faculty and staff
Generate buzz on campus by getting faculty and staff on board. They can help identify ideal students, generate content ideas, and help make your institution stand out. Plus, they may also have content to contribute! (Think: An engineering professor showing you what one of their classes looks like or food services staff showing off the dining hall.)
Empower your students to tell your story — and watch applications and enrollment soar. Let us show you how.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kyle Freelander (she/her/hers) is a passionate writer, former educator, and lifelong learner. She has taught English literature and writing courses in higher education, writing workshops in K-12 schools, and English and ESOL courses as a private tutor for students pre-K and up. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a BA in English (minor in Linguistics) from the University of Mary Washington. She currently serves as the Head of Content at StudentBridge.