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Should We Stop Hiring Students to Help with Social Strategy?

Should we stop hiring students to help with social strategy

Our tree is up, the lights are lit, and the annual gingerbread house competition has been scheduled. It is officially the holiday season. As I reflect on the past year and look ahead to what’s coming in 2024, this year theme as been all about students.

My work approach and philosophy are centered; on who we are here to serve, and usually in higher ed, that is, our students. My work approach and philosophy are centered on the people we are here to serve, and in higher education, that is, our students.

In marketing and communications, students are integrated in all formal and informal ways and titles, from student workers, interns, influencers, ambassadors, and student employees. But the TL;DR version of this is students won’t solve all your problems,  and when you bring them on, there can be a lot of challenges. A lot of them. So, is it worth it? 

Students having an active part in your campus social media strategy can be significantly impactful – but you’ll need to find and hire the right students, provide timely and ongoing training, and establish trust with them. 

This session will be your cheat sheet to work with students differently in 2024. It’s time to get strategic, just like you do with all your marketing efforts. And trust me, not only will you get great content – but you’ll be positioned to transform the lives of your students – and probably yours too. 

Josie and the Podcast is a production of Dr. Josie Ahlquist and is produced by University FM. The show is also sponsored by Element451.

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Notes from this Episode:

[00:00:00] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is produced by the rockstar team over at University FM. They are the higher ed podcast agency and help communicators build community, share research, and inspire thoughtful discussions with stories that resonate.

And related to today’s topic, they offer podcast coaching for students, too. Strategy, production, marketing, they can help you do it all. Go to or click the link in the show notes to start podcasting with ease.

What if a team of two could do the work of 20? Element451, the all-in-one intelligent student engagement platform, combines AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants, workflow automation, and modern marketing tools to hyper-personalize student communication and boost team productivity. The easy-to-use platform can help you optimize the entire student journey, from application to graduation and beyond, ensuring that every exchange between your institution and its students is meaningful, personalized, and engaging.

Harness the power of artificial intelligence to craft personalized content at a scale that once was unimaginable. Visit for a demo and join the future of student engagement.

Hello, and welcome to Josie and the Podcast. I’m Josie, and I am so… happy holidays! Happy to have you here with me today. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity? On this podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

It is officially a holiday season. And my house is finally coming into the spirit of things. We got the tree up. What did we do before trees already had built-in lights? This has been like a game-changer, as long as one of those lights doesn’t go out. But I love this time of year in just all of the ways. And I hope this episode is finding you starting to get into a little bit of a spirit or maybe even a little bit of a shutdown as we start to process our way out of 2023.

Another reason why I get excited is we have hosted a holiday party at our house. And, no surprise, it has a theme. It is a gingerbread house competition. Now, we go and buy the store-bought kits. We’re not going to like British Bake Off style. And we don’t have time. Like, who has time to actually, like, bake and have a whole bunch of people over? We do have two ovens, but it would still be difficult.

So, anyway, we get these kits, we have a barbecue, and then we also don’t give themes very much time. And we encourage themes. We throw in, like, extra stuff they can add to their house. And then, there is judging. And it’s just so much fun. And so, we’re hosting that competition. I would love to hear what kind of themed parties y’all all do. I know for a while the ugly sweater party was popular. So, that’s our version of our little holiday party out here in L.A.

[00:04:11] Talking about holidays and, well, online shopping, holiday shopping, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, all the things, we are giving our nibblings… so, nibblings are your nieces and nephews. And Lloyd and I are committed to making this word stick. We even talked about for a while of having our own podcast, because there are, there are our nibblings. So, we’re giving them experiences. So, like, they’re in gymnastics and Odyssey of the Mind and like karate and all these things. So, we’re going to help contribute to make sure they can keep doing those things, because my sister-in-law told me and that is expensive stuff. So, we are here for it.

But I’ve got three recommendations. They are winners every time I gift them. And they’re also super, like, pretty low-cost, like under $50, if not even maybe like less than that, under $25. Could be good for a colleague, your boss. So, the first one is a candle warmer. I love Bougie Candles. I’m not embarrassed by it. I have embraced. I like things that smell good. Smells are very activating for me.

But candles can go so quickly. So, these candle warmers, you basically put your fancy candle under this warmer, and it will last forever. Like, it actually lasts too long. And I’m like, “I’m tired of this sent,” and I’ll set it aside and bring it back out. So, anyway, I’ll link to one that I have and I’ve gifted.

Another one is a milk frother. Like, not everyone can do the whole, like, you know, like, fancy machines. This thing is just like a handheld. You could probably throw this in your luggage, if you need, and you just throw that little, anybody, milk frother in your coffee or your cream and you got yourself a little latte situation or, or maybe like a, a tea latte.

The last one, and I may have talked about it last time, is I’ve got this portable charger that I have fallen in love with, because it has three different cords, because don’t we know every different piece of technology requires a different cord, but it’s all very… it all has little compartments, and it’s still really small. So, you could even fit it in like a… if you had just a little purse, it’s still going to fit. And you could also plug it in, because that’s the bummer, right? Once the portable charger is dead, what do you do to even get more juice? And so, this one, I’m a big fan of.

So, I’m going to link those three things in there. And that is the influence that I have over you. If you have other recommendations for, like, especially like affordable but very practical gifts, I would love to know about them. Heck, maybe we do a gift guide someday or something.

But as we know, after the holidays, we move into new years and I’m already thinking and processing about what this year was all about, as I think about next year, what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do. And of course, this fits perfect timing for me offering Renew in January, which is a retreat series for those that do marketing, communication, social media, honestly, any pocket of campus. You don’t even have that in your title. Other duties as a sign, and we just come together with community. Someone did it… described it as a little campy. And it may have been, in a judgy way, but I don’t care. Like, this podcast may even turn campy, and I’m just going to embrace that.

Talking about camping, it’s something I’m a little bummed about. But, like, we have just been so busy. We haven’t been able to take the RV out as much as we want. We’re not selling it, but we are starting to rent it out. And actually, after I stop recording today, we are going to be picking her up from the storage unit and preparing that. So, it’s bittersweet, but I love that other people get to enjoy it, too.

Something else that’s been happening this week is Epic Rap Battles of History. My partner in crime is the co-creator. After a year of rebuilding a bit, they have released a new video. And it is currently the number one music video on YouTube in the world. Isn’t that nuts? That’s just so nuts.

And they’ve been doing this for… okay, it’s 2003… over a decade, 12 years. I’m not so good with that. But, like, to see them continue to have success, I’m so proud of them. But I did the very first thing I have done ever. Of course, I react to a lot of things that my husband does behind the scenes, but I actually recorded myself. There’s these things on YouTube and TikTok called Reactions. And people just record their faces watching videos. And so, I recorded mine while I was at a co-working space, so like the lighting’s really bad and… but I was like, “Oh, maybe, I’ll just send this to Lloyd.” And I actually ended up editing it a little bit and I put it on TikTok.

So, your girl’s got her first TikTok out there, and it’s got way more views than I am comfortable with. Maybe, this is a new thing for me. And that’s all my TikTok’s going to be. Who knows? Maybe it finally ripped the Band-Aid off that I might do a little bit more on TikTok. We’ll, we’ll see. Y’all tell me, what do you think?

[00:09:36] Okay, that is the preamble, the prep work, the required reading that we’re actually getting into today is about students. And my research, my philosophy is all centered around who we are here to serve. And for a huge percentage of those that work in higher ed, it is students.

You may be also listening in from alumni or development or other pockets or family programs, and you’re like, “Well, students are great, but I also have these other audiences.” And that’s where I say it is community- and audience-centered. And what we know is that students can be, or whoever your audience is, can be so valuable when you’re actually trying to tell their story, to tell the story of what you… what transformation you’re able to provide.

For example, in student leadership, or an academic program, or just being part of the college as a whole. And in marketing, they are many times put to work behind the scenes and many times in front of the scenes. And they come in many different titles—from student workers, interns, ambassadors, student employees. But the too long didn’t read version of this is students won’t solve all your problems. And when you bring them on, there actually can be a lot of challenges.

I don’t like clickbait, but I couldn’t help myself with the title of, should we stop hiring students to help with social media? Because when I start to list out all of the challenges the industry most commonly faces, you have to weigh it against what the benefits are, which—spoiler alert—I’m going to share as well.

I also want to situate this, realizing especially this time of year and we’re trying to wrap up and hopefully wind down just a very, very busy season, that there is a mental health crisis of social media managers. And there’s been a few different studies put out, specifically, of those individuals that are doing this in higher education, for example, Tony Dobies at West Virginia University, and they found, of the 240 people they surveyed, 51 stated they’re only a team of one and 43 respondents are a team of two to four. But only 6% have teams of 5. And you can absolutely correlate that the amount of support and resources that you have to the ability to create more content.

But also, the reality is so many campuses are very resource-restricted, especially, to add new full-time employees, or even part-time. And so, many times, students are brought in to fill the gaps in all types of pockets. When I worked in student affairs, we would not be able to keep our student facilities, our student activities and services going without student workers. And so, no surprise, within social media, they’re able to manage content that can be a resource for our teams. And there can be some benefits, then, to alleviate the amount of work, especially for those teams of one or two.

But what you will find is that, just by simply hiring, it does not immediately equate that that investment is going to pay off in the short term unless you invest in building, almost what I would refer to as a program, to support not only social media management but the student experience behind the scenes.

So, I’m also coming right off the tails of the AMA symposium for marketing and higher education. On Sunday, there was a pre-con that I created with my good friends, Jenny Fowler from MIT, Cassaundra Moore from Washington University (WashU), and then Rachel Rodemann Putman from University of Arkansas, Fort Smith. And our session was called Developing Student Creators to Enhance Authentic Content Strategy.

And also, I realized that title was almost misleading because the majority of what we presented wasn’t even about the output, it was the input about how to even get to the place in your operations and in your program for students in order to have an authentic content strategy.

We know that students can potentially do that for us, but we have to find and hire the right students, provide timely training, and establishing trust with them. It was awesome to see our session room packed, where we walked through lots of ideas for how to go out and find students, build those programs, and actually get them performing.

And at the very start of the session, I did a Slido poll that also was very informative, at least for those in the room, where their programs are for integrating students. And so, I first wanted to know, especially like how many, how much are you paying them? Lots of other goodies. 

So, 51% of attendees work with two to four students. And 85% work at least with one student. And so, a good majority that at least came to our session were like, “Well, this is on the to do list. I want to improve this.” 84% of attendees employ students as employees or interns, while only 11% work with students is what they would define as influencers.

And also, what I found to be happy for my heart is the majority pay their students at least minimum wage for that state. We also had a good amount of respondents that were over minimum wage, upwards into $20 an hour. And where I’ll share later is you pay for what you get. And the investment you put in is the output you’re going to get back. And there’s going to be ways in this episode that I hope I can give you to implement that into the new year.

So, we asked attendees, what are some common challenges you’re having right now with students? So, it’s going to be things around quality, from spelling to genuine content versus branded content. The brand came up a lot, like managing expectations, creating content that’s still going to be, honestly, like, allowed for the campus versus what students might come up with. And then, just overall best practices. A student may never have managed a voice or brand before. Even if they have their own platform, like their own followers on Instagram or TikTok, this would be new.

The lack of knowledge of some best practices. And again, that’s just going to take more work than on the supervisor. Oh, and then scheduling, bandwidth, and availability. Students are, you know, they are busy. We are busy, too, but their busyness comes in almost a different flow than we might experience as professional staff from when their schedules are for classes, their involvement, their time off, and travels.

And honestly, let’s be real. We need them to be students first and employees second. And some students, this is their first job or even second, or now all of a sudden they’re taking a harder workload or course, they may struggle with that balance. And so, how much do we support them versus allowing them to be challenged?

But then, also, just thinking about getting coverage for events and strategies that we already had planned for. Two more challenges that we heard was just this overall skill of supervision. I tell you, when I had a staff, both students and pro staff, A, supervision is really, really hard. But it’s a unique skill set, specifically for students who are in our part-time or even less than that, because they are not only going to need training, but development and the realization that they are going to move on. The goal is them for to move on, because we want them to graduate. Or we’re going to hire them, which happens many times as well.

And then, the last piece can be around creativity and expression that the coaching that is required for, not only support and guidance, but a professionalized content creation process, along with the balance beam of following guidelines. And so, you can just probably, I hope some of those, I don’t know if I hope, but like I would not be surprised if some of those, you’re like, “Yep, I am feeling that very, very much.” And every single student is probably going to be bringing you a different set of challenges.

When I asked the faculty team from the Student Social Media Academy, which I’ll tell you more about them later, I asked them, what are some challenges that you face or you would anticipate the industry to face? And Joel, he’s the director of social media at FIU, you’re going to get student enthusiasm, but also how you then coach and support without, you know, basically, blowing out their flame.

So, you try to contain their huge desire to create content but also make them interested in learning the strategy, and even analytics. And Joel does a great job of teaching that in the academy.

And then, also, the other side is working on social media is not always fun or cute. It looks like it on the outside, but there’s actually a lot of bells and whistles behind the scenes. Cassaundra Moore, executive director for new media strategy at WashU, she talks about resources and support and the guru assumption that many people, and you might, you might think students are our social media gurus because they do it so often, they grew up with it, but this, hear me clearly, is not the case, that, just because you’re on something and you have an app download and you go to it every day does not mean you are a strategist for that tool.

Okay, so I bring up that question again, is, well, if we’ve got all these challenges, why do we do it? Why should we continue to hire and pay and pour into students helping us with social media? Well, honestly, the opportunities is what’s just going to fill your soul. One attendee said it best. Students bring good energy and insight. Other respondents said you get more genuine content that’s going to really resonate. And students are the very audience. If you’re thinking about, let’s say your campus leadership is trying to connect with, students can help influence that.

The peer-to-peer relation is powerful, like, current students, but perspective students can be especially powerful. We know that our future class students are scrolling through and seeking out our content and genuine stories. And so, having their actual future peers to look at is so critical.

Students may know more about trends. I try to be a cool adult as much as I can. There’s that meme out there that I don’t look at TikTok, you know, when something’s trending, I see it on Instagram like a real adult or something like that. And we might find out about trends after or even too late. So, they can be your informers there.

And while they are still trying to navigate brand guidelines, they can be some of your best brand storytellers. They experience campus life real time and they can tell that story so, so well.

I would also say, getting on my soapbox a little bit, that no matter if you’re putting students into the hands of social media or your front desk, and the research confirms this, is students who have student employee experiences, it can be quite transformational with intention and has positive outcomes in a variety of different ways, from their academics to retention and future employment.

So, I want you to see these positions not just as their output or even the input you’re putting in in order to get great content. I want you to see yourself working with a student or an entire team as a coach and one that’s going to provide transformation. And you only may get them for a short period of time, but start your inbox folder now, because in the future you’re going to hear back from students that give you these pearls of impact that you had no idea that that small conversation that you had or that training you provided was a critical component to their development and the direction that they ended up going.

I’m sure you can look back at your time in university or college and there may have been a faculty member, an advisor, or another experience that was pivotal for you. And these positions can be as well.

And so, again, I asked the Student Academy faculty, like, what has been your true positives of bringing students on? And Morgan from Purdue University, School of Business, she says that working with college students is a favorite part of her job. Without students, our content would be lacking. Students bring fresh ideas and unique perspectives to our strategies. She also says that, as the generation that grew up using social media, they actually understand maybe some of the nuances. So, not only trends, but some of those features. You think about all the bells and whistles of Instagram. That might be another place where they can provide really cool insight.

So, let me ask, is it worth it? Are you seeing the value or are you kind of feeling a little stuck and maybe even frustrated? Because as this episode comes out, this is often a period of time where we might lose students because they graduate. They may realize that they can’t continue on in the spring because of other demands and/or you’re having to re-hire another group and do this all over again.

Well, in this next section, I’d like to provide you what I hope would be a solid foundation, as you think about students being part of a strategy for you that can be sustainable. And it’s going to start with very clear expectations and even a job description. And this is two-way value.

So, we want to clearly define, whether if it’s an internship, student ambassador, marketing team, have a really clear pathway of what their outcomes are and expectations, down to time, down to specifics of what they might be doing within that week, and what that’s going to look like along with their academic commitments. Is it an hourly in the office? Is there a percentage of it that can be flexible and done from anywhere? And what is such a gift to students when you have a very defined job description, is they can then take that after they have now worked for you, and they can use that job description within their portfolio, on their LinkedIn, because all those outcomes are already clearly defined.

I’ve talked about LinkedIn ad nauseum in the past. And many times, students just don’t know how to take a work experience and translate it into, you know, even a cover letter, resume, but especially in digital platforms. And so, again, having that really clear is helpful.

I would also say, as you think about making these positions formalized, is another branding exercise. So, I have seen student ambassador or intern teams or positions become very sought after. And so, whether you have a, a title of those for individuals or an entire team, it allows you to already be marketing for those roles before you even need them. And Rachel Putman talks often about that she will get current students to already fill their replacements or do that advocacy work, just by role modeling and, for example, being part of the feed.

So, you’ve clearly created some of the bread and butter for hiring. They’ve offered. They’ve accepted. We’re excited. There are some realities of training, especially in roles like these, that it’s just going to have to be done on the go. But I would encourage you strongly to think about, not just onboarding, but continual training for students.

And this could just even be integrated into, you know, like, weekly meetings or an email that you send out with different topics you want them to work through. What I would say what we know about learning, you can’t give them everything upfront. This is for any human being. And/or even when you do, you’re going to have to continue to weave that in.

And again, the format can be different, from workshops to one-on-one coaching and hands-on, on-the-go. So, some topics that become very common, I’m sure, is learning the brand and brand guidelines, some platform-specific knowledge, understanding and developing strategy. But then, we think about, it actually goes into much further, almost more challenging topics like trust and transparency, emotional intelligence. 

Talking about Rachel again, who is—spoiler alert—going to be a guest on the podcast this season, is you might want to think about different periods of time where you want to recruit and hire students that folds in nicely to when you really need them at full capacity. So, it’s very common to hire students at the beginning of the academic year and then we off board them at the end of the year.

But it’s actually really, really busy in the beginning of the year. What if you already had your team trained and ready to go in that really busy season and you were to actually do that transitions in, for example, mid-year or spring break? Something to think about.

Another way to support students that you have is to create a similar structure of creating content that they can come to expect and to learn. So, this comes into play with project management within your brand guidelines so they understand, not only expectations, but using tools, whether if that is Asana to Monday to Trello, whatever you use is training them on that back end process. But also, as we talked about earlier, how they can really be informants for us on trends, I would highly encourage you to think about a pitch process in coming up with future content, which is also going to keep them engaged, knowing that it’s not just the grind of the content, you know, like process in the behind the scenes, but we’re doing that exciting stuff with the pitch process.

But that also means that you’re going to have to work more in advance. You may need to take pitches for weeks out in order to know that you’re going to have time to actually create those. Or if you know there’s a specific campaign or event coming up, you’re going to have to plan much more in advance when you’re, kind of, putting that in the hands of students.

Project management tools, I already started to talk about this. But the more people, honestly, could there, more problems could happen. And when you have… when you’re working full time but you’ve got a lot of students with more limited time, the more that you can centralize those processes, it is just going to bring you sanity. And there’s a lot of free ones out there. And I would encourage you to just… there’s no perfect one.

Callie Goodwin has all these cool things you can do with Airtable, and I’ll link that in the notes. But, you know, if you can’t learn that, it’s not making sense, and notion is just silly goose, I use Asana. It’s great.

And then, the final piece that I would highly encourage, if not require you to do, with students is evaluations and ongoing feedback. With my students, we would sit down mid-year, not just the end of the year, and I spend a good amount of time in providing them detailed feedback for growth. I would also ask them to do their own self-reflections.

And again, this is twofold. This is getting them prepared for when they are in the workforce, what an evaluation experience might be like. But also, I allow that to be a lot of discussion so I can understand maybe where some of those challenges and gaps are coming from to ensure that the position is, kind of, calibrated for them and/or what they can actually handle right now or where we can advance them even further, especially my juniors and seniors.

My goal for them was to make them the most competitive candidate for any position they applied for outside of what they were doing in academics. And there were times where I would add elements to their roles so we could maybe fill in some of those gaps from, I had one student once help me with some budgeting; another, maybe we were giving them more of the analytics reporting.

So, look creatively like that, as well as ongoing feedback. Make those times that you meet with a student one-on-one valuable, so they, again, aren’t kind of guessing till the end of the year.

[00:33:56] Some takeaways especially if you’re finding yourself, kind of, “This is challenging, I’m so frustrated, I clicked on this episode because no, I don’t think I should keep hiring students for social,” is supervising students is a unique skill set. And I would also say not every higher ed professional may be equipped to do it nor enjoy it. And I would also say, though, you can admit that and either go two ways, is to advance your knowledge and competency working with students and/or, if there is coming to a point where you might not be the right person to be managing students, if you’re in a team environment, that might be something to discuss.

I would also say it is part of the mission that we are investing in students, including student workers, student employees, and interns. If you read the mission of your university, you can draw back investing in or creating a program that’s formal or informal as mission-driven work.

On that note, and a future topic I feel like I got to cover, is to support your students through the lens of student learning and development. Psychosocially, they are going through, and this is… goes back to if they are a “traditional age student” or an adult learner, they are going through periods of development that we can both understand in order to support them.

The one theory that I would at least encourage you to, like, maybe comb through a little bit that also may help some of your challenges make sense is Sanford’s theory of challenge and support. But I would also say, as you think about training, you need to teach more than strategy. You yourself probably know this very well, that there are wellness components to this.

There are soft skills that are needed. And even how to manage time. So, how are we teaching students some of those as well?

Another takeaway that you can take and hopefully implement is, I want you, as you are looking out there, to find your future students, is don’t just go for the obvious of posting the job and praying, or even doing some social listening, and hiring the students with the most followers. Look for some gems in other pockets, like the photography club, journalism, videography, your film school, your performing arts. Rachel Putman talks about this. When you see them out on the quad and they’re always the one, like, gathering people up to do a group photo or they’re always behind the scenes capturing content. Look for all the different types of skill sets we need within social media and not just the super outgoing ones or, again, those that have a big following.

[00:37:10] As I start to wrap up in thinking about these takeaways, student content creators are one tool in our whole toolkit, but they’re not the solution. As I shared, the value they can provide because we want them to both consume our content and develop them to actually be creators. They are going to be pouring into you, as much as you are to them, to think of it as a two-way relationship. But it is going to take some investment and it is going to take some time.

And the final takeaway, I would say, is to get them in the Student Social Media Academy. Your time is very, very valuable. As we think about trying to scale you and your capacity, there are some topics that I’m sure you have to train and coach over and over and over. And what if there was a training tool that existed where your students could learn, basically, the core curriculum of social media in higher ed that’s going to help you immediately? And this is why I created the Student Social Media Academy.

It’s a self-paced online experience that is specifically made for college and university students that are helping higher ed in all pockets of campus. And it teaches them how to integrate the brand voice and tone of your institution into your digital marketing efforts. Because students are everywhere helping in all pockets of campus, the library, the residence halls, you know, the rugby team, and in marketing and communications.

And there is a correlation. When you train and empower them, you’re going to see content that’s more authentic, timely, and resonates with your audience.

So, the academy meets them where they’re at. Just like you and your supervising skills, you’re going to meet students where they are. This meets in skill and in functions. And I do want to tell you really quickly, being a instructor, a faculty member in the past, creating online curriculum, there are a lot of certificates and programs out there for social media management that I have done and absolutely love, but they don’t fill the gap, specifically, about how would we do this training for a student that’s supporting higher ed. And that’s why we created six modules that give them, starting off first, social media in a campus context. What are all the really cool things about what we get to do for a university and college campus, but how it impacts social media?

We build on that in the second module where we talk about campus branding, voice, and tone. Not only, where do I find the brand guide, but how do I start to interpret and even integrate it into how I approach the work that I do as a student with social media?

Then, we build onto that in module three, teaching them the core elements of social media strategy, starting with goals, understanding who your audience is, getting into channels, and then you actually deliver that content.

But we know the strategy is only one piece of it, so that’s why, in module four, we take them through the process of creating content, from the administrative tools to the creative ones.

The last two modules, I think, is really what sets aside the Student Social Media Academy. As we start to get into advanced skill sets, including soft skills for social media managers, critical thinking, a little bit of understanding crisis communications to make informed decisions and protecting sensitive information, but also importantly, taking care of their own wellness.

And the last one, because I am so much about student learning and development, we’re going to take them through a journey of their own personal branding, what their role could be if they expand it into a future career in social media.

And because the academy’s been going now for a number of months, we are getting feedback that just warms my heart. And Abigail from Occidental College said, “The Social Media Academy helped me further understand the different aspects of running a social media account for my college! I feel like I better understand the importance of engagement and collaboration. I also think the final modules, Focus on Goals, was incredibly beneficial to me as a sophomore in college.” Oh, this makes my heart so happy.

Another big update is that we have gotten lots of questions from supervisors. Can I take it? How can I see the academy? Hold tight, we are creating a supervisor version of the academy. For now, what we have for you is, when you purchase one or 20, you’ll get a Social Media Academy Supervisor Guide. This bonus is a roadmap for you to understand what your students are learning, from each module, each exercise, and gives you some prompts, too, that you can use in your one-on-ones or group meetings throughout. And also, to just help you take your role as a supervisor or advisor to students to the next level. So, I’m very, very excited about that.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about the academy, I’m sorry it won’t be last, because I just love this program so much. It is only $149 per student. And they’re going to get it for one year. They get access to the online tools, a certificate of completion, a digital badge they can flash everywhere, access to the coaching team and everyone else around, literally, the world is on Discord. So, they get to interact. They get to ask questions. We share photos of our pets and all the other goodies that are happening.

But you also might be thinking, “Okay, I’ve got one, but I actually have a lot of people on my campus that need this.” Well, good news, there is an all-access pass. If you register more than 15 students, there are discount pricing involved. All you got to do is reach out to me, and we’ll put together a package for you.

Now, you also might be in a place where you don’t have students yet or you’ve already trained them on all the good stuff for now and you’ll think about this for later, but you are like, “Hey, can I? Can I just take the academy, or I’m needing my own professional development.” And what I would say would be, totally, anybody can… you can buy this for your president. But again, we’re working on a supervisor version of this online program.

The next thing that I have is the Digital Community Cohort. It starts in February. We go two months. We meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And this will be a community-based course that meets. And you’ll have access to online tools to teach you social media strategy with the philosophy of actually having community engagement on the other side of our strategies. There is support. There’s laughs. There’s lots of learning. And I have five amazing faculty that are there to support you, too. I’ll link all about the cohort. But that would, actually, I think, be a better investment for professional staff right now.

So, students, it just hits me in the feels and it’s the number one thing that I miss about not working at a campus anymore, is getting to work with a student, even if it’s just one year.  Or I have had some where I worked with almost four years. And now, they’re working at places like TikTok or for like Beyonce or, you know, maybe they’re just a teacher. Not just a teacher. Oh, my gosh, my mother would kill me. They are a teacher. They are an engineer. Like, our students, if you’re using them with social media, they don’t have to go into… they may actually realize, “No, this isn’t actually what I’m cut out for. My passion is over here.” And that’s okay, too. 

But I would tell you, even if you’re experiencing some challenges with students, and we’re not going to reach them all, right? But it can be so… it can get you through, honestly, some of the darker days and challenges doing this type of work in higher ed and social and marketing. If you really pour into students, I guarantee, you can hold me to it, that that investment will pay off. And honestly, the even more meaningful results won’t be in your Instagram feed. It’s going to be what you do for the lives of those students, their families even. I’ve gotten messages from families from previous students, because that’s the heart work of what we do. It’s, it’s the human side. And the benefit when we get to empower students to help tell our stories, we get to scale that empowerment across the world.

[00:46:39] And I’m not going to cry. This is like, this is why I do what I do. It seriously is. I could put in a lot of effort to go and work for other industries, but I just believe in the power of education and access and opportunity and seeing students now in real-time, like, on our Discord and you’re seeing the learning happening or they’re applying for this position or they’re the finalists for this. It’s better than Christmas.

So, I would love to know how you’re engaging students into anywhere within your brand strategy, marketing, communications. There are a lot more ways that we can get students behind the scenes and in front of the screens that maybe we haven’t even thought about. A future episode is going to be about AI. A future episode is probably going to be about, well, I don’t even know. I can’t commit to it. Things are changing so fast.

But I just want to thank you for being along for the ride for this podcast. And yeah, we are officially moving into season six.

[00:47:57] Thank you for joining me in this shorty episode of Josie and the Podcast. Join the conversation online. You can find me on pretty much everywhere @JosieAhlquist. The podcast is also on X, Threads, and Instagram. Remember, those show notes can be found at

And your gift to me in this holiday season is to either subscribe, share, give a review. Reach out to me, let me know you’re listening or what you want to hear about next. I would be so appreciative. 

And always, if you want to learn more about my work from the academy, the cohort, speaking, and consulting, or my book, “Digital Leadership in Higher Education,” find me at josieahlquist. com. Thank you so, so darn much to their… I know we don’t like to use magicians in marketing, but the team at University FM is just everything to me in making this show happen.

And my friends at Element451, the all-in-one intelligent student engagement platform. I am loving our new partnership together. 

And I’m sending you digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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