Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Supporting Students Who Run Campus Social

Light blue graphic that reads, "Supporting students who run campus social." Several geometric shapes are on each corner.

I loved my role as a college student leader. I fully embraced the campus engagement opportunities, and as a result, I received valuable coaching, mentorship, and guidance. The support came from various sources: advisors, supervisors, conferences, guest speakers, and my peers, all of whom invested in me. Since then, I’ve been paying it forward by offering others the same kind of support.

We know that students are the lifeblood of any educational institution, and their presence on social media platforms is a powerful tool for engagement, outreach, and building a robust digital community. In fact, when I gave my students the passwords, leadership wasn’t so sure. But, our accounts flourished.

So – you have some budget and can hire a student to help run the social media accounts for your institution and/or department. What’s next? 

Define the Role of Student Social Media Managers

Student social media managers (or whatever other title they go by, intern, ambassador, staff, etc.) play a crucial role in shaping their educational institution’s online presence and brand image. Before they get started, it’s essential to define a clear job description, outcomes of their position, and expectations to ensure that students understand their responsibilities and can work effectively within the constraints of their academic commitments.

Job Description

A student social media manager’s job description typically includes the following responsibilities:

  1. Content Creation: Creating engaging and relevant content across various social media platforms, including text, images, videos, and graphics.
  2. Audience Engagement: Interacting with the audience through comments, messages, and posts to foster a sense of community and address inquiries.
  3. Strategy Development: Collaborating on the development and execution of a social media strategy that aligns with the institution’s goals and values.
  4. Analytics and Reporting: Monitoring and analyzing social media performance through analytics tools and providing insights and recommendations for optimization.
  5. Brand Voice and Tone: Maintaining consistency in the institution’s brand voice and tone across all social media platforms.
  6. Critical Thinking: Applying critical thinking skills to assess the effectiveness of content, identify trends, and adapt strategies accordingly.

Realistic Expectations: Setting realistic expectations for student social media managers is essential as they are juggling their responsibilities with academic coursework.

Student Social Media Academy graphic with a testimonial from coach Kati Hartwig about how working with students is a fulfilling journey.

The Value of Comprehensive Training

As early as 2008, I established distinct student marketing positions focusing on social media, graphic design, and street team promotion. These leadership roles for students were facilitated under our work-study initiative.

Subsequently, I developed a comprehensive training program that every student had to undergo before they were given the keys – a.k.a, managing our social media platforms. (Fun fact: some of my alumni work for companies like TikTok, Snapchat, Hulu, and even the queen – Beyonce).

In their training, they should be equipped with more than just platform knowledge; they should also develop critical skills such as:

  1. Brand Voice and Tone: Understanding the nuances of the institution’s brand identity and how to communicate it effectively through content.
  2. Critical Thinking: Developing the ability to analyze data, assess audience feedback, and make data-driven decisions to optimize social media campaigns.
  3. Content Ideation and Creation: Learning to brainstorm creative content ideas, plan content calendars, and produce high-quality visuals, copy, and videos.
  4. Analytics and Reporting: Knowledge of the power of data to evaluate social media performance and make informed decisions for optimization.
Student Social Media Academy graphic with a testimonial from coach Rachel Putman about training and handing accounts over to students.

Maintaining a student team may be challenging due to high turnover rates and conflicting class schedules. Students also need more advanced training on using social media for business, but it can be difficult to find time and resources to provide instruction.

Despite these challenges, it’s crucial to invest in training student teams. Doing so brings value to their work experience and provides a positive digital space for your community. Help me help you – with the Student Social Media Academy, students will learn all of the above components, plus more. 

The Academy launched in August and now has nearly 200 students from around the globe! This video gives even more insight into the goodness and goodies included in the online self-paced training program:

Establish a Structured Content Creation Process

Setting up a smooth content creation and pitch process is key. Here’s a basic framework for you:

  1. Identify the Target Audience: Research and understand demographics, interests, and online behavior for personalized content.
  2. Analyze Current Trends: Incorporate trending topics to boost engagement and visibility.
  3. Define Objectives: Clearly outline goals to drive brand awareness, enrollment efforts, website views, or others.
  4. Create a Content Strategy: Plan diverse content types for various social media platforms.
  5. Craft a Compelling Story: Develop engaging narratives that resonate with your audience and convey the brand message.
  6. Use Visual Elements: Utilize high-quality visuals for increased appeal and shareability (pro tip: Canva has templates your students can use).
  7. Implement SEO Techniques: Optimize content with relevant keywords for better visibility.
  8. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Measure engagement, clicks, reach, or others to track your success.
Student Social Media Academy graphic with a testimonial from coach Morgan Campbell about how working with students is her favorite part of her job.

Implement Project Management Tools for Efficiency

Efficient communication and collaboration are vital when managing a team of student social media creators. Project management tools can significantly streamline these processes. Popular tools such as Asana, Trello, or Slack can be employed to:

  • Assign tasks and set deadlines.
  • Track project progress and timelines.
  • Share and collaborate on content drafts.
  • Facilitate communication within the team.

These tools centralize project-related information, reducing the likelihood of miscommunication and missed deadlines.

Provide Ongoing Feedback and Evaluations

Feedback and evaluations are critical for the growth and development of student social media managers. Establish a structured feedback system, which includes:

  1. Regular Feedback: Provide timely and constructive feedback on individual and team performance. Highlight successes and provide suggestions for improvement.
  2. Mid-Year Evaluation: Conduct a mid-year evaluation to assess progress, discuss challenges, and set goals for the remainder of the academic year.
  3. End-of-Year Evaluation: At the end of the academic year, conduct a comprehensive evaluation that reviews achievements, skills acquired, and areas of expertise. This is a valuable reference for students pursuing careers in social media management.
Student Social Media Academy graphic with a testimonial from coach Joel Villarini Falbe about how impactful the Academy is for departments who need training for their students.

Your Role in Empowering Students

One of the things I love about campus social media strategies today is the increasing involvement of students. From department pages to the main university accounts — to fully student-run pages on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. 

By supporting and guiding student social media managers, educational institutions can boost their online presence and help students gain valuable skills and experiences to benefit their future careers. Though the journey might have challenges, the rewards are worth it. As these students flourish in their roles, they play a significant part in the institution’s success in this digital era.

Ready to get your student strategists trained and equipped with the tools necessary to run your accounts? Enroll them in the Student Social Media Academy for only $149, or reach out to learn about an All Access Package for groups of 15 or more.

Student Social Media Academy graphic with a testimonial from coach Cassaundra Moore about how there are many dynamics that go into running social media.

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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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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