Student-Run Social Media: Make it Work for You
Did you know we here at Duke have a suite of channels branded Duke Students and run by a team of actual students?
YouTube: Duke Students
Well now you do!
Here’s how we’re set up:
We have approximately one student editor per @DukeStudents channel. I say approximately because we have a couple of people who run multiple channels, and our Instagram channel has two editors. (It works better that way for content flow.) One of these editors is our editor-in-chief, who runs strategy, analytics, and the process of keeping everyone on track. We’ve found it works a lot better when we let them be in charge of each other. I’m basically just there in case they get stuck on something.
These editors are paid! We meet in person (or via Google Hangouts for the study abroad students) once every two weeks, but the rest of their work is done off-site whenever they have time. We keep things organized on a team Slack. We try really hard not to over-schedule them. They do a lot remotely and they work different hours than I do, so it works better for everyone this way.
You might be surprised to know that the student editors have full control over their respective accounts. That means that they don’t have to submit drafts to anyone for review, and they are allowed to choose and curate what they want to post! (More on how we make that work later.)
We also have a team of content contributors. They are mostly underclassmen and are unpaid. There are about 40 of them! We meet with them once a month and keep in touch online via GroupMe. They’re each assigned one of the paid editors as their mentor for a set period of time, and then they rotate to a different editor. This gives them exposure to a lot of different social media channels. Their job is to contribute content to the editors for each of the different channels. Eventually, we hire our student editors from this group, so being a content contributor is almost part of the interview process to be a student editor.
Here are the rules:
People usually gasp and clutch their pearls when I tell them the students don’t have to submit drafts to me before they post, but we do have a pretty solid set of time-tested rules that all of the editors know and follow. I do read their posts once they go up, and on the rare occasion I have to ask them to take something down, but they’re actually usually even more careful than I would be with the rules I’ve given them.
The rules go thusly:
- The “Grandma Rule:” If your grandma wouldn’t want to see it, don’t post it.
- No references to alcohol, parties, drugs (and no red Solo cups, no matter what’s in them)
- Nothing dangerous
- No content promoting Greek or SLG organizations (This is because we don’t want to accidentally play favorites, so it’s just easier to not promote any of them.)
- No profanity, including phrases like “AF,” or hashtags that contain profanity (like #GTHC and #DDMF)
- Do not insult other schools, even in reference to sports
- Follow NCAA athlete recruitment rules
- Do not answer admissions questions. Always redirect to Admissions!
These rules really take care of most of the problems we might have with what to post and what not to post. It really helps to begin a group like this with the rules in mind so that you can be clear about expectations. We’ve found that once the expectations are established, the more freedom we can give them, the better. More freedom equals more creativity!
It’s also helpful to remember that they are students, and students are human, and humans mess up sometimes. They’re going to mess up. (To be fair, so are you.) So with that in mind, make sure that you have a plan in place for when they mess up or need help and a way they can contact you anytime.
I mentioned above that we hire to our paid student editors team from the pool of content creators. This gives us at least an academic year to make a determination about whether the student is enthusiastic about @DukeStudents or not, and we’re hiring for enthusiasm, not necessarily skill. You can teach skills. (Doing social media isn’t brain surgery, guys– hate to break it to you.) You cannot teach enthusiasm.
Other ways students can help you:
If you don’t want to set up social media that your students can run on their own, there are lots of other ways to use the talent of your students:
- Use them as a focus group! They know really cool stuff. Ask them about new social media channels and how they use social media.
- Have them collect content for you! Most of them already know how to shoot great video on their phones and have an eye for what will work in an Instagram feed.
- Occasionally make them do boring stuff. No one likes spreadsheets, but let’s be real. You’re the grown-up here and it won’t kill them to copy-paste for a couple of hours.
In conclusion, students are awesome!
Get yourself a team of them and see how much more fun they make your job!
I created a set of rules similar to this for a non-profit website I run, then applied the rules at the college I work for.
I tried to give them direction without stifling their creativity. This was just for Instagram Stories on the ‘official’ channel I run.
The goal is to promote the program and players in a positive light. The focus should be on your players and program, but I want to ensure a clear plan of action.
No trash talking other teams. We don’t want that to be the impression everyone has of your players or program.
Clean language. I don’t want the account to get flagged for any reason, so let’s keep it clean.
Basically, don’t post anything you’d be embarrassed to have your mother see. Focus on practices, gym time, community service, bus rides, camaraderie among players/coaches, the effort put in by players (doesn’t have to be the best player on the team).
Think of this as a tool to attract players to your program. What would you want them to know?