Stop trying to get your students ‘through the door’

At a recent PlaceNet event, when we were talking about how we are using social media to cajole students to come to our service, someone from the audience asked a very pertinent question about what to do when our social media efforts to bring in the students … well … don’t actually bring the students through the door of our careers service. My answer was short: we shouldn’t try to bring them in physically if that’s not where they want to be. They won’t come however many viral videos we create and share. If we take the mission statement to ‘go where our clients are’ seriously, we can’t expect them to suddenly do what we may really truly want them to do – come into our cosy comfort zone on campus. So, where else do they want to go? Follow me, I’ll explain.

“We all need to be content producers now”

‘We all need to be content producers now!’ my colleague Adam said recently. It was during a discussion on how to make our service more accessible to students. The overall idea is to make sure that our students come to us – which quite simply requires us to go to them and make what we do as transparent and immediate as we can.

As per my last blog post, I’ve had a couple of epiphanies lately, and this is one: We don’t only need to go where our students are, we have to give them value right now, right here, or we lose their attention. Sounds like another rant about those so-called millennials, but bear with me – I’m happy about this. I don’t really care how our students learn career relevant skills, as long as they learn them in a way that is memorable and useful for them when needed.

This includes letting go of our fixation with physical attendance at workshops, events, masterclasses, etc. Of course, they are important, but sometimes I think they are more important to us as service providers, and we struggle when our students don’t value them in the same way. They would, if only we delivered them in a way they actually want to access them.

This is why we started providing short, improvised looking, three- to four-minute Facebook videos in which we explain topics such as self-perception and deception, professional identity, anxieties about what to do post university – you get the drift. No one will ever come to a workshop on self-perception at a set date on campus, however, we might want to bribe our students (and believe me, we have tried) – but a video about the topic garnered 400 views in less than 24h.

They are not uninterested in what we have to say, just the way we say it

Which confirms to me what I have suspected for a long time: They are not uninterested in what we have to say, just the way we say it, because our methods of communication are outdated. So my conclusion is that we need to produce that magical thing – relevant content.

The beauty of using social media channels to distribute that content is that they will tell – at least to some extent – what actually happened with it. That’s much harder to gauge when they leave your on-campus workshop bleary eyed, and no amount of filling in feedback forms will ever change that. If they engage with the content on social media, you will know.

Are we masters of this at our workplace? Of course not, but it’s a direction we are going down, as our first results are more than promising. As long as we can finally drop the assumption that online is less worth than online, I think we can win back their attention. They won’t come back through your door as much as they used to in those mythical better olden days – but they’ll look through your window if you open it wide enough.

Do you agree – or really really not? Tell me what you think in the comments.

July 31st, 2017 by