• Tech Talk: On Managing a Social Media Student Advisory Board

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    January 22, 2014

    by Shannon Kelly

    Shannon Kelly

    Take one part brand ambassador, one part student focus group, mix in some pizza, a dash of fun, set for one hour, and you’ve got a student advisory board. In the spring of 2011, I followed this recipe to create a student advisory board specifically tasked with reviewing our social media presence. After almost three years, I have found this to be the framework for success when managing a board of student advisers.

    Here are a few key lessons from my experience in hopes you could start your own student advisory board, whether its focus is social media, technology, or another aspect of your work:

    • Set Goals—What is the goal of your advisory board? Who will be a part of the board? Undergraduates? Graduate students? All schools? For my board, the initial goals were to engage the student populations we serve and to improve our social media offerings when and where necessary. Social media and technology change quickly, and student opinions on those topics do too. In 2011, we needed to ask students what they thought of our social media presence to keep it fresh and leverage their opinions to generate ideas on what we could, and maybe should, do. The goal has expanded into a third area, and now students serve as department brand ambassadors, too.
    • Create a Realistic Time Commitment—What amount of time can you commit? What amount of time can students commit? We are all busy. If you want to have a board, create a set schedule—twice a semester, every third Thursday, once a month—when the board will meet and offer food (the secret to success). For the first group of advisers, I often struggled with one meeting time for all members because I was scheduling undergraduate and graduate students who had different class commitments. For the 2013-14 board, I made it clear there would be one-hour monthly meetings in the initial call for applicants. Once I had selected advisers, we identified two separate meeting times on the first Friday of every month. The standing meeting has built a positive, group dynamic, and generated buy-in to the goals and projects they are given.
    • Assign Projects—How can advisers help beyond giving feedback? In the first iteration of the advisory group, I sought general feedback and ideas for our existing social media efforts. Now, however, each student is assigned a particular platform and project area. These projects range from Facebook and Twitter to new platform development and contests. The students run with the ideas and it has yielded great results, such as talks to the advisers’ respective student groups or dorms about what career services offers on and offline and our Social Media Challenge.

    Navigating the newest trends in social media and technology can be a challenge. To continually think outside the box and address this challenge, I actually turned to a box—a pizza box, as again, food is a key to success—to bring in students and understand their opinions of our social media and technology. Our department has learned so much from our advisers over the past few years, and I look forward to each new meeting to learn even more.

    For their part, the students gain a great deal from this experience. Of course, we encourage them to add this experience to their resumes. We're building presentation skills through the talks they have delivered to their student groups and dorms. We're building marketing experience through their role as brand ambassadors and promoting our social media initiatives. They're building connections with alums through outreach they conduct to help us launch new campaigns, such as our Instagram videos. They also gain exposure to new vendors we hear from and help us test their products. It's more than giving them pizza, but it's giving them opportunity to essentially consult for us and help enhance our connections on and off campus, as well as their own.

    Think through how a social media advisory board can help in your department, leverage the basic framework above, and hopefully you will find your own recipe for social media success.

    Shannon C. Kelly is an associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow her on twitter at @shannonckelly or www.socialatedu.com.