SOC2: Beyond Blogging: Create an Integrated Online Student Ambassador Program

Mallory Wood 
Marketing Manager, mStoner


The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at http://2011.highedweb.org/presentations/SOC2.mp3



Announcer: This is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb Conference in Austin 2011.

Moderator: All right, again, this is Soc2. I would like to introduce Mallory Wood, who is now with mStoner. I have seen Mallory speak in the past about blogging, and it's been interesting to me because I was doing blogging back in 2004 when we called all of this stuff Web 2.0 instead of Social Media, but I still think that blogging and where we take blogging is an important topic for all of us to think about.

I'm going to keep this short so we get the full 45 minutes of Mallory. So Mallory, it's all yours.

Mallory Wood: Thank you. I feel like I'm Britney Spears, I need to sneak up here with this. All right, so thanks for coming, everybody. For the next 45 minutes, we are going to talk about three things, and it is a very ambitious task to do this in 45 minutes, so please hold your questions to the end, but you're here to learn about how to create or expand, how to integrate, and how to manage a student online ambassador program.

 01:01

And I am curious: who already has some sort of blogging program or online ambassador program at their college or university? Wow, that is awesome. That's awesome. Who is here saying, 'I want to create this program and I am looking for some ideas. Help me out?' Cool. Who didn't raise their hand for either of those two questions?

So clearly you heard that Adam Lambert is going to be on my slides or something. I'm not sure why you're here, but thanks for the support, and maybe I will convince you as to why this program is important.

So who am I? I am the Number 1 fan of 'Vegas Fat Elvis', but more importantly, I am the Marketing Manager at mStoner. I just started in August, so please don't ask me about all of our clients because I can't tell you about them all yet. I am a blogger at marketingwithmallory.com where I draw inspiration from show tunes to talk to you about social media, higher ed, and web video.

 02:01

I am @mallorywood on Twitter. Please tweet me. The hashtag for this session is #soc2 or, of course, #heweb11. Tweet me, I promise I will tweet you back, and that's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me in general.

I am also a former employee and very proud alumni of Saint Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont, a small, private Catholic Liberal Arts college. Can you tell I used to work in admissions? I really informed this presentation through the work that I did at Saint Michael's College in both the admission office and the marketing office. But this presentation is not a case study of Saint Michael's College. So if you've seen this presentation before, it looks completely different.

I talked to some really awesome people, many of whom are in this room, who also manage online ambassador programs at their institution, so this is going to hopefully convince you that online ambassador programs can work at any size.

Public, private, international, no matter what type of institution you represent, I really believe an online ambassador program can work for you. And you know why? Because it's all about love. That's what student recruitment is about. It is about building relationships with prospective students.

 03:13

You are already doing this at your institution. Your tour guides are doing this when they walk around campus. Your admission counselors are doing this when they are at college fairs.

Let's think about when prospective students are really visiting our campus. Between 7pm and midnight, my own boss at Saint Michael's used to say that all the time, that's when they're visiting you. So who's building relationships with them then? That's why you need an online ambassador program.

Now Step 1, we need to create or expand it.

We need to first define what an online ambassador actually is. And to be perfectly honest, before we talk about any of these tools or anything that is in regards to social networking, the most important thing to look for in an online ambassador program is a passionate student who really, really is passionate about your institution and wants to share that passion with prospective students. That's number one.

 04:11

Number two is that they are excited about using new technology. Now they don't have to come to you as a Twitter expert with 5,000 followers, but they need to be interested in trying it out.

An online ambassador is not somebody who sits in their dorm room all day typing away at their computer, because you need to find students who can speak authoritatively about the many different awesome aspects of your institution. So they need to be involved on campus.

So who are they? They are your tour guides. They are your club leaders, your student government officers. They are people who know your institution and want to share that passion with prospective students.

If you are starting from scratch, I think the best thing you can do is handpick some students who are already seen as leaders on your campus. It will give your online ambassador program a little bit of clout. If you are looking to expand this, it's not a bad idea to take that approach, either.

 05:11

The best thing Saint Michael's College did for its online program in 2008 was handpick some of the top student government leaders. Other students on campus said, 'Oh, the student body president is blogging? Well, if it's worthwhile for that person, then maybe I should be doing it too.' And we saw the number of applications for the program triple.

So say it with me, if you know the answer: Goals before...

Audience 1: Tools!

Mallory Wood: Tools! Thanks, Tim.

It's really important that we talk about our goals before we talk about Facebook, before we talk about Twitter. And please, create some smart goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

OK, think about your development officers. They don't wake up in the morning saying, 'I'm going to raise money today.' They wake up in the morning saying, 'I need to raise $2 billion by the summer of 2012 because we're building a new student union on campus. These are the types of people that I'm going to ask to get donations from.'

 06:20

That is a smart goal. So we need to take that same approach for an online ambassador program.

At Saint Michael's, we were continually looking to draw students from outside of Vermont, so one of our smart goals was to make sure that we were filtering in Google Analytics the traffic out. So you'll see that reflected in the future slides.

But your smart goals are different from your smart goals and they're different from my smart goals, so you really need to sit down and think about this.

Now, of course, content is incredibly important as well, and content is what is going to actually populate these tools. So if you have nothing to say, you really can't blog.

 07:00

Who here blogs or tweets? Me, too. The hardest part about using WordPress is not WordPress. It's about figuring out what to write in WordPress.

So the same is true for your students. You need to have smart goals, but you need to be aware of content, and AWARE stands for Authentic, Well-Informed or Well-done, Avant-Garde, Relevant, and Engaging.

So that's cool, right? You can tweet that. Smart goals. AWARE of content. That's the type of content you want your students to be producing, so it's important that you recognize it, but it's also important that you're training your students to create really powerful and engaging content.

OK, Step 2. Let's talk about some tools.

At Saint Michael's College, it took us 10 years to get to this point, so don't think you can go back or don't think you need to go back to your institution next week and start using every single one of these tools.

 08:01

We're going to talk about five today and we're going to start with blogs. We'll move into Formspring, then we'll talk about Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. God help us get through all of that.

We'll going to start with blogs because, even though we're taking it beyond blogging, I truly believe that the blog is the cornerstone of this program. It is where your students can create the most content the easiest way.

Now, the Noel Levitz E-Expectations survey. Who has seen that 2011 survey? Right. Let's address the elephant in the room. This survey said that only a quarter of your prospective students and their parents are actually looking at blogs. I have a few things to say to that.

First of all, only a quarter? I think a quarter is a really big number. Think about all of the different recruitment things that your school is doing that does not touch a quarter of your prospective students and cost a lot of money. So I don't think a quarter is a small number. And I think it varies between institutions as well, and we'll see that.

 09:09

Now, I also don't necessarily think that a 16- or 17-year-old always knows when they're looking at a blog. And you will see some examples. William & Mary in particular where the blog as skin to look like the website. You really need to be paying attention to know you're actually looking at a blog there.

So I think the number is a little low, but at the same time, I think 25% is actually not that bad. Oh, we have the same slide twice. Fun.

OK, these are the high-level analytics from William & Mary. Thank you, Tina, for supplying these. On average, each month, they get over 13,000 visits to their blog. It's nothing to sneeze at. Nearly two minutes average time on site. It's pretty good.

At Saint Michael's, in this six-month time period, we were averaging about 8,400 visits. And then, remember I told you we wanted to get rid of that Vermont traffic, so that's why I have that filter visit number, because for me a smart goal was to always be paying attention to that. Whoa. OK, sorry about that. So our blogs in general were receiving over 70,000 views in a year, and with an enrollment size of about 2,000, that was pretty good.

 10:23

So thanks, Noel Levitz. I appreciate your data, and I'm going to use more of it in this presentation.

But for me, I knew that what we were doing was working. So that's why it's really important to go back to those smart goals and make sure that you're creating things that you can measure, so at the end of the year you can say, 'Hey, this was working,' or maybe, 'This wasn't working.'

So what are the students actually blogging about? I know we already said be aware of content, but a lot of institutions are taking a very general approach to their student blogging programs. They are saying, 'Talk about whatever is relevant to you, may it be class or activities that you're doing.'

 11:03

But when I was talking with Tim at SUNY at Oswego a couple weeks ago, he's so smart, first of all. Tim, you're so smart. You're welcome. He is taking a niche marketing approach this year. And I think that is so cool.

Some of his students will be just talking about maybe the local scene or restaurants in the Oswego area. Some of the students might just focus on activities. I don't know what else is going to be in that niche marketing, but I think that's going to be really interesting.

And at the end of the year, if he's mixing that in with some more general blogging, he is going to be able to see which received more traffic, which had higher average time on page. So I am very curious to find out what those numbers are, because that local scene of Oswego might not be something that every prospective student is interested in reading, but it may really speak to some and they might spend a lot of time there and they might connect a lot there, so I think that's going to be really cool.

 12:02

So I would encourage you to think about that blogging program in those two ways. Take a general approach, but also provide some more specific content.

Now, you can go two ways with your blogs. You can use a standard look or a customized look. I already told you, William & Mary takes a skinned approach from their website. I mean, if you're just glancing at this, you might not even know you're looking at a blog, but her blog looks just like every other blogger's.

And the blogs in and of themselves, that hubpage, looks just like all the individual student bloggers. And this works for them because they are not putting emphasis on the individual blogger. They've made that decision. They have over 60 students who are blogging, and they're all volunteer, which is cool.

But these students aren't contracted. They're not expected to be blogging every single week. So it's more important that they're getting content every week, but not from each individual. So this works for them.

 13:04

SUNY Oswego also takes a more standardized look approach. Now this isn't skin to look like their site, but they're using the same color palette, and each student is going to have a blog that looks like every other student's. The content will obviously be different, but author archive is going to just have a different name after it.

At St. Mike's, we took a different approach. We allowed our students to customize. And there's no right or wrong; it just depends how you're setting your program up.

At St. Mike's, I wanted each of the students to be building individual relationships with the prospective students that they were connecting with, and that started with their photo. We didn't use professional photos. We used photos that were Web-ready, but the students provided them for us. Because from the start, we want you to determine, we want you to be able to get a little bit about that student's personality. So Nate clearly plays lacrosse.

 14:05

So this is where it started, and then you actually get into their blogs and you can see Derek's blog looks very different than Gabbi's blog, because they were using Blogger and they were able to customize their blog to look like and feel like their own personality.

And I thought that was really important. And they have fun doing that, too. They really did. They enjoyed that aspect of it.

Now if you're going to take that approach, it's really important that you use some sort of common element among each of the blogs so that as a prospective student, you can determine that this is an official blog from Saint Michael's College. You can see that blogger badge over there was on each of the official blogs and was also on smcblogs.com, so that allowed us to have that common thread there but also still allowed the student to do some customization.

 15:01

If you're sitting here and you're like, 'Oh, my gosh. My boss is never going to go for this. Students writing whatever they want on the Web? Yikes.'

Use something as simple as a disclaimer statement that says, "These students' blogs do not represent the official position or policy of this institution." I think it's really smart. It protects the institution, and it may help you convince somebody to allow you to have this content on the Web.

When I look at the traffic sources for the blogs at Saint Michael's, I am convinced that you have to take it beyond blogging. Twitter and Facebook generated more traffic to the blogs than direct traffic did. I thought that was incredible. And this is largely because of the students tweeting and the students sharing their link on the institution's Facebook page, on the 'Class of 20-whatever' you were in Facebook page.

 16:10

So that proved to me that taking it beyond blogging was important. So let's actually do that now. Let's take it beyond blogging and let's talk about Formspring.

Who here is aware of Formspring? Who knows what it is? This is awesome. Who here has an institutional account or is having their students use Formspring already? That is like three more hands than I was expecting. This is awesome.

So yesterday at the opening reception, we heard about finding the golden nugget. In this presentation, Formspring is your golden nugget. This is an amazing tool. It's a Q&A site similar to Quora, if you're familiar with Quora.

That's my little sister. Formspring isn't just for your little sister, but almost 60% of the users are ages between 13 and 24. So if you don't know what Formspring is, they do. And that might be your target audience.

 17:15

Here's some more stats I pulled from their site. I think it's impressive. Eleven-and-a-half minutes on site and over 30 billion responses have been answered. This tool is only a few years old.

Our students, in the year and a half that I had been there and I had had them using it, they answered over 1,000 questions. It's just customer service.

Who is here for Petroff's presentation before? Mike was here for some presentation, that's great. Good to know. This is a nice extension of that. This is just good customer service, letting your students answer questions from other students.

 18:01

Now why does this need exist? Go and pull your tour guides and ask them how often a prospective student actually asks a question on a tour. I was a tour guide back in the day. It never happened. Parents ask questions.

But five times the Saint Michael's Formspring account was asked if there's toilet paper in the residence halls. Imagine being a 16-year-old with a really good-looking tour guide and about 10 other families around you walking around campus; are you going to ask if there's toilet paper in the residence halls? Probably not.

But Formspring is allowing you a safe place. You don't need a Formspring account to ask a question on Formspring. You can ask questions anonymously on Formspring, which is great for using this tool as a customer service tool because it's giving the students a safe place.

 19:00

Now I did a 45-minute conversation with Seth Odell on HigherEd Live Episode 9. I can't possibly tell you 45 minutes' worth of information just on Formspring today, but I will give you a link to that if you want more information or I will tell you all about Formspring after this presentation.

Now you can see the Glendon campus at York University is taking an approach where each of their individual bloggers have a Formspring account. They put the widget on the side of their blog. They say, "Ask me questions." And the goal is, of course, you're reading their blog, you're connecting with them, you know who the student is, you know what their interests are, and so now you've built that relationship and you want to ask them a question.

And when they answer the question, it will get fed back into their blog. So who cares if they ever actually go to their Formspring as long as they keep coming back to your blog? They will get their question answered. So that's why it doesn't really matter if the kid has a Formspring account or not, because they're feeding that answer right back in there.

 20:00

Some of the questions at St. Mike's got beyond the toilet paper one. "I'm not really into drinking. It's not my thing. Are people going to think I'm a weirdo?" or "How come you got a roomie that you don't get along with? Didn't you fill out the housing sheet carefully?"

I mean, these are questions that students really want to know, but again, probably not things that they're going to actually pick up the phone and call the admission office and say, 'Hey, why did Abby get a roommate she didn't like?' Yeah, 'what's wrong with your housing' question, they're not going to call and ask you that. But they'll ask on Formspring. So it's a real service.

Twitter. Noel Levitz also says that less than 10% of parents and students use Twitter. I don't care. I really don't. Twitter is a microblog, and producing content for Twitter with your students is important. It just is.

Because in a week, maybe you're having them blog weekly, they're going to talk about the big things that happened in their life. They're not going to talk about the squirrel that ran by them on campus or the chicken nuggets in the cafeteria that were to die for, but they'll probably tweet about those things.

 21:13

And that gives a prospective student more information about your campus, a glimpse into that student's personality, and I think that's why it's important.

Ninety-two percent of Americans are aware of Twitter, so if you're feeding Twitter on the side of a blog, for example, they're going to know what it is. And 34% of Twitter users are under 24 years old.

If only 3 and 10 users are accessing the service daily, and I'm not actually sure if this includes things like TweetDeck or HootSuite, but if only 3 and 10 Twitter users are accessing the service daily, this really tells me that it is important to feature that content in many different places.

 22:04

So that is why it's important to feed Twitter into the side of the blog. Or maybe even have it like RIT has all of their Twitter users on their hubpage all in a row, and it's really great. You'll see that in a future slide.

So the approach is just making the content accessible. Put the Twitter bubble next to the blogger on the hubpage. The ones at St. Mike's were getting about 50 clicks a month. Well, that's pretty good. Put Twitter into the blog of the individual student. It's accessing the content. I can't say that enough.

And really, the question is, is it worth it? And the best thing that happened from requiring my student bloggers at Saint Michael's to use Twitter, the thing that I did not intend to happen at all, was that they started following other people in higher education.

 23:01

I came back from a HighEdWeb last year and I was like, 'Yeah, follow these people. They're cool. They say some smart stuff.' So they started following them. And if I said to some of the people in this room, 'Do you know who Gabbi, Alex and Marcy are?' they would say that, 'Yes, we do know who they are, because they follow, they interact, they are active on HigherEd Live on Sunday nights.'

It's amazing. They actually started caring about what they were doing in a way that they didn't before. They started understanding why an online ambassador program is important to relationship-building and is important to recruitment. So that education was not what I intended to happen, but it happened. And they became better because of it.

And in fact, those most active tweeters, according to Klout, were also the students who were producing content that were getting them the most views and the highest average time on page. The third student, Derek, should be highlighted in pink as well.

 24:12

So four of the top five tweeters were producing the most content that was getting the highest average time on page. So they were truthfully understanding why this was important, and they were producing better content that was clearly engaging prospective students more than the rest.

And there are prospective students out there on Twitter. There are. This girl is. She likes Disney, the Jonas Brothers, and then if you skip to the end, she likes Saint Michael's College class of 2016. To her, Adam Lambert is this 'rock star Saint Michael's College', or maybe it's the other way around, but she wanted to connect with us on Twitter.

So if we weren't there, Saint Anselm's or Stonehill might have been in her bio instead, and St. Mike's doesn't want that to happen. We want to be Adam Lambert.

 25:08

Web video is probably the most difficult tool that we're going to talk about, because it's not easy to produce good video content. Ashley at RIT, though, would tell you that web video is the cornerstone of her online ambassador program. It's not blogs, it's video. It's her Number 1 tool.

Back to Noel Levitz. We know this. We don't need to see it, but we know students and everybody in this room and everybody in the world loves YouTube. And they're not just watching videos about singing cats or Antoine Dodson. They are watching videos about your institution.

And last year's E-Expectations survey dug a little deeper and told us that prospective students want to see video content from the school and from the students. Sixty percent of the respondents in 2010 said they wanted to see content coming from both places.

 26:17

So it's really important that if you have the capacity to encourage your students to create web video, and that might be just throwing in a video blog every now and then, it's pretty easy to turn that on and just start talking to the camera.

And for some students, that's actually easier than writing. And for some prospective students, that is more interesting to watch than reading a blog. So think about having video bloggers.

At RIT, Ashley has five students who produce a video series, "RIT Behind the Scenes". They release these videos during the yield season in admissions. So they're making the videos now, but they will not release them until 2012 in hopes that the content that they're creating will help an accepted student to decide whether or not to enroll in the institution. So I think that's a pretty smart way of looking at producing web video.

 27:18

Her videos last year, I believe it was the first time you had done these videos? Last year, they received on average about 1,500 to 2,000 views each. And I'm sure that this year it will be more than that, because she's putting her videos in multiple places, not just on YouTube, although that's where they're hosted, but she also has a page on the site for the videos.

And you can see some of the topics: spring break, finals, hockey, "Why RIT" where they answer the most important questions, 'Why did they pick RIT?' I think this is really awesome.

And it's really not that difficult. She has outfitted each of these students with an iPod Touch to create this video. And I suggest you go watch them. The quality is there.

 28:09

She's trained the students well and they know how to edit the video. And she meets with them every week to talk strategy. So they're creating some really awesome content here.

And last but not least, Facebook. Facebook is the most popular tool of all the ones we have talked about today with prospective students, especially traditional prospective students. Their parents have Facebook accounts, too. And 27% of students have viewed a college Facebook page.

Now, 65% are saying that if they posted comments or asked questions that there's been no influence, not positive or negative, to that visit, but if you think about the way you use Facebook, if you were to go to a brand's page and interact and ask a question and it was a pleasant experience, you might say no influence, too.

 29:10

But if you have a bad experience, you're going to say it was a bad experience. So we need to make sure that these students are providing that pleasant experience on Facebook.

This is a screenshot from this summer at Saint Michael's, and they're asking, "Has anyone who's been to Burlington visited Skinny Pancake? Crepes for the win!" and Alex, our blogger, is saying, "Oh, Skinny Pancake is heaven." So she is participating in that conversation. She didn't start it, but she's participating in it.

And hopefully, Atlas knows maybe that Alex blogs. Maybe he's read her blog, and so she's now participating with him. He might be more likely to keep talking with her.

Do you have a 2016 Facebook group or page yet? Raise your hand if you do. OK, the rest of you, you can leave. Go set that up now. You don't need to hear anything else. No. It's really important that tomorrow you set up your 2016 Facebook group or page. Or, it's OK, stop paying attention, do it right now.

 30:19

Your online ambassadors need to have a presence there so they can participate in that conversation, that they can help moderate it, that they can be a resource. When we think about Formspring and asking those students the questions is really important because you're getting that authentic answer, the same goes for Facebook.

It's a little creepy if you and I are in their 2016 page all the time, because we're not like them. And we can give answers of authority and we can be there to monitor, but it's still a little creepy. So we want our prospective students in there to be that resource more often than not.

 31:04

So we need to bring this all together, because now you're using five different tools and where are you going to put them all?

Well, you can take this approach like RIT. You can give links to all these tools in one place. This is actually their homepage for undergraduate admissions, and right in the middle, they are featuring their blogs, their tweets, their videos. I think that's awesome. They also have a hubpage as well where you can connect in many different ways.

I'm not lying, the average time to smcblogs.com was over 20 minutes. When you click on the individual bloggers, it was opening it up in a new page. So I don't think anyone was actually sitting here looking at this page for 20 minutes, and I promise I didn't leave it up on my screen all day at work to inflate this number, but I believe that the average visit to our online ambassadors was roughly 20 minutes. They're interacting, they're reading different blogs, they're asking questions on Formspring.

 32:12

Now we need to manage this program.

For heaven's sake, please, just let your bloggers blog or your tweeters tweet. Pre-approve your bloggers, train them, put them through a very rigorous application process, but please, do not pre-approve their posts. I think you lose a lot of authenticity when you take that approach.

These students need to be empowered to write what they want to write. And that doesn't mean that it's sunny days all the time and the best experience ever; they need to be authentic with what they're saying. If they didn't like the chicken nuggets that day, that's fine. You can tweet about that.

 33:00

So how do you go about selecting them? I truthfully believe, as I said at the beginning, if you need to build some clout on your campus with this program, handpicking might be a really great option for you.

But if you're already there or you're like, 'I'm just curious what the interest is on campus,' hold an information session. Provide some pizza. College kids love pizza. And then ask the students who are interested, who have attended that session, to apply.

Think about the tools that you're going to be using when you structure the application process. For the tour guide who is walking around campus and needs to be able to be charming and have answers and talk well, it's probably a good idea to interview your tour guide in person.

Unless you're putting these students in front of a video camera, you might not need to interview online ambassadors in person. It's far more important that they write well than they speak well.

 34:03

So I would suggest putting them through a very rigorous one-month application process. Ask them to manage a blog, a Formspring account, Twitter, whatever it might be. Have them manage those tools for a month. Have them create content for those tools for an entire month.

Can they do it? Because if they can't do it for a month, how are they going to do it all year? And of course, you hope that those students stick with you for their entire duration as an undergrad.

So if they can't create that content for a month, there's no way that will be sustained. So I think the more rigorous the application process, that will help weed out students who actually aren't that interested, but it will really allow those students to shine who are going to do an awesome job.

Training is so important to the success of this program, and Step 3 could've been not how to manage a program like this but how to educate your online ambassadors.

 35:12

I thought of myself largely as an educator, not a manager, for this program because it was so important that the students understood why they were doing what they were doing.

Now I do suggest contracting your students if you're going to pay them. And I want to say I do suggest you pay your students, especially if you're having them use a lot of tools. They are giving you a lot of their time.

And the three reasons to use a contract are because it outlines the responsibilities you are expecting, it outlines the benefits that they are receiving, and it protects you. So if a student isn't blogging, if a student isn't living up to those responsibilities, you have a way to remove that student from the group, if necessary. It also allows you to make the distinction of what is authentic content versus inappropriate content, and there is a difference.

 36:10

So I have an example contract, and I am happy to share it with you. You don't need to take a photo of this. I will send it to you. DM me, email me. I'll give you my email address. I'm happy to send this to you, and you can use it for your own.

Like I said, training and education is going to equal a successful program. That was the average monthly cost of an online ambassador. Really not that much for what we were asking them to do. The average yearly cost of the program is just over $4,000.

Who works in admissions here? Anyone? How many of your recruitment initiatives cost $4,000? So it's pretty inexpensive for the amount of content and relationship-building that you are going to get out of a program like this.

 37:01

And of course the question is, did it work? Does it work? Can it work for you? That's why it's so important to measure.

We asked students on their common application, 'Have you connected with us?' when they were applying. We asked accepted students before they made the decision to enroll, 'Are you connecting with us?' We asked enrolled students over the summer, 'Have you continued to connect with us?' And those are the numbers.

So you can see, it grows. And by the time it was the summer before they arrived on campus, nine out of 10 of our enrolled students were connecting with those online ambassadors.

And of course, the anecdotes are priceless. A lot of our online ambassadors were also tour guides, so when a student came to campus for an open house, they were able to go up and say, 'Oh my goodness, Gabbi! I read your blog! I want to ski as well. I would love to talk to you!' It helped bridge that connection.

 38:02

It's like HighEdWeb in some ways. We all tweet each other all year, and then we get here and we actually can bridge that online connection in person. And that's really powerful and it helps us sustain our relationships with each other throughout the year, and it's no different in this case with current students and prospective students.

Some words of wisdom from some people that I really, really respect. This is good for you to see. It's also good for you to share with your student ambassadors.

And the themes here, I just tweeted this out. This was like Fall '09 when I asked for this, and it was amazing, there were themes from all the tweets. This is just five of like 20 that I received, but it was all about building relationships, creating authentic content, and speaking in your own voice about your own experiences and being authoritative in that way that you are telling a story about your institution, and each student is telling a story, and each student's story is different but equally important.

 39:09

I want to give very special thanks to Tim, to Ashley, to Tina, and to Courtney. They really helped make this presentation what it was. And here are some photo credits.

And please, write down that bitly link, make it all lower case, because you'll be able to access our slide deck from today and some recommended resources, for example that Formspring episode, for example Ashley's HighEdWeb Rochester presentation on her online ambassador program. Some really great resources for you there.

And please connect with me. I don't have business cards yet, I'm so new, so write down my email address. And if you want that form, the contract, I am happy to send that to you.

 40:01

So I think I did it, huh? Wow! Forty-five minutes, yay!

[Applause]

Mallory Wood: Oh, this is great, we have five minutes for questions. I hope you have some. And if you don't want to ask in person, I don't have my own Formspring account so you can't ask me anonymously. But please, I'm excited for this.

Yay! The guinea pig.

Audience 2: Hi, Mallory. First.

Mallory Wood: Woohoo!

[Laughter]

Audience 2: Just quickly, building on something that Mike was talking about in the previous session about using LiveChat, I'm just curious if you've had any experience using students in Live, either chat or video sessions?

Mallory Wood: Yes. And that is something that I cut thinking that I was going to go more than 45 minutes, so I'm so glad you asked.

I think LiveChat's really important. And these bloggers, these online ambassadors, were hosting three or four LiveChats every semester and over the summer, some just for students, some just for parents, but that was a really important way for the prospective students to connect in real time with our student ambassadors.

 41:17

And we did some video chatting as well. We were using CollegeWeekLive. And we made sure, it was a smart decision maybe on our part, we made sure that the students on camera were those online ambassadors in hopes that they could make that connection. Maybe somebody viewing the video chat was already a reader, or if not, then at the end of that presentation they could say, 'Oh, and you want to learn more? Well, go and read my blog or follow me on Twitter.'

I think it's really important for that real-time customer service, too. Because you might only see 10 students in a night, you might see 100 students, it doesn't matter; if you've answered the question for one student, it was worth your time.

 42:03

Thank you.

Audience 3: You said that you required your bloggers to have Twitter. If they had a personal account, did they use their personal account or...?

Mallory Wood: They did. And this is a different approach from what RIT does where they use rit_emily or rit_joe. At St. Mike's, we had them use their own accounts.

I actually didn't want them to put Saint Michael's in their Twitter handle because I wanted them to fall in love with Twitter and to be able to use it as a networking service for themselves beyond just what they were doing at Saint Michael's. And I think that was really important for their use of Twitter, because as I said, they started connecting with other HighEdWeb professionals or they would follow hashtags that they were interested in. So they really felt like they owned their own Twitter accounts.

And then when they graduated, many of them continued to keep tweeting just as much as when they were "required" to do it.

 43:05

Audience 4: Hi. I have two questions, because I thought of one when I'm up here.

One is, OK, so in communion with the University of Ottawa, we've started a student blogging program this year, but we have our student bloggers who are more talking about campus life and that sort of thing and they aren't necessarily the people who we call our liaison officers. Our liaison officers are the ones who ask questions. They're a little more customer service.

Do you kind of advocate, in the future, would these groups be more of the same? Like seeing more of your student bloggers not so much getting into the customer service but?

Mallory Wood: I think there's no right or wrong answer. I think you can take either approach.

I think the benefit to having it all in one is that you're going to build a stronger relationship with the person that you're connecting with all the time versus if you have to connect with 10 different people to get your questions answered versus the content they're reading and creating.

 44:13

I think if I were a prospective student and I was reading somebody's blog, and I was really interested in the ski team and I saw that they were talking about the ski team because they were the captain, I would want to ask them my questions about skiing, not somebody else.

Audience 4: Right.

Mallory Wood: So I think that that would be the approach that I would take. But I don't think it's incorrect or wrong to do it the way that you are doing it.

Audience 4: And then maybe just quickly if you could say, Formspring, last year it was Quora. Why not Quora and why Formspring?

Mallory Wood: For me it's never been Quora so it's always been Formspring for me. And Formspring existed longer than Quora.

And why? Quora's audience is the people in this room. Formspring's audience, remember, about 60% is aged between 13 and 24. I don't care if any of you in this room have Formspring accounts, and you know what? I don't have a Formspring account. But the 16-year-old high school student does, and that's who you're trying to reach.

 45:16

Audience 5: You spoke about a 2016 Facebook page. I was interested to find out, what happens after those students graduate? Do you still monitor the page or does it just go out into the wild? How does it work?

Mallory Wood: Well, I think a great approach to that would be to have your admission office create that 2016 page, and then when those students arrive on campus, hand it over to your residence life staff and have them start creating conversations in there that is relevant to the 2016 group, because information for freshmen is going to be different from information for seniors.

And then, so you've done that for four years, and then when they graduate, you hand that account over to the alumni office and you say, 'Here you go.' Now you have probably almost the entire class in there and you can get them key information about alumni events or fundraising or whatever it might be.

 46:11

That takes coordination, and that might not be possible for every institution to implement, but I think that's a really strategic approach for continuing to use Facebook as a tool for those students.

Audience 6: Hi. My name is Lacey, and I'm just curious, what do you do with the ambassadors once they're no longer ambassadors? How do you handle their Formspring accounts so that people aren't sending questions to people who are no longer...?

Mallory Wood: Do you mean when they've graduated or when we've...

Audience 6: When they've graduated or just stopped.

Mallory Wood: If they choose to no longer do...?

Audience 6: Yeah.

Mallory Wood: With the graduates recently, when I was at Saint Michael's, we would ask them if they wanted to keep blogging as alumni on a volunteer basis, and some said yes and some said no. So we would move the ones who said yes down to the alumni area, and many of them would still have their Formspring accounts still answer questions because they really believed in the program and they wanted to keep doing it.

 47:11

The ones who didn't, we just removed the blog from the page. We just didn't provide the link. Some of the students chose to not manage a Formspring account anymore, and that was their decision. But we didn't require either way. We didn't say they had to shut down that account.

But we didn't delete the blog, because there's still really valuable content there that could be re-purposed for other things. Or for a Google search, that student's blog might show up, so maybe the content's a year old but it still might be relevant to what that prospective student is asking Google to find for them. So we didn't delete the content but we just removed it from being high-level on the site.

For some examples, we did archive our Study Abroad blogs, because for that location-specific, that was important.

 48:09

So thank you. I have been given the 'It is time to wrap up.' Thanks so much. And please, like I said, I hope to connect with you in the next few days. Thanks.

[Applause]