I have been writing a series of blogs based on a study about the online expectations of prospective students and their parents called 2011 E-Expectations Report: Students and Parents, by Noel Levitz and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. Based on the study’s finding that 77% of prospective students do not read the school’s blog I wrote Is Blogging necessary for a Higher Education Website? My conclusion is that blogs are necessary but I didn’t have space to write about what many schools do to entice prospective students to read blogs, recruit student bloggers.
Students Blogs for Students
I have seen cases where students were recruited to write blogs directed at their peers and prospective students. The idea is a good one but often poorly executed. In one case the blogs were posted not on the school’s website but on Google Blogger. Under this set-up the school gets no benefit from the extra traffic and the blogs often languished in isolation. In other words the student blogs didn’t support the school’s goal or website and the blogs get no benefit of being associated with the school. In many cases the blogs were not promoted. This is the “Field of Dreams” belief that if they write it they will come. The third strike against student blogs is thee students are seldom given guidance on how to write a blog, what to write about or how to promote it. This is not the old Groucho Marx joke: “This is so simple an eight year old can do it. Quick, get me an eight year old.” Some of the blogs I’ve seen were good but many of them spent too much time on frivolous content, missed the mark and had no readers.
Guidelines for Student Bloggers
- Clear Goals: Give the students clear guidelines about the purpose of the blogs and why they are writing the blogs. They should be supporting the goals and mission of the school or department.
- Host the Blog: The blogs should be hosted on the school’s or department’s website. This way visitors and readers know the relationship of the blogger and the school. The school’s website will also get the benefit of the increased traffic.
- Calls to Action: If the blogs are attracting prospective students or even current students, here is your opportunity to connect with them. Use the blog, or call to action buttons associated with the blog, to invite readers to sign up for a newsletter, download a student life guide, sign up for a tour or ask a question.
- Promote the Blog: This is not the field of dreams. Promote the blog on the school’s Facebook page, cross promote on high school Facebook pages, send out e-mails, include the URL in literature to prospective students and parents, and include links from other parts of the school’s website.
- Valuable Content: Students and prospective students will read blogs if there is something valuable to them. Advice from current students to freshmen and high school students may include: How to get used to dorm life; What are the essential things to bring to school your first year of college; Have fun but don’t get behind in your studies; Football and Homecoming traditions for freshmen; What to do if you get in trouble; How to get the most out of Remedial English; The perils of falling for the cute graduate assistant or the R.A.
The best practices and goals for student bloggers are no different than blogging for an academic department or for a business. Attract traffic to the website and induce the readers to connect with you. On a business website we would say we need to convert the visitor. Success for the blog should be measured in the same way: how much traffic did it generate and what was the conversion rate.
Do you have some great examples of student blogs? Share them in the comments below. You can contact Image Media Partners for a free website analysis of your school or educational organization.
Photo Credit: Sean Locke