The Rise of the Student Vlogger
Over the past year or so, another new career has evolved in the digital marketing world – the professional vlogger.
YouTubers such as Zoe Suggs (Zoella), Alfie Deyes (Pointless Blog), Tyler Oakley, Tanya Burr, and all their buddies on YouTube have spawned a new type of celebrity, and are making lots of money from their self-built careers.
But whether you recognise those names or not, the world of vlogging isn’t just about the big names – there are thousands of young adults documenting their daily lives, giving advice (on everything from hair and make up, to equality and sexuality), and sharing their thoughts on the world around them.
Their audience is a dedicated community of fans who tune in regularly to watch and interact with their favourite YouTube friends. And what’s more, their audience is probably your audience too. Or at least the audience you want to reach if you are recruiting students to join your university.
So how can universities get on board with the rise of the vlogger?
Well, in many ways you don’t have to – it’s already happening! In campus halls of residence around the country, students are vlogging their life online. We’ve done a bit of searching to find a few examples for you…
Jamie Ped is a student at the University of Bath and started his channel a couple of years ago. He produces a daily vlog “The Vlog Student” and has another channel that he posts to approximately each week.
A year ago he posted a Freshers FAQ video which as now received almost 40,000 views https://youtu.be/WMmf5idyGsw. His most popular daily vlog is about moving into university with over 18,000 views:
His other popular videos are about preparing for university/getting to know people, and naked men(!).
He has 2,356 subscribers on his daily vlog and 1,688 on his other channel. Admittedly not the millions that Zoella has, but significantly more than many university YouTube channels.
Laura is a student at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her channel is mostly fashion and beauty, but, as with many vloggers, she also posts videos about her personal life, including the university.
Again she has a modest number of subscribers (1,686), but her most popular video “What to take to University” has had over 19,000 views. Other videos in her University Survival series include “Advice and Tips” (9,500 views) and “My First Year University Experience” (over 5,600 views) where she talks openly about how her first year at university wasn’t what she expected:
“This probably isn’t going to be the usual “uni experience” video because I actually had a really bad first year […] so if you are looking for a “jolly, jolly, I love uni” video it probably isn’t going to be this – but I will give advice on how to handle certain situations because to be honest I haven’t seen many uni videos that are out there for the people who might not enjoy uni, or who get homesick, or whatever.”
Franki was at Leicester De Montfort and, like Laura, she published a “University Experience” video in 2013 about starting university and experiencing university life. She said:
“YouTube does not have many university videos of people kind of explaining how it was and their experience. There are a few and the few I have seen have been really helpful but there aren’t many. And you want to see as many different people’s experiences as you can as everyone is going to have a different experience.”
She gives advice about choosing a university and how to make the right choice. She didn’t “handle her university application very well” and talks about the “horrible” experience she had. She said:
“I didn’t fit in with anyone, it wasn’t the right university for me, it wasn’t the right course for me… and it wasn’t fun at all.”
This isn’t a reflection on De Montfort, but is about the personal experience of a first-year student adapting to university life. She talks through the reasons why she didn’t like it and gives advice for other students to avoid the experience she had. She also mentions the fees!
Franki’s other videos give advice on dealing with clearing, dropping out of university, and also a university room tour which is her second most popular video with over 25,000 views. Nowdays you will most likely see her vlogging about beauty, fitness and fashion.
Lily only managed to post five videos (maybe she is now busy actually studying at Leeds University), but it just goes to show that you don’t need to post regularly and have a massive following to post a really useful and popular video.
Her “Five Things Freshers Year Taught Me” video has had over 45,000 views. And it’s a very honest and amusing appraisal of university life, hence its popularity. Although the University might not agree with some of the points…
So what can universities learn from student vloggers?
Firstly, you will most likely have students already vlogging about their experience at your university. Spend some time on YouTube and see if you can find them, and see what they’re saying about you!
It’s clear to see that videos that honestly and openly talk about real student experiences are popular. Whether it’s about surviving freshers’ week, dealing with clearing, or coping with making friends, these seem to be the main issues that people want to find out more about on YouTube. How can you help give prospective and new students advice to adapt to university life?
If you do have vloggers at your university, get in touch with them and see if they would be interested in doing some videos on the university’s behalf. They would need to make it clear that the video was on behalf of the university, and you would need to be comfortable with relinquishing control of what they say in the video. The reason vloggers are popular is because they are honest, open and trusted by their viewers and they wouldn’t want to jeopardise that with a “marketing” video.
If you don’t have students already vlogging about their experience at your university, is this something you can facilitate? Recruiting student vloggers to talk about their university experience will certainly help your prospective students make the right choice, and prepare for what’s ahead.
One of our favourite examples is “Alyssa Explains It All” – Alyssa is a student at SUNY Oswego in the US, and posts regular vlogs on the main university YouTube channel aimed primarily at current SUNY Oswego students.
They are useful but also on-message and for your commissioned vlogs to be popular, they must be real and authentic and deal with the issues that students are interested in, not just the things that the university wants them to know.
So we’ll leave you with a video from Alyssa, and hopefully she’ll inspire you to think about how vlogging could work for your students.