By the age of 16, I had started the first of many blogs. Several personal blogs came and stayed, and when I was a junior in college, I was invited to blog for Oberlin. My current boss, Ben Jones, vice president for communications, had run across the photo-a-day blog that I started on my first day of college and was interested in mirroring that visual daily post on his newly created Oberlin blogs.
As a student, I decided to blog for Oberlin for several reasons:
- Blogging was already a part of my life. I documented and then I shared with family and friends. This time, I would be doing it for pay.
- Anything I experienced, I could blog about. Getting paid to share my life seemed too easy.
- My photo blog existed for two personal reasons: I couldn’t contact my family every day but still wanted to keep them in the loop, and I not-so-secretly wanted my younger brother to attend Oberlin. (Spoiler: it worked. He’s finishing his first year at Oberlin as you read this.) Writing under another title meant that I could more publicly appreciate my family and urge my brother to come to Oberlin.
- It was nice to know that strangers would see my work and potentially think more about Oberlin because of it.
- I also thought that it was pretty cool that my future boss had contacted me personally to offer me a job.
After working as a student blogger for two years, I applied for the one-year web fellowship in the Office of Communications at Oberlin College. Over the next two months, the fellowship will be transitioned into the permanent position of social media coordinator, which, among other responsibilities, put me in charge of the Oberlin blogs. I went from a student blogger to being the person submitting hours, commenting on every new blog post and acting as my bloggers’ agent. Currently, we have 15 student bloggers, three recent alum bloggers, and eight staff bloggers (including faculty, admissions officers, and communications staff).
I still write for the blogs, from a slightly different perspective. I think of myself as a cheerleader and not just a writer. One of the most memorable lines from CASE’s Social Media & Community conference was from Liz Allen, who said, “Pizza is not pay!” (Basically, if you want your students to feel valued, and produce quality work, you must actually pay them.) I laughed inwardly upon hearing this, since I had attended no fewer than four blogger pizza parties as a student. I found that those pizza parties did not serve as pay for blogging, but it was a great way to make the whole crew of bloggers feel connected to one another.
While you should appropriately compensate your student bloggers, don’t underestimate the power of getting students together, especially around food, to create a working environment that is both welcoming and real. Personally, I like to cook, so I will make snacks/dinner/desserts, but pizza draws a similar crowd.
- Sometimes, in the internet sphere, it’s hard to know who you’re working with. Our students submit their blogger applications entirely online, and we may actually hire them without meeting them in person. I know each of my blogger’s names, faces, and other pertinent details, so if we do see each other in person, we can converse like real people, and not as boss-employee.
- Your students are cool kids. If you are blogging, they’ll give you ideas on what to write about. There’s a good chance they’re well-connected in the college community, and perspective is always helpful.
- Since (hopefully) the bloggers are reading and supporting each other’s writing, getting them together face-to-face is a great way to facilitate new friendships. In our gatherings this past year, my bloggers have become a tightly-knit group of coworkers, as much of the basic small-talk was already covered in their blogs. Some of them are even teaming up to co-write larger posts with multiple perspectives of the same topics.
Working with my bloggers is the most gratifying part of my job. I am constantly inspired by their writing, I look forward to speaking with them about their future posts, and commenting on their blogs is one of the highlights of my days.