Outside the lecture theatre

Joe Nash, who has done an excellent job at building student communities, talks about how and why you should targeting students, making them an invaluable asset for your organisation in the long term.
Joe Nash (Braintree - PayPal) - DevRelCon London 2015

Summary

Why

  • Students are a fantastic audience to get your brand message out, testing out your product and everything else at a very high engagement rate.

  • You need to empower students in your ways, helping them learn and understand how to become better developers.

  • Student trust other students, talking to each other about the feedback.

  • Students even become advocates for your brand

  • Although they might not generate revenue instantly, students provide a long term outreach for your business.

  • Students graduate much before you think, work in startups, internships increasing your product reach everywhere.

  • Your documentation does not work until a first-year computer science student reads it and successfully integrate your product.

  • Students active in the community are great for recruitment!

How

  • Reaching universities directly is not fruitful. You should reach the societies through the departments.

  • Explore different Facebook groups and interact with them

  • Participate in their events both online and offline.

  • Communicate with them

  • Be fun and interact with them, sharing your knowledge in every aspect and not just talking about your product

Scribbles

Engaging Students

Focus Group

  • 18-22 year old students from UK & Scotland students are focused here

  • Typically study a fixed degree

  • Found out that students in the UK and EU are more Tech Savvy than the US because of the major mind system but less prepared in other ways

  • Found out that students in the UK struggled with Pitches and Presentations and may struggle in cultural interviews more than the US Students.

  • This talk primarily focused on students who study CS and also the ones who are not related to CS in any way in their education but met evangelists and people from the industry experiencing this world of CS.

  • Belong to the Students' Union and more specifically societies that are meant to empower students in a particular subdomain.

Why Engage Students?

  • Students are fantastic to get your brand message out there.

  • They're fantastic in testing out your product

  • Very very good for the students' enrichment in education

  • Recruitment is a great part of this as well - not being touched in detail in this talk.

Brand

  • We're looking to make connections with developers and to enable them to build cool things, enable them to use our products in fantastic ways.

  • Students generally do not have an idea about the Software development world, their degrees do not teach them about real-world things.

  • They know the fundamentals of building a product but do not have the real-world tools to make them in the first place. Our role is to enable them to do that.

  • Another thing about students is that they converse a lot. This enables a culture within the student community of trusting senior students.

Reinforce

  • Here the example of Heroku was given that students 2.5 years ago learnt about Heroku at a hackathon and till date, their juniors are using it because of the praise they have heard from their seniors about it.

  • You do not just evangelise your product but tell the best practices here. It should not sound like marketing but a talk where they're learning something new about development in general. You can include your product as an innovative way inside it.

  • The example of Capital One given at 12:00 is a fantastic example of implementing this.

External Advocates

  • Students are extremely vocal outside of their community as well

  • Student advocates, many times, are the first people to deal with company-related issues within the community

  • They redirect people who are facing issues to the right person - the evangelist of the company.

  • Many times they stand themselves as evangelists as well for the company.

Loyalty

  • Students are incredibly loyal.

  • They get excited about the events within the community and even fly over long distances just to attend them.

  • They become advocates for these products ultimately.

Product

  • Your documentation does not work until a first-year computer science student reads it and successfully integrate your product.

  • They're extremely great to talk to about the product.

Signups

  • Although students are a great market, they cannot generate profit for you instantly. Their metrics will be very low comparatively because of that.

  • The example of Dell: Just by engaging in different hackathons over the course of 2 years with comparatively minimal expense, Dell's brand awareness increased by 5 times, increasing the sales by that number as well.

  • Another brand saw 40% of the targetted students using the credits provided by the company. They were given to 40k students and 14k actually used it.

  • Students love free stuff.

Students Graduate

  • They graduate sooner than you realise, most of them are in the 2nd and 3rd year.

Students Build Startups

  • Since they know how to use their platforms easily they'll prefer that.

Students Intern with companies

  • A lot of times they can influence the companies decision to use a certain system they're already aware of.

Education

  • Students have vast capacities to learn about technologies just by interacting with the evangelists and also the evangelist get to learn a lot of new things by interacting with the students

  • There are great repercussions on what you do on their career as well in a huge way.

  • You just don't need to give them technical skills, you can give them any kind of advice that is relevant to them - give them presenting advice, give them public speaking advice, etc.

Recruitment

  • Students who come to technical events are high performing students, they are self-motivated, they're talented.

  • The requirement of experience in hiring is something that makes a lot of problems

  • Recruitment becomes very easy at hackathons. If someone's there you can see them work for 24hrs to put together a project, you can see them working in stress, you can see them at crunch time, you can see their teamwork, their pitch. They are people who have the capability to become leaders in the future!

How

  • Reaching universities directly is not directly fruitful. You should reach the societies through the departments.

  • If you reach out to universities directly, it might look like an advertisement to them.

  • Societies are student-run special interest groups. They have some forward officers who are elected and are well trained in different aspects, having their independent stand. Societies even have bank accounts in many places.

  • These societies are constantly organising events, bringing external speakers etc where people can just go a speak for free addressing students.

  • If this goes through the society students are more excited. Students trust other students.

  • Be mindful of the key times like the University Exams or holidays which are highly inconsistent times.

  • On the flip side, every summer for example students get ready for internships and this can be a nice time for certain outreach.

Connecting with Students

  • Once you give a talk, expect tons of Facebook requests from students all over. Adjust your privacy features to handle that.

  • Explore groups like Hackathon Hackers, Hackathon Hackers Europe, be active in those groups. There are niche groups where you can find your audience and interact with them.

  • Don't worry about being old! Students will love to interact with you.

  • Do fun and games with students - they're great people to have fun with and interact!

  • Students are going to assume you are superheroes! Be chill and interact freely. Don't behave like a business penguin, have fun with them