Profile: how student-generated videos bring campuses to life

Genna Ash finds out about the changing nature of content consumption, and how video is key to attracting Gen Z students



Rob Carroll

Job Title: 

Co-founder, CampusReel



Q. What inspired you and your team to launch CampusReel?

We realised that there were deep inequalities plaguing the university search process, largely resulting from a fundamental information gap. Every college and university has a unique campus, community and overall vibe, but unless an applicant is able to visit a university in person, it’s almost impossible to factor these less-quantifiable attributes into his/her college decision. Many college search resources heavily rely on statistics to tell a school’s story, but none were using authentic video to bring a campus to life. People, community and campus culture are arguably the most important factors in a university decision. We saw an opportunity to take a unique approach to a college search resource by capitalising on GenZ’s propensity for creating and consuming authentic video content. CampusReel empowers real students on university campuses throughout the US to leverage organic video to show and tell the next generation of university applicants what their college life is all about.

Q. What makes CampusReel’s API its defining USP?

After getting CampusReel to market, it quickly became apparent that many of the other, more traditional college search engines wanted to leverage our authentic videos as part of their own user experience. Our goal has always been to have CampusReel’s student-created videos reach and serve as many university applicants as possible throughout all stages of their college search, selection and application process, so now we also make that content available through an extended network of partner sites. Our API enables our partner sites to use the amazing videos that exist on CampusReel and play them on their own sites to drive deeper engagement and research within their own user base. Students, parents and college searchers want video content, but it’s very expensive to generate at a high quality and at scale – our API solves this problem for all types of publishers. In short, we’re helping other platforms derive benefit from our video content library so that they, in turn, can be more helpful to their users.

Q. What makes video content so encapsulating for Gen Z?

Video has never been more accessible, both to view and to create, than it is today. Rapid technological advances have enabled just about anyone to create fun, engaging and, most importantly, useful authentic video content. It’s this last characteristic – authenticity – that is the defining hallmark of Gen Z’s video consumption compared to previous generations because that’s what they’ve grown up with in the age of social media. Even though Gen Z consumes more video than previous generations, however, they tend to be more sceptical of – and less likely to sit through – the more traditional style of marketing videos that have obviously been highly scripted, edited and polished. They place a higher level of trust in, and tend to gravitate to, the type of ‘real’ videos that come across as honest and personal because they’ve been created by peers they can relate to. 

What separates video content today from video content a decade ago is its ‘real’ style and feel, and the ability for many people to contribute to a brand’s narrative

Q. How do you see the way we consume content changing in the future?

We are heading towards consuming fresher and more authentic content. Universities that continually produce a steady stream of dozens or even hundreds of videos a year that consistently capture the nuances of campus life will be better off than universities that produce just a handful of videos a year, which quickly become stale and irrelevant. At the same time, universities that empower their students to tell their stories will drive deeper engagement and trust with prospective applicants than ones that only produce highly polished marketing pieces – the key is to balance both types of content. Most importantly, authentic content is not low-quality, 10–30-second videos shot on smartphones without editing or production values. Authentic content is genuine, which can be achieved in all video types. CampusReel accepts one-minute videos and 15-minute videos, videos shot on an iPhone with minor edits and ones taken on DLSR cameras and GoPros with amazing effects. All of our videos have one thing in common though: they are informative and authentic. 

Q. What advice would you offer a university looking to use video content to attract prospective students?

Video in and of itself is not a new medium to connect with people. What separates video content today from video content a decade ago is its ‘real’ style and feel, and the ability for many people to contribute to a brand’s narrative. Young people have grown up with transparent and accessible information. They will unearth the hidden narrative that brands used to be able to manipulate or hide. Because of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms or online forums, universities no longer have a centralised brand. 

Our advice is to turn your students into storytellers. Let the people who create your community and culture also tell the story surrounding it. Sometimes we hear that universities are afraid to give over control to students, or anyone outside their marketing department. What we’ve found is that content creators on CampusReel are a self-selecting audience – they are huge, positive brand advocates for their universities, and they frequently have very moving and compelling stories to tell. Colleges and universities should embrace these story-telling brand advocates, not stymie them. Not only will this openness result in more amazing content for universities and their communities, it also builds a deep layer of trust for their prospective students. 


Q. What do you envision for the future of CampusReel?

CampusReel is rapidly becoming more than just a college search platform. We want to continue fostering peer-to-peer connection and build more ways for colleges and students to connect. We believe people and community are the defining elements of a university experience, and we will continue to build around that theme.

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