Facebook posts, Insta stories, and even a chatbot are now among the tools of the Students’ Union when it comes to keeping in touch with students. We interviewed Muad Mohamed, the desk officer of the Communication Committee.
Szinapszis: What is the role of a communications desk officer?
Muad Mohamed: I have a job that at first sounds very simple: coordinating the exchange of information between the university and its students. Even I didn’t know how big of a task this really is, it means far more than just posting stuff on Facebook.
Sz.: Who is your target audience?
M. M.: Our main mission is to relay information coming from our higher-ups to the students. This is especially critical this year, with the curriculum reform and the 250th jubilee year.
Still, basically everyone is a potential member of the target audience, depending on the content we are communicating. On an open day or during European Researchers’ Night we have to address outsiders, we have programmes for the alumni, like the Semmelweis Talks, and sometimes we have to specifically focus on the university’s students and teachers, like during the Summer University or the 25-hour sports day.
And of course, foreign students. We started a more open approach during the summer, our events, posts, and Neptun messages are now at least in two languages.
Sz.: Which platforms are you most active on?
M. M.: The activity of our communication channels fit their role. Our audience uses Facebook and Instagram every day, so we are pretty active on those, however we try to limit our work, only posting the more important stuff, so we can have quality content and a clean, aesthetic profile. The website, Neptun, and the chatbot are less active, since these are more formal.
Sz.: What is the main platform where students can access the information they need the most?
M. M.: That depends on what kind of information we’re talking about. The Summer University was a so called full front campaign, we had it on all of our platforms. However, a smaller party like an ÁOK Felező won’t be as advertised.
Of course, the fastest and simplest of them is the Facebook feed. We can use it to reach a wide but also specific audience, there are groups for every faculty, year, and event. We pay attention to the students’ wishes, for example we had a lot of negative feedback in the last years because of the party spam, so we have created a separate Semmelweis Events group, people interested in upcoming parties can look these up specifically.
Sz.: The Communication Committee relays information from the Students’ Union to the students. Is it possible for students to communicate with the Students’ Union?
M. M.: Yes, it is, and I can say they already do it pretty regularly. In the last 3 months, since I took over the committee, more than 1000 students have reached out to us. Of course, we have a phone number and an e-mail, but surprisingly these account only for 0,1% of our interactions. Currently the HÖK Chat is the most popular platform, so we can say that is it a big success. We can also use it to do simple surveys among the students, we send the automatized dialogues to our subscribers and then analyse the statistics.
Last but not least, during this semester’s social grant application period, students had the opportunity to have personal consultations, but basically we are always available in our office or you can stop us to ask a question if we meet on campus, we are always happy to help.
Sz.: This chatbot is barely a few weeks old, can you talk about it in detail?
M. M.: Several companies and politicians have started using chatbots with great success. This works best when you are working with a really large target group, such as the university’s nearly 11 000 students. Its main purpose is to improve user experience. At the end of the semesters the members of the committee are also busy, so it’s often not possible to answer the questions immediately. This is when chatbots come in handy, it gives a quick response and it’s also a kind of feedback for the student that their message is being worked on.
It also can be used to mass communicate messages towards the students, however it’s a very aggressive way of communication, so we rarely use it.
Sz.: What other plans do you have for the future?
M. M.: For me, a very important strategic move is integrating foreign students in the university life. The first step of this is communicational integration. We reached out to ISSA and DSVS, shared our ideas with them to involve more foreign students in Hungarian organized events and vice versa. We also put a lot of effort to have our posts in more languages.