UGC FTW with The Access Platform’s Nik Higgins

Regardless of whatever social media trend is hot right now, you can guarantee that user-generated content will always be seen as powerful. Quite simply, it’s the most authentic, powerful and persuasive content you’ll ever have – after all, who else can say things better than your target audience?

UGC is the focus of this particular episode of the podcast. Our guest is Nik Higgins, who is the co-founder of edtech startup The Access Platform and is a huge advocate of UGC.

In this chat, we talk about why UGC is powerful, hear some of Nik’s favourite examples in the sector right now and find out about a free tool that Nik is offering you to use in your clearing efforts this summer – for free. Not only that, it also includes a chatbot dog…what more could you want?

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Show notes

Nik Higgins is the co-founder of The Access Platform. You can find him on LinkedIn. Find out more about The Access Platform on their website. He also recently ran an ultramarathon in Northumberland – 57km!

The Access Platform (TAP) is an edtech start-up based in Central London. They provide a platform, called TAPchat, that enables university representatives to engage with potential applicants online.

Earlier in the year, Nik wrote an excellent guest post for The Native where he set out an argument against the epic, cinematic University showreel video – something he actually sees as having a decreasing value. For Nik, rather than being ‘stand out’ they don’t actually add any clear points of difference.

I also think, specifically, with reference to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds that there’s a danger that this sort of stuff can alienate, rather than lead them to identify with an institution. The important messages to be communicating to this group are inclusiveness and accessibility.

On the other hand, user-generated content (UGC) offers a far more authentic view of life at a University and is far more persuasive content. And it’s not a revolutionary idea either; even the big boys like Adidas and McDonald’s are leveraging it.

Nik says that Instagram and Snapchat are the obvious channels for making the most out of UGC, but also highlights opportunities to get more value from Twitter, YouTube and even University websites.

Why does it have to be limited to social media channels? After all your website is the digital home of the university.

When it comes to standout examples of UGC, Nik points to the Instagram feeds of the Universities of Limerick and Sheffield, along with Aston’s digital ambassadors and Sussex’s digital gurus.

However, his favourite is the YouTuber IbzMo and how he works with the University of Cambridge – even though his channel got off to a bit of a rocky start with the powers that be at the university. But after they recognised the massive value in what he was doing they have very much welcomed him into the fold, and are now even championing what he’s doing.

While this approach might represent a risk for institutions, it’s one that’s worth taking – just look at this comment on one of Ibz’s videos.

ibzmo comment screenshot

I suppose the caveat, or what the success depends on, is how well the curation process is done. Just because a particular bit of content has been created by a student or whoever doesn’t make it de-facto brilliant; equally there’s got to be an element of preparedness in taking risks and reposting interesting and perhaps off-the-wall content too.

As we approach this year’s edition of clearing, TAP have come up with something that might be of use to University marketers out there. They’ve built a new tool, TAPContent, that allows university digital marketing teams to crowdsource user generated content from their students, staff, and alumni. And, the BETA version is being made available to Universities for free this summer.

The app is super easy to use: there’s a Content Creators’ App, through which students and whoever else can capture photo and video content, and a publishing platform, from which digital marketers can publish the content collected to social channels. The two are connected: content creators can send their UGC directly to the publishing platform, and university marketers can push requests for content to the creators’ app.

They’ve also been experimenting by incorporating a chatbot into the creators’ app to help automate some of the content generation, that’s where Cecil the Dog comes in. He’s the current face of the bot.

We’ve been running an experiment with our Cecil bot at Pearson College London, where we’re based, and the results have been amazing – literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces of UGC generated each week; all from students interacting with our dog-based chatbot. Fantastic!

To get involved, head to tapintocontent.com

As for the future of UGC, Nik sees things getting more sophisticated, with richness and variety of content.

I’d love to see senior academics, and alumni that are now living on the other side of the world from their alma mater, contributing to the university’s digital marketing output.

Nik’s top three tips for harnessing UGC

Be brave; Ibz shows that it can be worth taking risks!

Be authentic: students know what students want to see. Make the most of that implicit knowledge.

This is shameless, so sorry, but visit tapintocontent.com and let’s arrange to chat more about TAP Content (and about Cecil!).


5 apps on your phone you use the most

The five Nik wishes he used the most: Strava (more exercise), Deliveroo (more Sushi), Facetime (speak to more people face-to-face), Shazam (discover more music), and Snapfish (make better use of my pics).

4 people you’d like to invite round for dinner

Sacha Baron Cohen, Tony Blair, Thomas Hoccleve (12th Century poet) and Nick (best mate).

3 words to describe what it’s like working for The Access Platform

Really nice people.

2 places/events in the world you’d really love to visit but haven’t been able to yet

Papua New Guinea, Svalbard (Norway, near the 81st parallel) – to see the Northern Lights.

1 social media platform you love more than any of the others


Find out more

Nik Higgins is the co-founder of The Access Platform. You can find him on LinkedIn. Find out more about The Access Platform on their website.

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The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

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