While doing outreach, you may find yourself trying to reach out to an student organization or club on a university campus. Often, the club's website will list a general "info@" or "contact@" email address. In my experience, these general contact emails get lost in the internet ether, never to be actually read by a club officer.
Today, I'm going to share with you some secrets about college students, and then I'm going to show you one of my favorite methods for finding actual contact information for club officers. I'm 12 months removed from the glory days of Indiana University, but I feel fairly confident in my understanding of college student behavior.
Let's get started.
The Truth About College Students
Remember those "firstname.lastname@example.org" and "email@example.com" emails you send your fantastic outreach to? No one checks those email addresses except at the start of the school year during call-out meetings (if that). Trust me.
"But Hillary," you might say, "I want to sponsor these students' clubs. Won't they be super eager to get back in touch with me?" They will be. But - and hold on to your seat because I'm about to let you in on another not-so secret - college students are lazy. Ain't nobody got time to check a second email address!
If you want success with your outreach to student clubs and organizations, you have to make it as easy as possible for them. Get your outreach message in the personal inbox of every member of the leadership board of the club you're targeting. Why every member of the leadership board? Because the club's website probably hasn't been updated in at least a year. You're going to be lucky if even one of the students listed hasn't yet graduated.
So, there you go. College students are lazy and infrequently (if ever) check the club email. Now that we're up to speed on the not-so-secret lives of college students, let's get down to brass tacks. How are you going to obtain the personal email addresses of multiple university students all while maintaining efficiency in outreach?
My favorite trick is to see if there’s a student directory listed on the school’s domain. Because these directories also list faculty and staff, they are often referred to as "People Finders." Here are a few of the advanced queries I use to locate the online directory:
[student directory site:schoolname.edu]
[people finder site:schoolname.edu]
In honor of my alma mater, I’ll show you how this works using Indiana University as an example:
1. Search Google using one of the advanced queries above:
2. Enter the name of one of the club officers:
Let's use my name as an example:
Pro tip: If you search for a name and there are no results, make sure you've checked nicknames. For example, Dick Vitale may be listed by his birth name, Richard Vitale, in a school directory. If you're not sure what 'Hal' is short for (Spoiler: Henry), then check out this comprehensive list of common nicknames.
If the student’s name either has no obvious nicknames or you tried a couple variations and are still coming up dry, chances are the student has graduated.
3. Do a victory dance:
For those of you trying to hunt down my university contact information, you're in luck, as Indiana University still has me listed as a former student and employee. You can now proceed to send your outreach to me!
If you're hunting down the contact information for one of the many John Smiths, Millers, or Andersons of the world, using the People Finder successfully might take a little digging and research. If the club webpage mentions the student's major or area of interest, you should be able to narrow down the results to the "right" John Smith.
No luck still? See if you can find the club officers via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn – this is usually my last resort as the return is infrequently worth the time required.
Do you use any similar strategies? Is there a term for “people finder” or “student directory” that I missed? Let me know in the comments!
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