Hamza Khan is the man responsible for creating the interactive and multi-platform experience of RU Student Life. He is one of the six recipients of the Make Your Mark award being presented at the Ryerson Awards Night on March 27.
Every year Ryerson University recognizes a handful of faculty and staff who have excelled in areas of leadership, research and creative and scholarly activity. The Make Your Mark award specifically focuses on client services, innovation and community engagement.
“When one thinks of social media and Ryerson University, it would be impossible not to include Hamza Khan in those thoughts,” reads Khan’s award recipient profile.
Bailey Parnell is a third year RTA student and a social media specialist for RU Student Life. She believes Khan deserves the award.
“Hamza took the idea of a student run, student life brand and added his creative side to it. He took his own personal creativity and experience and thought this is what a student life brand should be and that he also was able to use his great vast, technical know-how and analytical skills.”
Khan is also the founding member of Ryerson’s Social Media Steering Committee that creates and implements a social media strategy for all departments across the university.
It’s not only Ryerson who has noticed Khan’s innovative and engaging social media tactics. Other schools like Brock University, University of Toronto and York University have recreated Khan’s position.
“My job is to help the university recreate the experience of being on-campus online,” Khan says, Ryerson’s Digital Community Facilitator, a relatively new position created for the changing social media landscape.
“In recognizing we are a commuter campus I know how to help those who don’t live on residence feel connected with each other in the institution and with Ryerson as a community.”
RU Student Life is the second most influential social media voice on campus, behind Ryerson University’s social accounts.
Khan’s social strategy is simple. He listens to what the audience wants and to stop treating social media as a marketing tool.
“My dream is that ultimately Ryerson becomes the most responsive university with the most personalized experience for every single student who walks in these doors,” explains Khan. “I don’t see why we can’t create a unique and personalized experience for the student and not the other way around.”
Within this strategy, Khan makes sure that every complaint is heard and every conversation is acknowledged.
One of his main goals is to improve the quality and frequency of the social media responses. By engaging with students, a relationship is created and students see RU Student Life as more of a friend than as an extension of the institution.
“It’s like someone not picking up a ringing phone,” says Khan. “When tweets are left unanswered, it’s the same thing. We want to create that relationship and create that narrative of what it’s like to be a Ryerson student.”
Another aspect of Khan’s strategy of listening to the audience is to put social media back into their hands. RU Student Life’s Instagram and Snapchat account puts students in the driver’s seat.
“It’s run by students so it’s innovative in that it’s run by the audience it’s serving, which is kind of rare in brands and in most groups, and because it’s run by the audience it’s serving it’s on top of the new trends,” says Parnell.
“It’s trying to connect students with who were are using what we think we want to know with these mediums.”
An example is the popular app Instagram. Their account rarely uses any photos taken by Ryerson staff and instead borrows photos taken by students and gives them credit. It prompts other students to follow that student and begin a conversation.
Khan’s idea for Snapchat is even more innovative in that the account is completely run by students.
“We let one student have it for a day and they can share their story for the day,” says Khan.
“What does life look like for every single student on campus since we all have different stories. Snapchat is a great platform using a new type of story that provides immediate fleeting fun.”
And it’s through Khan’s ability to create an innovative experience for students that Ryerson selected him as a recipient. And despite his accomplishments at other institutions and organizations, Khan remains a proud ambassador for Ryerson University.
To show its appreciation, the university will acknowledge Khan’s achievements on Thursday by presenting him with a certificate and cash prize of $2,000.
“We know from employee engagement research that the more you recognize people, the more engaged and satisfied they feel at work. Ryerson’s Recognition program has been developed to ensure that employees feel valued and appreciated for their contributions,” says Christina Sass-Kortsak, Assitant VP Human Resources, in an email.
The awards gala will be at the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre hotel on March 27 starting at 5 p.m.