More and more companies, nonprofits, and schools are placing a greater emphasis on social media marketing, and the Illinois State University College of Business is no exception to this trend.
“Students check their social media accounts more than they check the mail or their email,” said marketing student Jada Turner. “If we can spread news and information to students via social media and grab their attention that way, then we will have more students knowing about all the events going on. Social media is the new source for news.”
Turner is one of nine Illinois State marketing students who gather weekly with a group of four staff members to devise a strategy about how to best distribute information through the college’s social media platforms. They also develop content for posts, such as student spotlights recognizing noteworthy achievements and Five Question Thursday videos that share news and information about upcoming events. Additionally, the team tries to boost the college’s social media reach by incorporating lighthearted content, such as photos spotlighting the antics of Baby Bird.
The student members on this social media and marketing team bring different passions and skills to the table. One has a popular YouTube channel. Another writes fiction. They are involved in different registered student organizations (RSOs). Some focus their efforts on Instagram, while others prefer Facebook.
One thing they all have in common though is a desire to keep their peers informed. With this goal in mind, they are working together to grow the College of Business’ social media presence and improve engagement.
Junior Lauren O’Donnell enjoys meeting with teammates who share her passion for digital marketing.
“I am excited to learn new ways to use social media to market to students and to work in a collaborative environment with like-minded people,” O’Donnell said.
Steve Vandiver, executive director of marketing and communication for the college, noted having student perspectives on the marketing team is essential.
“They have their finger on the pulse of what their peers are looking at,” he said.
Kylie Kafer, a senior marketing student, described how the team’s posts provide “not only a way to connect with current students and alumni but also to grab the attention of prospective students who are researching colleges.”
After being chosen through an application process last spring, the new group of student interns began meeting at the beginning of fall semester.
“We’re really excited about this team,” said Vandiver. “They came in enthusiastic. We didn’t have to teach them why they are here. The team’s been around long enough—and thanks to the good work of previous teams—they know. We’re at the point now where we’ve turned the corner, and the team is something that’s known in the school, and people want to be a part of it. (These students) come out and do it for the experience. They don’t credit for it. They don’t get paid for it, and that’s a true passion for the work.”
Along the way, the student interns gain confidence, learn new skills such as video production and have the opportunity to see their work displayed in a public forum.
Building a vibrant social media presence takes initiative, and web specialist Joyce Parmenter shared she enjoys the new ideas the students come up with each year. She likes seeing their creativity and “their different focuses as to what they like and what different (online) platforms grab them and why they use them.”
Creating content for the College of Business’ social media feeds gives the student team members real-world experience.
“Classes help you learn important skills, but involvement is where you get to use them,” said Sarah McQuaid, a senior majoring in both marketing and English publishing studies, as she described the benefit of being a part of on-campus opportunities like the social media team.
She then described how the group provides her with the opportunity “to learn more about professional social media do’s and don’ts” and to prepare for a career in marketing “in a world where social media is only growing increasingly prevalent.”
“It’s good practice for them,” said Ginny Smith, marketing advisor. Graduating seniors on last year’s team told her, “You can’t get an internship with this type of creative marketing. It’s hard to find something where you have this much creative freedom.”
Senior Michael Wang has been on the team for two years and explained how the experience has helped him to see the value of brainstorming sessions. He enjoys seeing how “one idea sparks another” and gives rise to successful posts and activities.
“We end up with an event that we have never done before all because someone decided to bring up an idea, knowing that there won’t be any judgement,” he said.
For senior Sara Verda, involvement on the team is a way to expand her understanding of digital marketing.
“I hope to learn a lot more about the analytics side of social media and how that determines what/when we post as well,” she shared.
Connecting students to groups and activities on campus is one of the main purposes of the college’s emphasis on social media. Kristyn Bonk, a senior, noted posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter help to promote College of Business events designed to “help better a student’s professionalism.”
The marketing team members spoke of how they have personally benefited from on-campus involvement and offered words of encouragement to their peers to find ways to get plugged in during their time at Illinois State.
“I would say that if someone isn’t involved on campus, they are missing out on half of the college experience,” said Wang.
Senior Lauren Hickey agreed, saying, “Getting involved is the arguably one of the most important things to do in college. It teaches you everything that the classroom can’t, introduces you to new connections, broadens your horizons and helps you recognize interests.”
On-campus involvement can also help a student stand out from the crowd when interviewing for internships and jobs.
“Employers are looking for students who are involved and have demonstrated effective leadership, communication and critical thinking skills, all of which you can gain from getting involved in different organizations,” said junior Amanda Anderson. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Find an organization that best fits what you’re looking for, and try to learn as much as you can in order to set yourself up for success after college.”