Social media class giving WSU students an edge

A unique class focusing on how to build an Internet brand using different social media websites is proving to be a popular and productive addition to the courses at Wright State University.

Social Media and Personal Branding, offered to juniors and seniors, is helping students land internships and jobs, as well as understand the importance of their online persona.

Senior Brian Bok, who said he has always wanted to go into the entertainment industry, had the opportunity to work with the stars of the show Duck Dynasty in Nashville following his participation in the course.

“The class helped me tremendously in getting a summer internship,” he said.

According to Bok, his position entailed tweeting on behalf of star Jep Robertson and his company Dead Horse Design, which was the reason he needed social media experience.

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“One thing that was key for my internship was gaining more genuine followers and how to best go about that,” said Bok, who was offered a full-time job with the company, which he will accept following his graduation this winter.

Two other students who took the course, graduates Matt Chinn and Ryan Ballman, currently work in paid social media management positions. Chinn manages the online presence for various car dealerships through the company Reynolds and Reynolds, while Ballman creates social media content calendars and blog posts for the health company WellAdvantage.

“Because of the course, I was able to intelligently explain during my interview what it would take to expand their social following, how I could do so, and how it would benefit the company,” Ballman said. “The course truly makes you think like a social media consultant.”

The class is dually taught by instructors Russ Shirley and Dr. Isaac Brunner, who also work as social media consultants themselves. In addition to providing social media knowledge, the course also gives students the opportunity to learn in a unique, open-forum environment in the digital age.

“Wright State is now the go-to place for students who are able to navigate social media in an informed way,” said Dr. Melissa Spirek, chair of the WSU Department of Communication. “The class is helping my students beat the competition.”

Utilizing the Internet instead of textbooks, students live-tweet along with lecturers and guest speakers, take video courses through the website Hootsuite University, and create their own class content using the hashtag #DDWSU.

“Social media is an open forum and we want our students to contribute as much as possible,” Brunner said. “Part of social media is community building.”

Although the course has helped many with opportunities in social media, the instructors believe digital knowledge is important for anyone in today’s professional world. The class also focuses on how to create an optimal LinkedIn profile, remain professional across all media platforms, and get the attention of prospective employers through the use of the Internet.

“People who are not trained on how to use social media professionally are getting passed by, passed over, and left behind,” said Brunner.

For this reason, even though it is listed as a special topics course through the WSU Communication Department, the instructors have opened up the class to all upperclassmen at the university.

In addition, an advanced version of the course will be offered for the first time this spring, open to those who have taken the original version as a prerequisite. This class will “focus less on personal branding, and more on social media in a business setting,” said Brunner.

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