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Navigating the social media-sphere

Tweets, texts, posts and photos flew at a furious pace during the first Social Media Bootcamp at the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte Jan. 6.

Leaders from nine Charlotte-area nonprofit groups worked with 10 Queens students during the social media marketing seminar and case competition organized by the Knight School and Karen Arnie, director of the Internships and Career Program.

Non-profit participant Steffi Travis of Care Ring said she never fully understood the scope and depth of the social media-sphere until she attended the seminar.

"I have moved from the dinosaur stage in that I knew I needed to be involved in technology to being excited and confident about using it," she said. "I've learned about the importance of being strategic about my marketing efforts and being intentional about using the right tools for the right audiences."

The seminar portion of the event focused on understanding social media channels and the importance of digital and media literacy. In the case competition Queens students paired with nonprofit leaders to generate social media strategy to address a specific goal.

Travis, who is chief development officer for Care Ring, said she now feels better equipped to reach a wider swath of prospective donors for her group that helps limited income people get access to quality healthcare. 

She spent more than an hour brainstorming with Queens seniors Meghan Gilling and Baillie Hunter about topics including creating catchy Twitter hashtags, using email blasts effectively and staging online giveaways to drive ticket sales for an upcoming fundraiser.

"One of the smartest ways to build buzz for your organization is to rally people to Tweet and post on Facebook about you," Hunter told Travis. "Go back to the people who attended the fundraiser last year and ask them to help spread the word about your great cause and what a fun time they had."

By the end of the seminar Travis had filled an entire legal pad with ideas and said she was eager to go back to her board to start developing a social media strategy.

Bryce Boothby, a junior majoring in business administration and communication, earned a $1,000 stipend to provide digital and social media consulting for a nonprofit organization as a summer internship project.  Boothby's innovative ideas for his nonprofit partner, Jacob's Ladder, included providing Twitter handles on golfers' shirts, so attendees could tweet "great shot" to their favorite golfer during a charity golf event.

During the seminar, participants posted messages on Twitter, creating such a buzz that the event "trended" on the social media site.

Seminar presenters included Reena Arora, who created and executes Queens' institutional social media strategy, and Queens' Creative Director David Owens-Hill.  Arora spoke about creating mission statements in social media strategy and described the digital marketing campaign the university used for a presentation by Pulitzer Prize nominee and New York Times reporter Scott Shane. Owens-Hill discussed tools for evaluating social media marketing campaigns and strategies.

Arora also is a 2010 graduate of the Knight School's master of arts in organizational and strategic communication program, and Owens-Hill will complete that degree in May.

Finally, Kristen Bostedo-Conway, a Knight master's program student and marketing  director  for Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants, used PlayDoh and Prezi to challenge participants to create social media marketing plans that work for targeted audiences. Her presentation was grounded in the theory of reflexivity and reflection which reminded the participants that social media was not about them, but about their target audience.

The Jan. 6 program is just one example of the community programs offered by the Knight School at Queens and their mission to increase digital and media literacy in Charlotte.

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