Carolina gets social

It was a traditional assignment in Joe Bob Hester’s copywriting class.

When students arrived for the first class of the semester, Hester said that only three would be allowed to stay. Each student had to persuade him, in 25 words or less, on why he or she should be on that list.

“Right off the bat, this taught you three things: why you wanted to be here, who your audience was, and how to be persuasive,” says Hester, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

A few semesters later he was asking the class to persuade him in 140 characters – the length of one tweet, the mode of messaging on the social media service Twitter. Because many companies use social media as a part of their public relations and advertising plans, Hester says his students should know how to use it, too.

Departments, offices and schools at Carolina began entering the social media realm a few years ago, using it to spread news, disseminate emergency information and share the Carolina experience.

Communication with these tools was, at first, tentative. Now, widespread use makes an online presence no longer the exception, but the rule.

Carolina’s Facebook page has enough fans to fill the Smith Center more than three times over. With Vimeo and YouTube, anyone off campus can learn from lectures given by faculty at the School of Information and Library Science. Prospective students to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy can get application questions answered on the school’s admissions Facebook page, and Carolina fans can add their photos to the UNC Flickr group.

Even the Chancellor tweets. (Follow him at @chanthorp.)

“If used well, it has the opportunity to enhance the intellectual climate by knocking down the walls of the classroom,” says Ryan Thornburg, assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “I think for so long we feared social media coming in to the classroom, but what’s really happened is that the classroom becomes a more natural part of their social life. “

Carolina’s homepage has a link dedicated to social media at the University, where social media users can access all the official accounts that exist on campus. Users can select news and information they want in their feeds and deepen the connection with their favorite parts of campus.

What other ways is the Carolina community using social media? Read more at the University Gazette.