Students use social media, websites to facilitate marketing, self-branding

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Senior Lauren Colbert said she has always been hypnotized by the camera lens. She ran around family reunions with a camera, took it with her on playdates and dreamed of becoming the photographer at her beloved summer camp, Camp Tecumseh. Little did she know that one day, after building a portfolio and putting it on several social media outlets and her own website, she would be hired to be one of the camp’s summer of 2016 photographers.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.48.27 PM“I think I’ve always kind of been the girl with the camera,” Colbert said. Although she started young, Colbert said she seriously got into photography in high school. “I took a photojournalism class my freshman year and that really sparked my interest even more and that’s when I took the time to actually get know really how to use a camera. I got my first DSLR (camera) after that.”

Colbert is one of a growing number of students at CHS who are already a step ahead of the crowd when it comes to marketing themselves. In an increasingly competitive job-market and college-admissions process, an online presence has become more important for students wishing to gain a competitive edge in their fields. Social media and websites provide a way for students to put their portfolio out for the world to see.

Patrick Brouder, self-proclaimed lover of all things media and senior, has tried his hand at everything from photography and videography, to graphic design and advertising.

“I’ve kind of dabbled in most of that stuff and now I’m trying to grow my abilities in those different activities. I’m just using (the things I do) to help my own image, to just get my name out there, and also to help others and get their brands known as well,” Brouder said.

Brouder, also an avid user of social media, has a vlog on YouTube, posts his photography and graphic designs on his Instagram account, and he has his own website and Twitter feed for his clothing line, Foxtrot Apparel.

“I think it’s a really good talking point when it comes to introducing myself to people, because what I’ve learned about the creative community in general, and the business community, is that everything is about connections; it’s who you know,” Brouder said. “And just having a portfolio, having your own website is helpful just to let people know you’re professional and just show them what you can do for them.”

CHS business teacher Pete Smith said he agreed that social media has become a place for students to show off their individuality and successes in order to promote themselves.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.48.45 PM“A successful step in creating a student’s online presence in their prospective fields is to establish accounts on social networking sites that will be beneficial in showcasing their skills and past, positive experiences,” Mr. Smith said via email.

Liz Ogilvie, founder of 7057 Media, a business that offers marketing services for short and feature-length films, said in the professional world websites are popular because they offer a place for companies to prove themselves.

“By building a website you are giving your business the opportunity to tell consumers why they should trust you and the testimonials and facts to back up those opportunities,” Ogilvie said via email. “When you provide great service or product, positive word-of-mouth about your business is likely to spread. Which in turn, delivers more repeat and new business.”

According to Colbert, however, word-of-mouth marketing should not be relied on as the only source of marketing.

“I think having a presence on social media or just online or finding a way to market yourself is definitely the key. It’s going to be a lot harder to get yourself somewhere if you’re just sharing by word of mouth. But by talking to professionals, getting advice from them and utilizing the tools you have online, it’s definitely very beneficial in that way,” Colbert said.

Junior Nick Smith (no relation to Pete Smith), alongside his business partners and juniors Ethan Merriweather and Jalen Walker started their own clothing line, True Fortune, at the end of eighth grade in 2013. Their purpose? To stand out and be different, Nick said. They now have Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as a website. However, Nick said they sometimes hesitate to post.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.48.56 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.49.08 PM“Generally, it’s not hard to post something, but it is (harder) to post something that will draw people’s interest, develop more customers and more of a fan base,” Smith said.

Ogilvie gave insight on the challenge of knowing what to post.

“For businesses in any industry, the key to success is knowing your audience. Social media makes this possible, and easier to accomplish than ever. With tools like Facebook Insights, you can learn the dominant languages spoken among your social media audience, as well as their age and gender,” Ogilvie said.

Students don’t only market businesses online. The website SoundCloud is popular for up-and-coming musicians, Hudl is used by athletes to post highlight reels to show their talent to recruiters. Mr. Smith is an advocate of LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking site for individuals in the business field or those looking to join.Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.49.20 PM

“It’s all mental,” Nick said. “If you want to, anything can be done. If you really stick with it and not give up over little failures and stuff like that, you can get it done if you really want to.”

While starting and maintaining self-marketing social media requires effort, Ogilvie pointed out the benefit of its affordability for students.

“Social media for business has allowed companies to increase brand awareness and reach of their brand at little to no cost. The costs associated with these strategies are a lot higher with traditional advertising methods,” she said.

In Colbert’s case, the value of her social media accounts has clearly paid off. Colbert’s Instagram following and portraiture business has grown largely because of “tagging.” When people post portraits that Colbert has captured, they give her credit in the caption, tagging her account name which then leads their followers to check out Colbert’s page.

The constantly changing nature of today’s society is what drives Brouder to learn all the things he’s learned and still strive to know more and market himself better.

“I think the biggest thing is just to not stay comfortable with one thing. Always try to keep exploring what you do,” Brouder said. “Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to explore and try new things.”

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