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SOU students learn value of social media

Nearly two dozen Southern Oregon University students wrote LinkedIn profiles for themselves, imagining where they would like to be in 2024.

They taped the handwritten profiles to a dry-erase board in their Strategic Social Media course classroom and returned to their seats.

"Now, come up here and draw links to people with some professional affinity to what you want to be doing in the future," said Assistant Professor of Convergent Media Erik Palmer, the instructor for the course.

The students drew hundreds of lines connecting the profiles — forging links among careers that included film company founder, journalist, digital project manager, Nike creative director, restaurant owner, social media strategist, Dutch Bros. human resources director, teacher and national parks guide.

Palmer told the students he hoped the exercise gave them a visual picture of the importance of social media connections, not just for socializing, but to land jobs and advance their careers.

He urged them to forge connections with classmates and other people long before they graduate.

"Look around the room. Who's a go-getter? Who's a hot shot? Be friends with them and stay connected on social media," Palmer said. "Some of the students who attend this institution will go on to do big things."

Katrina Donohue, a senior interested in video production, said she enjoyed seeing what other students hope to do in the future.

She said she realizes the importance of social media connections.

"Social media is so pertinent to what we're doing today," she said. "Linking up with people is important, even if you don't know them in person.

"I want to make all those connections," Donohue said.

Especially in larger markets like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, employers won't even consider a job applicant if the person doesn't have a strong LinkedIn network and profile, Palmer said.

Through LinkedIn, students can learn about job openings, careers, businesses and the credentials of people who have desirable jobs, Palmer said.

Student Brookelynn Cole, a junior, said she had always thought of LinkedIn as a site primarily for adult professionals.

She said the class has taught her the importance of presenting herself well on social media, whether it's Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or other sites.

"Twitter is never actually private. Facebook is the same," said Cole, who hopes to become a speech pathologist.

To learn the value of social media networks in marketing, the class was tasked with launching lifestyle blogs and promoting them via those networks.

Using the WordPress blogging platform, the students created and regularly update five blogs about food, alternative athletics, American made fashion, Oregon activities and high-tech gadgets.

They promote their posts and monitor the traffic the blogs generate.

Cole, who recently blogged about a scenic hike along Opal Creek outside Salem, said she's now always visiting blogs to search for recipes and information on hiking, travel and other activities. Before the class, she would randomly search for information via Google.

Adult student James Bachman already has experience in film, graphic design and other fields, but he said he needed to learn more about social media to advance his career. He hopes to become a project manager.

"I'm an older, nontraditional student. I'm not really in the social media age group," said Bachman, who added that he's gained knowledge about social media through the course.

Even during tough economic times, Palmer said there has been tremendous growth in jobs that require social media skills.

"For students who are able to develop skills beyond chatting with friends on Facebook, there are excellent opportunities available," he said.

Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Southern Oregon University Strategic Social Media students Katrina Donohue left, Audrey Sigel and Kalii Robinson look over the class created virtual Linked-in community. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell