“We asked our social media fellows: ‘What do you think of the university in this space? Is it something that you would engage with—should we be here?’”
There are 42,000 followers on Instagram. 43,600 followers on Twitter. 93,000 likes on Facebook. By the numbers, Boston College’s social media presence is hard to ignore. Kathleen Fahy, A&S ’15, and Melissa Beecher, social media manager at the Office of News and Public Affairs, took note. Looking at this burgeoning network of followers, the two saw potential for enhancement. The University’s social media presence was among the strongest in the country, and yet, these channels were characterized by absence—the student perspective was almost altogether lacking in how the school projected itself. And so, BC 360 was created.
BC 360 is the latest social media endeavor of the Office of News and Public Affairs, the idea a collaboration between Beecher and Fahy.
“Melissa and I started talking about social media on campus, and ways to better it,” Fahy said. “She liked to hear a student voice—a student perspective—so we got to talking about putting more of that into BC’s social media, trying to better cater it to the audience that it’s targeting—students and young people. It kind of just developed organically.”
The pilot program seeks to heighten student participation in BC’s social media channels, compiling content under the hashtag “BC360,” on Instagram, Twitter, and social media platforms. This content is curated weekly by nine student social media fellows—talented photographers, writers, and videographers—from a range of interests, grade levels, and campus involvement. “Their work this semester with us is to both produce photos and to give insight into the student life experience—to be ambassadors of campus life,” Beecher said.
By curating content from students, the University aims to make its social media outlets more accessible and relevant to a younger audience. It’s an effort to flip the older model, which told stories of student life from the limited perspective of the administrator. “The idea of BC 360 is that it is a 360-degree view of Boston College—content that’s from the inside,” Fahy said. “It’s content that’s student-driven, giving incoming students and current students a look at BC in the everyday—more day-in-the-life of a student, rather than an administrative standpoint.”
“As connected as [administrators] are to students on social media, we aren’t students—we’re very mindful of that,” Beecher said. “The student experience is very different than the administrative experience, and the fellows are a way to really highlight student life at Boston College through their own eyes.”
In addition to curating content, the social media fellows also provide feedback to the Office of News and Public Affairs on the ever-changing dynamics of social media—which outlets to use, and which not to use. “Social media is evolving so fast and channels that were really popular three years ago aren’t necessarily the vehicle that students are most interested in right now,” Beecher said, noting the rise of Instagram and Snapchat. “We asked our social media fellows: ‘What do you think of the university in this space? Is it something that you would engage with—should we be here?’”
The program is designed so that the fellows help inform its expansion, choosing which platforms the University adopt to best stay relevant to its audiences.
Considerations of audience heavily informed the design of BC 360, with the insights of BC 360 now helping to shape the University’s social media dynamic outside project. Patricia Delaney, deputy director of the Office of News and Public Affairs, noted the potential that social media has in connecting more than just currently students—but also prospective students, alumni, parents, and families.
“We see social media not only as a way to tell BC’s story as it evolves, but also to keep audiences connected no matter where they are,” Delaney said. “It’s wonderful that—during a sporting event or during the first flight procession, for example—alumni feel as though they are experiencing the event in real time, which is something that didn’t happen before social media.”
Beecher emphasizes the project at its heart as being a creative endeavor between the administration and the students. The aim of BC 360 is to establish an image of BC on social media that is not too curated. It’s about imagining ways to get a better glimpse of student life, beyond the carefully calculated images that social media platforms often elicit.
“I want us to always portray the vibrancy of this campus—the excellence that our students, our faculty, our staff are always producing, are always striving for,” Beecher said. “The vibrancy of campus life, the fun that happens here—sometimes that can get lost in a lot of the messaging, or materials, when you’re looking at an institution.”
When deciding what to post on these social media platforms, the social media fellows are given full decision rights on what content is published. The goal is to organically generate content and produce images that capture the day-to-day. There’s a certain authenticity that the title “BC 360” implies, and the social media fellows hope to reflect that in the content they choose.
“It’s important to emphasize that it’s not just about portraying a certain image of BC,” Fahy said. “Instagram is an app where you take pictures of beautiful things, and there are a lot of beautiful things that happen at BC—the activities, the events, the energy—it’s not just about capturing Gasson on any given day. The life of a student is a beautiful thing.”
“I think the most powerful thing that the fellows are doing is showing what it’s like to be a student—whether that be studying in a library, or taking a picture of an interesting cup of coffee—it’s a different perspective that only a student can capture,” Beecher said. “And I have appreciated those moments because it’s something that we, as administration, shouldn’t be doing: only a student can do that.”
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Photo Illustration