By Alexandria Watts
Social media can, truly, either make or break someone. It is a tool that highlights the light in the world and the good that people do, but it can also bring out ugliness and the sides that not everyone finds attractive. But where is the balance between maintaining professionalism and staying personal? To address this debate, class of 2020 member Claire Donaldson is hosting the first of a series of social media and self-branding workshops sponsored by Marist College’s new Center for Social Media for students.
The Yorktown Heights, N.Y. native is majoring in psychology and minoring in communication with an emphasis in public relations. She is an active member of the Marist cheerleaders, Campus Ministry, the Honors Program, and the president of Psychology Club.
“I wanted to make it available to everyone on campus. To graduate students, undergraduate students, just anyone who thought ‘I know social media, but I don’t really know how to use it in a professional manner.’ That’s where my project came in,” said Donaldson
Social media has become one of the most substantial determinants in the job application process. According to a CareerBuilder.com study reported by Forbes, “about two in five companies browse your social media profiles to evaluate your character and personality.” Forbes additionally projects that a third of employers who use social media to determine the acceptance of an individual said they have found content that has caused them not to hire a candidate.
A 2014 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, according to Time, reports similar data.
Factors that contribute to not being recruited include provocative photographs, evidence of drinking and drug use, an illustration of poor communication skills, the posting of a derogatory message concerning a prior employer, discriminatory posts involving race, religion, and gender, and content that suggests the candidate lied about their qualifications.
According to Donaldson, the goal of her workshop series is to show people how to use social media effectively and to create their own brand, or how they want to be known to the world. She plans to accomplish this by teaching her attendees on how to create a bio and providing tips on how a person can market themselves in a professional manner, as opposed to connecting with friends and sharing adorable animal videos.
The first workshop was held during the evening of Nov. 13 in the Lowell Thomas Screening Room. The focus of this workshop was to, as stated by Donaldson, give information that will help the audience in figuring out, “how people see themselves, how others see them, and how they want people to see themselves.”
Her workshop included a 20-minute presentation discussing her journey in her brand creation, in addition to some tips so others can create their own. She also provided attendees with helpful worksheets to guide them in developing their brands when they left the event.
Donaldson will be hosting a second workshop concerning social media and how someone entering the job market can make the most out of it for a positive outcome in their careers. This session will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 29 during activity hour in the same location as her prior event on branding.
Donaldson created her workshop series for her Honors by Contract project, which requires Honors students to perform research or create an additional project in an area they are interested in. Before she figured out her specific topic, she knew she wanted to collaborate with communication professor and director of the Center for Social Media, Jennie Donohue.
Donohue teaches an Honors course titled "Leadership, Communication, and Social Media," where Donaldson first met her. “She’s super enthusiastic, ambitious, so calm and poised and knows how to talk to people,” explained Donaldson. “She just captures you when she talks.”
“The fact that I get to work with students who are also really passionate about [social media] and help [them] not only figure out how to use it for personal purposes, but on behalf of organizations for strategic purposes, is really exciting,” commented Donohue on working with Donaldson.
Donaldson’s love for her social media class and the inspiration she draws from it is also apparent. “I wish everyone would take the class that [I’m] in now. But it’s just so limited, so it doesn’t get that far. Since [my class is] so proactive about it, I feel like other people could also do the same thing.”
Once she found the professor she wanted to partner with, Donaldson then began to combine her passions for psychology and social media to create her workshop series. She wanted to incorporate her social media studies into psychology topics like individual’s thoughts, their thought processes, and reactions to certain words and colors.
The most interesting aspect about social media to Donaldson is people’s reaction to the content they see.
“I guess it’s just the word of mouth it creates,” she explained. “[The Internet is] just so big. People always say, ‘everything you post online stays there forever.’ How much of it do people actually talk about, and what makes them talk about it?”
Aside from studying reactions, Donaldson was also motivated to create her workshops to connect populations polarized by generation gaps. She draws inspiration from her younger friends and their slang that she describes as something difficult for her to grasp.
“We need to have something that’s cohesive, or show something that we can all relate to and understand and be able to use to communicate with one another,” Donaldson said. “I feel like the generation after us and the generation before us will never connect, unless there’s something that brings them together and that they can both use.
Social media is just not a project Donaldson is doing to complete a requirement, however. She aspires to help businesses, especially older and more traditional companies who don’t know a lot about using social media effectively, with developing and growing their social media, in branding themselves, and in, overall, connecting the younger generations to the older ones.
“I’m currently in the process [of branding myself] and I don’t really know where I’m going with it yet,” stated Donaldson. “I feel like it’s super relatable because I’m not coming in as a professional and being like, ‘I have a million subscribers to my YouTube channel, everyone knows me, I’m getting paid how much money’…I think it’s just trying to connect the points to lead [people] to a goal.”