As the members of Gen Z have grown and evolved, so too has the digital universe in which they exist. And leading the way in terms of this digital evolution is social media. From Facebook to Instagram to TikTok, social media platforms have become not only a means of communication and peer-to-peer interaction but also a primary commerce channel for this generation, their main news source, as well as in many ways a centralized educational hub.
This is why my MNGT 463 Org Leadership class culminated in a project entitled “Business Leaders Influencing Change: Discovering Your Leadership Voice” directly tied to the potentialities extant in social media. My goal was to encourage students to leverage their own knowledge and experience with social media while learning about ways in which professional content creators and marketers utilize various platforms to inspire behavioral shifts in target users.
With the help of Dr. Valentino, a content creator and digital marketing consultant who’s partnered with Fortune 500 companies as well as several notable political/pop-culture/athletic figures, students embarked upon their own social media creation journey—such that addressed the topic/issue/brand of their choosing.
Launched in the Fall 2021 semester, the project resulted in 210 social media campaigns created by 75 students. Issues and subject matter ranged from mental health awareness to neurodiversity to the importance of sustainable ecological practices. Some students opted to create campaigns centered on a brand, to include Nike, Titleist and Pepsi.
As coached by Dr. Valentino, the students utilized a 14-best practices strategy for creating Instagram/Twitter/Facebook posts, focusing on the relevance of emotion, psychology and analytics in persuading users to follow the campaign and even click on a link to obtain more information.
Upon the completion of this project, a number of students expressed interest in pursuing the goals aligned with their individual campaigns beyond just the classroom. Optimally, they understood that social media, within the context of leadership, could in fact be a highly persuasive tool (if not the most persuasive tool) that they have at their disposal.
From the 210 projects, 7 winners were chosen, and they were consequently offered an opportunity to engage with Dr. Valentino one-on-one so that she might critique and help further cultivate their project and its intended goals.
Learning that something they take for granted such as the different social media channels and accounts that they scroll through everyday could actually be used to persuade, change opinions, prompt people to critically think about an issue and ideally foster change, proved to be an eye-opener to numerous students. The overall impact of this social media project was certainly more than I initially had hoped.