By Adrienne Stazzone
Imagine over 400 public relations students interacting with some of the best in their field, exchanging advice and opinions on issues such as communication ethics and the importance of internships. Now imagine that this whole scene takes place not in a conference room or lecture hall, but on Twitter, the social networking site that provides users with 140 characters to update their followers on what they are doing or thinking.
On Oct. 21, Rider’s public relations students had the opportunity to live out this exact scenario when they participated in the Twitter Challenge, an hour-long discussion that allowed students from schools across the country to familiarize themselves with social media while communicating with instructors and professionals.
“Students were asked to open a Twitter account by going to twitter.com, and log on to the chat between 12 and 1 p.m. on Oct. 21,” said Suzanne Carbonaro, adjunct assistant professor of communication and journalism. “They were asked to add value, ask questions and respond to interesting issues regarding public relations today.”
Carbonaro, who first instituted the challenge as a chance for her students to gain extra credit, recognized the significant advantages her students could have as a result of taking part in the challenge — the highest participating school received a video chat with Deirdre Breakenridge, a specialist in public relations.
“This dialogue would give students an edge and networking opportunity with today’s finest professionals in public relations,” Carbonaro said.
Although Rider was not the winning school, many students felt that merely participating in the challenge was reward enough.
“I was able to talk to professionals across the country about issues that affect the realities of public relations today,” said junior Stephanie Trabold, a journalism major. “Since the event, I have had nine new followers on my Twitter account of professionals that want to know my opinion on public relations.”
For Trabold, who also serves as vice president of Rider’s Public Relations Society, the Twitter Challenge was a clear indication of the growing entity that is social media.
“The rapid growth of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, has expanded at such an alarming rate that it will be impossible to ignore in the future,” she said. “Currently, businesses, politicians and professionals expand their services and products through the Internet, so why not utilize a site that has over thousands of users daily?”
In fact, according to junior journalism major and president of the PR Society Rae Volinsky, social media is so influential in shaping the businesses of tomorrow that Rider should consider offering a course on the topic.
“I feel that social media should be taught here,” she said. “I think this will really benefit students as we are moving towards different internships and different career paths.”
The success of the October chat is clear as students prepare to contribute to the upcoming November discussion. Their eagerness to log on to the chat and express their 140-character thoughts is indicative of the way things are headed: “Tweeting” is here to stay.
“Social media is driving today’s marketplace with outlets to find consumers, jobs, experts and leads,” Carbonaro said. “It is an incredible force and frankly, it is changing the way we communicate with our friends, employees and customers and it will continue to mature.”
The Public Relations Society will participate in the next chat at their Nov. 17 meeting in Fine Arts 205. Anyone with an interest in social media is welcome.