While those in Hollywood are looking forward to the upcoming Oscar Awards, campuses across the country have been waiting in anticipation of another major event on the awards calendar: The Shorty Awards. Since its creation in 2008, the awards have recognized short-form content creation on social networking sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Facebook. Partnered with Barnes & Noble College in a category to judge the ‘most social media-savvy school’ in the country and its impact on the community, the #BNCollege Shorty Award has fired the imaginations of some of the most creative minds on campus in a contest that generated an overwhelming response this year.
With over 400 colleges participating in this year’s awards, the winner will be selected from seven finalists, which includes the top-four most tweeted about schools as well as three chosen by the Shorty Awards nominating board, comprised of professional journalists. The overall winner will be selected based on a number of factors, including the creativity of their social media platforms, interaction with followers and innovation using social media.
This year, the finalists are the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, Illinois State University, Rowan University, Binghamton University and Boston University. Binghamton’s placement among the finalist comes as no surprise to Bookstore Manager Amanda Konopa. “The university has a very strong technology and engineering program, so social media is used a lot by our students, faculty and administration — and not just as a way to get out the news, but as a valuable productivity tool around the campus,” she adds.
That tech savvy culture is also evident at Konopa’s bookstore, located at the center of Binghamton University’s Student Union. “The University is very responsive in having guest speakers come here to discuss new apps and introduce us to newer platforms and programs such as LinkedIn,” she says. “And we want to be as active across as many different social media channels as possible.” Binghamton garnered over 29,000 likes on Facebook and more than 8,389 followers on Twitter on their road to the Shorty’s – helped by support from the bookstore, which posts hyper-local messages at least once a week to broadcast events or help support university efforts, like the Shorty’s.
At Texas Tech, the Shorty Awards have provided a valuable and enjoyable learning experience for bookstore manager Monica Cowie. “We built a Twitter presence for the store, and we’re now learning Instagram,” she says. “It’s important for us to be where our students are, and Instagram is probably the number-one platform they’re now using,” Cowie adds. Together with her staff, she conducts tabling sessions as a way to talk to students about their social media preferences and build support for the school. “Our incoming freshmen are particularly open to getting information about the college, campus and the bookstore,” Cowie maintains, “and by building our Facebook and Twitter followers, it’s a great way to develop a network for the bookstore and help support other student organizations on campus,” she adds.
With nominations now closed, excitement for the 6th Annual Shorty Awards Ceremony, which will be held in New York City and live-streamed on the web on April 7, is only growing. “There’s been a lot of excitement about the Shorty’s this year,” maintains bookstore General Manager Felix Robinson of the University of Houston. ‘The whole school has been doing some really great work getting behind support for our nomination,” he adds.
A finalist in last year’s awards, the University has banners on its website bolstering votes for the school’s nomination, an effort the bookstore also endorses. “It’s really all about how we support our students,” Robinson says of the rapidly growing UH campus, “and it’s important we speak their language, so we’re posting three times a week from our own site,” he explains.
It’s a sentiment shared by Barnes & Noble Colleges’ Social Media Coordinator Sandra Webb. “We want to go where our student go – not just on one, but several different platforms,” she explains, acknowledging just how important social media has become to college life. “The Shorty’s are a really fun and creative way to show our support in connecting with students,” she says, adding, “but it’s more than that; social media is the recognition of a two-way conversation, a more personal relationship. It’s about real people really connecting.”