A valued partner in Barnes & Noble College’s social media outreach has been the Shortys, the awards program that recognizes what’s new, creative and fun in the growing landscape of social platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram and Vine. Now, in its seventh year, the Shorty Awards have only just started to find their stride, with categories spanning from Best Activist to Best Emoji, and nominated personalities running the gamut from Beyoncé to Larry King.
The Shorty’s also hold a particular significance for Barnes & Noble College, who in recent years has sponsored their own category celebrating social media excellence, as the company’s Social Media Specialist, Sandra Webb explains. “In previous years, we’ve highlighted the contributions of our colleges and universities in their use of social platforms, but this year we really wanted our category to celebrate the efforts of the individual student.” And with good reason, as there can be few users of social media quite so prolific or creative as college students.
The #BNStudent Award will be awarded to the individual who most effectively uses a social platform to foster relationships with other students while also building their own personal brand. “Another inspiration behind the Barnes & Noble College category was that we included Vine users to last year’s awards, and we discovered a lot of 18-19 year old students were using social media to build their personal brand in really creative ways. The category is really designed to reflect that.” explains Megan Frantz, Producer of the Shorty Awards. “Student use of social media is particularly interesting because it comes into play in the form of community building,” she says adding, “A lot of young people come into the college environment making new friends and sharing new experiences — and social helps them build a community online to support them.”
Frantz points out that social media channels the exploration of identity students develop at college which, together with their school experiences, can inform their transition to adulthood. The diversity of this year’s nine student finalists bears testimony to that in spades. Alexia Raye (@AlexiaRaye) is an aspiring biochemist, whose 124,000 followers have supported everything from her quirky ‘Ask Alexia’ Q@A videos, to her more reflective short video features like ‘Living in the Now.’ Lauren ‘L.E.’ Charles, (@lauren_eliz3), a freshman Film & TV major at Boston University’s College of Communication, is an aspiring comedienne who aims to make her tweets and Instagram blog lighthearted and witty. “For every three silly tweets, have one intelligent tweet,” she advises.
Another finalist is Ty Autry, (@JTyAutry) an electrical engineering student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who is also a performer, dancer and an amateur cook, while also working as a business analyst for a consulting company. After graduating in May, he hopes to move into the professional world of theater, but writes, “Social media is how I network and garner new and exciting connections. I love meeting new people I meet on Instagram or Twitter and connecting our ideas together to create amazing projects to work on. Social media is one of the best tools for finding people to collaborate with.”
In anticipation of this year’s awards ceremony, Frantz says creativity will be the key to the judges’ hearts. “We want the small-time blogger to be as eligible as the YouTube user, by offering something creative — or communicating in a way that hasn’t been seen before,” she says. Which is really what the Shortys are all about. And in the fast moving, technologically innovative environment of social media, it’s increasingly the human connection that counts.
The last word, or 140 characters, for social media might belong to finalist Haley Barnett, (@ChikHaley64), a student at Southeastern Oklahoma State University majoring in Communications, who spends a lot of her time on her YouTube channel. “Be yourself. Connect with people,” she writes. “Share opinions. Listen. Let yourself grow as a person. Make friends.”
The Seventh Annual Shorty Awards will take place at The TimesCenter in New York City on April 20.