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Marketing students help four nonprofits with class projects

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University of North Georgia students in Dr. Caroline Munoz's content and social media marketing class used their knowledge of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to help four area nonprofits.

Many college-aged students know how to navigate social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for personal use. University of North Georgia (UNG) students, however, learned a different perspective and use of social media.

UNG students in Dr. Caroline Munoz's content and social media marketing class learned how to manage Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for four area nonprofits. Students also gained insight on how to work for clients, including The Community Helping Place in Dahlonega, UNG Food Pantry on the Gainesville Campus, Gainesville Theatre Alliance (GTA) and UNG Press.

"They were really surprised about the workload, effort, planning and research that goes into every single post," said Munoz, associate professor of marketing at UNG. "They had to think about who their audience is and the type of content that would get people engaged."

Reaching multiple generations required a targeted strategy. Each accomplished the goals in different ways.

For example, Kyra Bergstrom, Stephen Norris, Canon Sperrazza, and Carli Echols reached a younger generation by establishing an Instagram account for GTA, a nationally acclaimed collaboration of UNG, Brenau University, theater professionals, and the northeast Georgia community. To reach older adults, students used GTA's current Facebook page.

"We wanted to streamline the process and target that audience because they buy season tickets," said Bergstrom, a senior from Snellville, Georgia, majoring in marketing.

GTA Marketing Manager Beth Kendall explained GTA used Instagram as a way to recruit high school students to the theater program, but had not used it elsewhere. She said the students also examined the data regarding the engagement on GTA's Facebook page.

"It was really helpful to have this team of students look at the analytics and apply their knowledge to reach a more targeted audience," she said. "Now we know that we can create content that is not the same for each platform."

Norris explained his group used tidbits from the theater production to generate interest.

"We created spotlight pieces on the actors," said the senior from Cumming, Georgia, majoring in marketing. "The highest engagement post was about the dog, Toto, in the production of 'The Wizard of Oz.'"

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University of North Georgia students in Dr. Caroline Munoz's content and social media marketing class managed the social media pages of four area nonprofits, including The Community Helping Place in Dahlonega, UNG Food Pantry on the Gainesville Campus, Gainesville Theatre Alliance (GTA) and UNG Press.

Other groups pulled content related to the nonprofit or even created their own content.

Ben Blount, Max Wilson, Kelly Hendre, and Ya Daba Njie designed several original high-quality graphics for The Community Helping Place, which is a thrift store, food pantry, and medical and dental clinic.

"We had a video about how to make hand turkeys because many of their clients have small children," said Njie, a senior originally from Gambia who lives in Atlanta who is majoring in marketing with a digital marketing concentration.

While all groups focused on spreading the word about their nonprofits, the group for UNG's Food Pantry in Gainesville — Austin Kulp, Lindsey Isbell and Kelly Parsons — focused on the UNG community.

"The Gainesville Campus is my home campus and I didn't know there was a food pantry there," said Isbell, a senior from Flowery Branch, Georgia, majoring in digital marketing. "Our focus was to increase the following and engagement."

To accomplish that task, they boosted the food pantry's tweets. Parsons, a senior from Hoschton, Georgia, majoring in marketing, explained a daily morning tweet shared the food pantry's location and hours.

UNG Food Pantry staff and its faculty adviser and founder, Dr. Carly Redding, gave them discretion.

"They said 'any help you can get we appreciate it,'" said Kulp, a senior from Conyers, Georgia, majoring in marketing.

Students also benefited from their work. They can use the experience and skills as examples in their resumes and future interviews.

"I've had two interviews for internships, and I can tell them I've used Hootsuite," Wilson said, explaining his group used the social media management platform in its work for The Community Helping Place.

Providing them with transferrable skills is one reason Munoz established the class projects. The second was to help nonprofits.

"They don't have the same marketing budgets that for-profit companies have," Munoz said. "In many cases, they need additional assistance."

She already plans to help another nonprofit when she teaches the class in spring 2019.

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