By: Josie Brandmeier
Social media gets a bad rap. The platform is associated with wasting time, misinformation and teenagers stuck on their phones. Although 81 percent of the U.S. population uses some form of social media — it is often thought of as a “lesser” form of communication.
Social media’s reputation was stuck in my mind even as I began my position as the social media intern at the Morgridge Center for Public Service. Although I enjoyed posting clever captions, making Snapchat filters and sharing public service themed memes and volunteer opportunities, at first, I didn’t necessarily think I was making as big of an impact as some of the more hands-on positions.
I soon realized that I underestimated the power of social media. During the Big Ten Voting Challenge, I made my first Snapchat geofilter for National Voter Registration Day. On that day, anyone who took a Snapchat on Library Mall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. had the option of putting a filter on their photo that read “National Voter Registration Day” with a reminder to vote in the general elections.
At the end of the day, the filter had been viewed over 3,900 times, according to Snapchat’s analytics. While only accessible for nine hours on a small patch of grass, the little Adobe Illustrator file reminded a group over half the size of the UW-Madison 2018 freshman class about voter registration.
This inspired me to look at some other numbers. An Instagram story about UW-Madison’s civic action plan? 130 views. A Badger Volunteers 10-Year Anniversary Video on Facebook? 4,300 views. An Election Day mock-infomercial video shared on Twitter? 9,596 impressions.
Through social media, connecting with thousands of people in an instant is possible. That can be scary — but it is also good news.
I send out volunteer opportunities regularly on Twitter, and sometimes nobody likes or retweets the tweet. But I can see from the analytics that even the most unsuccessful posts have 400–500 impressions. If even one of those posts translated to a person signing up for a volunteering opportunity — I would be proud.
Despite criticism, free social media platforms make information-exchange, education and connection more accessible. Through the Morgridge Center’s social media platforms, I hope that I can increase visibility of civic engagement and service opportunities on campus. If one tweet or Instagram post might remind someone to vote, sign up to volunteer or learn something new — I think it’s worth logging on.