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BREAKING:

UCLA chancellor appointment

Members of UCLA community reflect on effects of social media on university culture

(Julia Chen/Daily Bruin)

By Anna Gu

June 8, 2024 9:33 p.m.

With almost two million public posts tagged with #ucla, UCLA topped Harvard, Yale and numerous institutions across the nation as most “Instagrammable” campus as of October 2023, according to KTLA.

To determine the most “Instagrammable” campus, analysts at VPNOverview aggregated data on the number of hashtags top universities received. They evaluated hashtags because the tool can greatly shape the online visual appeal and create publicity for the university, a spokesman for VPNOverview said.

According to social media software company Sprout Social, hashtags can increase engagement and improve reach, allowing students who use social media to learn more about a specific school. In fact, many prospective admits turn to social media to make more informed decisions before committing to a college, especially during May to June when college decisions are finalized.

Claire Peter, a first-year neuroscience student, said the college experience portrayed on Instagram increased her desire to attend UCLA.

“It was fun to look at the Instagram pictures of what the campus looks like and because it’s so Instagrammable, it’s really easy to idealize a college student experience here at UCLA,” Peter said.

According to a study done in 2017 by the Social Admissions Report, two in five students use social media to decide what school to attend. While official university-run accounts are one type of online media that students can consume, prospective students can also turn to organic content from students or alumni creators, allowing for a more personal look into the university culture and experience that might otherwise be unavailable.

Niche conducted a study analyzing the different social media platforms to understand how students engage with college-related content online. The findings revealed that on YouTube, 22% of students viewed official school-run accounts, while an equal percentage of students viewed student-run accounts during the college search process.

Peter said she also utilized YouTube videos as a resource to gain a better understanding of the housing options, as they provided an immersive experience into the student life at UCLA and piqued her curiosity.

As students utilize diverse social media platforms, content creators also share content across various platforms to cater to the preferences of their audience.

Sami Brielle, a communication alumnus, has amassed over 1.5 million followers across five different platforms—Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, TikTok and Facebook.

Brielle produces mainly college-focused, man-on-the-street interview videos covering topics from UCLA’s multicultural hip-hop dance teams to campus-wide traditions, such as the Undie Run.

Charlie Kratus, a first-year business economics student, produces content mainly on Instagram where he first began reporting Los Angeles weather forecasts. However, he has since shifted the focus of his account to showcase various clubs and organizations on campus, shedding light on the local community and beyond.

Kratus said he receives 30 to 40 direct messages a day from different clubs and organizations who wish to collaborate with him to highlight an event or issue on campus.

“It’s really special to be able to highlight some of these clubs and organizations that don’t have the same level of platforming reach as I do, and be able to give a voice to especially marginalized groups on campus,” Kratus said.

Justin Yee, a first-year biology student, said he appreciates Bruin influencers’ ability to keep him updated about campus events he might otherwise miss out on.

“(Student influencers) just kind of show me what’s going on. What’s happening around campus that I don’t actually see,” Yee said. “They do a good job of showing like, ‘Today we have this happening at the UCLA store or this happening on Bruin Walk,'” Yee added.

Through their personal documentation as students and their involvement within the Bruin community, Brielle and Kratus seek to portray a realistic and authentic image of what it’s like to be a UCLA student.

Yee said the independent nature of these creators lends credibility to their content as they are not expected to excessively promote UCLA positively.

“You can have someone hired by the school to fluff the school but if there’s a freelance guy doing whatever they want, they’re going to give you the honest review of what day-to-day life is like,” Yee said.

Besides providing a more honest look into the student experience, student influencers may also affect admissions. Nora Ganim Barnes, an author of the 2007 National Association for College Admission Counseling report, said 41% of school officials attribute an increase in enrollment to increased efforts in a school’s social media presence.

Both Brielle and Kratus described prospective Bruins who relied on their content when applying to or enrolling at UCLA. Brielle said international students have approached and credited her as the inspiration behind their decision to apply to American universities. Kratus said he has received numerous DMs from incoming first-year students requesting tours or inquiring about student groups.

Kratus said that it would be to UCLA’s benefit to harness the power of its student influencers to promote its academic and athletic programs and to boost student admissions and alumni donations. He added that collaboration between student influencers and UCLA could result in unprecedented content and reach.

Brielle said student content creators who post about the university online will continue to attract more like-minded students to keep building the campus’ online presence.

“I think it’s the student’s job to represent UCLA as it actually is,” Brielle said. “I think that in the coming years, student influencers are going to continue to shape the culture, shape the students who are applying and shape the students who accept and enroll.”

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