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Social media is not something to be ruled by. It’s not the number of likes or favorites that should determine your self worth; it’s about the right engagement with the right people. And rather than being wary of warnings to be fearful of the power of social media, students should embrace it. Laura Suchoski encouraged Upper Schoolers to harness the power of platforms like Twitter and Instagram to reflect their true selves at an assembly Feb. 10.
"I do think that you all should be using it on a daily and weekly basis," said Suchoski, who is director of social media for the Durham-based advertising agency McKinney. "It's something that can move you forward and power you into amazing opportunities down the road."
The origins of Suchoski’s social media career trace to the Duke University field hockey field, where she earned All-American honors four years running and served twice as team captain. Suchoski, who was named Duke Athlete of the Decade, started using social media to help bolster the team's fan base. After graduation, she was able to leverage that experience into gigs at ESPN, managing social media for four years at espnW and creating social media campaigns for brands like Nike, Under Armor, the Walt Disney Company and Lexus. Now, at McKinney, she helps brands "win" on social media by employing smart strategy and developing creative campaigns.
Harkening back to her days as an athlete and immersed in the world of sports at ESPN, Suchoski suggested that students think of social media as a game.
"Are you, right now, winning at this game? Or are you losing at it?" she asked, then laid out her game plan for winning.
The first tip, she said, is to protect your reputation. That means just because you’re thinking it, doesn’t mean you should Tweet it.
"You can protect that reputation and kind of have this armor around this reputation of yours and you can use social media to push this reputation forward and be safe online and move yourself into a great college down the road and a dream job down the road," she said. "But you only get one, and social media can give you that great reputation, or it can easily take it away from you in a heartbeat."
A Google-Twitter partnership means that tweets will soon show up in Google searches, and search engines pull images from social media accounts, she said. She urged students to go home and Google themselves and pore over the first five pages of search results. Colleges and potential employers are likely to pore over those pages, too, she warned. Suchoski also urged students to be proactive in creating online résumés via LinkedIn.
Her second tip was for students to make sure their online persona reflected their "social core," which she defined as who they are, what they are interested in and how they reflect the first two online. Rather than allowing their social media persona to dictate who they are, it should be the other way around, she explained.
Suchoski's third tip was for students to surround themselves with role models — whether positive celebrities or real-life mentors — on social media. Know your team and surround yourself with the best.
"Is everything you see in your feed pushing you forward to be a better person and achieve more, or are you following people in your feed who actually bring you down?" she asked.
Suchoski's fourth tip for students was to "lock it down," meaning to be safe with their information online. It's usually a bad idea to attach locations to posts, for example: "Act like you're famous."