Social Media Marketing students partner with Claytor Nature Center – University of Lynchburg

Middle-aged white man with beard pointing at a smart board that contains handwritten social media strategies
Tim Schauer during his Social Media Marketing class in Spring 2023

Dr. Tim Schauer’s favorite thing about teaching Social Media Marketing is that it brings students together — while changing their views on a shared interest.

“I love to see students from disciplines from around the campus engage with marketing through a medium that most are already familiar with,” the business professor said.

“This class turns the perspective from only seeing social media as a user of these platforms to considering how the marketer leverages this technology. This change in perspective provides students with practice to be able to replicate this skill in many other areas of life.”

Over the past few weeks, Schauer’s students have come up with plans to market the University’s Claytor Nature Center, a recreational and research site in Bedford County. In the past, his class has helped companies like Schewels Home and Dermatology Consultants revamp their marketing strategies.

A group of female and male students sitting at a table with a laptop
Students in Social Media Marketing discuss their ideas in the University of Lynchburg’s focus group room.

“We chose Claytor because of its connection to our University, and also due to the fact that it’s an opportunity to showcase one of the area’s most pristine pieces of real estate to the public for them to visit and enjoy,” Schauer said.

In addition to reading textbook chapters about social media and learning about the various platforms, the students researched, planned, and created a comprehensive social media marketing plan. Just like in real life, they’ll present the plan to the client, Jennifer Wills, who directs Claytor Nature Center.

“Students learn to better navigate teamwork and to hone their presentation skills,” Schauer explained.

In mid-April, the five teams submitted their draft plans. Schauer met with each of them in the newly updated focus group room in Schewel Hall to talk about what they did well and what they could improve before presenting their plans in early May.

Team 1 impressed Schauer with a thorough audit of Claytor’s existing social media efforts. They also delve into its various audiences and how to best reach each one through events and marketing. Team 2 considered the center’s unique assets and suggested partnerships with influencers.

A garden with flowers and mountains in the background
The garden at Claytor Nature Center

“The most exciting part of the project is being able to help Claytor,” said marketing major Evan Gavin ’24, from Easton, Maryland. “The most challenging part is figuring out what is most important to talk about. The most fun is just being able to do this project.”

Statistics and data science major and business minor Lindsey Hair ’24, a fellow swimmer from Glen Allen, Virginia, took the lead in Team 1. “I first looked at what Claytor had to offer,” she said. “From there, I tried to look at ways to enhance what they already had and turn it into an event or an activity that would be more engaging for others.”

Hair loved “being able to create all the events and ideas I have,” but admitted running into roadblocks when “trying to come up with ideas that are not very costly. A lot of my first ideas were expensive and [we] had to find a way to either make them cheaper or brainstorm other ideas.”

And that’s what the class is all about, says Schauer.

“Students are actually applying the knowledge they’re learning in class and applying it to a live client,” he said. “It’s one thing to learn information and even offer simulation opportunities, but a very different thing to work on a live project.”

Middle-aged white man standing in front of a smart board teaching a class to a group of students seated with their backs to the camera
Tim Schauer meets with one of the teams in his Social Media Marketing Class.

As part of the class, students also engaged in several rounds of simulations with imaginary budgets, from $500 to $5,000 — Hair’s favorite part of the class.

“I’ve really enjoyed planning social media posts, gaining influencers, and coming up with caption ideas,” she said. “It’s really helped me get into the mind of a marketer and understand how to navigate the business world.”

About half the students in the class want to work in social media after graduation or pursue it as a “side hustle,” Schauer said. “Some students begin to pick up clients throughout the course, as they grow in their understanding of how many marketers are in need of people to help them successfully implement social media [as part of] their marketing mix.”

Gavin is one of them. “I hope to become a brand manager,” he said. “What I learned [in this class] about social media would directly play into my future job.”

For Hair, there’s value beyond just social media jobs.

“Dr. Schauer made a great point in class one day: that you have to market yourself,” she said. “What I’ve learned in this class will help me in my future career to help me market myself in the best way possible, whether through social media or my résumé.”

Schauer says the demand for social media classes like this one is high and that the University is launching a digital media marketing major this fall.

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