Senior Communication Major Improves Department Social Media Through Independent Study


When Kerri Hoover, a senior communication major at Commonwealth University-Lock Haven was offered a student worker position to create a social media presence for the university's health science department, it sparked a fascination with social media management, strategy, and content creation she followed throughout the rest of her undergraduate career.

"I quickly fell in love with designing eye-catching graphics for students to engage with," Hoover said. "My passion for content creation only strengthened throughout college as I was given even more opportunities to manage various social media accounts."

During her four years at Lock Haven, Hoover, of Bellefonte, managed social media accounts for the health science department, Center for Career and Professional Development, communication department, the Eagle Eye student newspaper, and the media and journalism department.

Taking a social media marketing class her sophomore year only fueled Hoover's fascination with the field further. However, there weren't any additional classes she could take on the subject, or so she originally thought. "In the spring semester of my junior year, my professor Dr. (Conne) Reece offered me the opportunity to complete an independent study course in social media management, and I immediately jumped on it."

The class was structured as a research and implementation course. Hoover was tasked with reviewing Lock Haven's communication studies social media content across its Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, as well as creating, implementing and evaluating her own 10-week campaign for the department.

"The most difficult aspect of the project was compiling all of my research into a written document and plan," Hoover said. Her final research and plan were compiled into a 34-page paper.

Hoover's hard work on her research paid off in the end, as at the end of April she will get to present her award-winning research at the Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) research colloquium at Commonwealth University-Bloomsburg. "Our chapter of LPH at Lock Haven doesn't have the opportunity to host or attend bigger events like this, so I greatly appreciate Bloomsburg's LPH chapter opening up this opportunity to all three Commonwealth campuses," Hoover said. "For me, winning is extra special because I get to represent the Lock Haven campus and our LPH chapter - since I'm the only LHU student to enter and place - at the Bloomsburg colloquium."

Hoover's research focused on her evaluation of the communication studies social media from January to May 2022. "I noticed that there was a nice blend of photographic and videographic posts that were frequently published, at least weekly," she said. "However, there was significant room for improvement."

Following her content analysis, Hoover's main goal for her plan was to increase diversity for the department's social media and to focus on improving the brand and reputation of the organizational communication track.

"Most of the posts pictured the same students over and over, and it made us look really small. It was discouraging because our department has so much student involvement," Hoover said. "Clubs and classes were not shown evenly either. There was greater coverage of our Havenscope video production and radio clubs compared to the student newspaper. With classes, photos were continuously posted from the same course instead of showing all the different classes offered during the semester."

Overall, Hoover found the entire project very enlightening about the realities of working with social media. "It was incredibly challenging to implement a full-fledged plan in addition to all of my other class-related assignments," she said. "Not to mention, I balanced five classes, three extracurriculars, and an on-campus job that same semester. I strengthened my time management skills and learned to work efficiently under pressure."

Hoover says the project helped teach her how much work goes into implementing a successful social media campaign. "People think social media is an easy and glamorous job, however, it's far from easy," Hoover said. "It's a lot of fun to create eye-catching content, and it's even better to watch your followers and engagement rise, but there is so much more thought involved that most people don't consider. It's all blatant strategy and audience analysis."

As she prepares to graduate, Hoover feels excited and intimidated for the future. "During the past 17 years, I've engrossed myself not only in my academics but in extracurricular, volunteer, and employment opportunities," Hoover said. "I feel as if a part of me will be disappearing when I graduate, but I also know that this is just simply one chapter of my life coming to and, end and another one beginning."

Following graduation, Hoover wants to continue to follow her passion for media, and use the skills she has built over the last four years. Her ultimate goal is to return to The Haven one day and work for her alma mater.