20 first-year Hawkeyes take over UI’s social media as influencers

In a new program, 20 first-year students were selected to represent the UI on their social media as UI-official “influencers.”


Katie Goodale

Braydon Simms views his social media account on Thursday Sept. 12, 2019. Simms is one of the Tippie Influencers, a university-wide initiative to have student representatives for the campus on social media.

Lauren White, News Reporter

The University of Iowa social-media team announced that 20 first-year students, all coming from varying backgrounds, were selected to represent the UI on their personal social-media accounts as “influencers.” 

The UI’s social-media team is recognized as the “Most Engaged” among similar institutions, according to the 2019 Higher Education Social Media Engagement Report. Trailing behind are Virginia Tech, The Citadel, and James Madison University.

UI Social Media Director Michael Benning said the term “influencers” was appropriate because people put their trust in peers, experts, and trendsetters. 

“Social-media influencers are gaining popularity on many different platforms, and I believe this is a valuable way to connect to a broader audience,” Benning said. 

The social-media team’s top three priorities are authenticity, a complete lack of filters, and transparency, Benning said. The team wants selected students to be themselves at all times; they are never told what to say and do not lie about the experiences they share with their followers, he said. 

Student influencer Braydon Simms said one of his favorite things about the program so far is making new friends while growing his personal brand. 

“My goal through being a student influencer is to show those who are skeptical that the University of Iowa is home and that the school truly does care about its students,” Simms said. 

Simms shares his experiences on social media and hopes to spread positivity, as well as display that the UI is accepting of all identities. 

Students are not paid, Benning said, but rather given alternative incentives to highlight their UI experiences.

“Our goal is to provide social-media influencers with real and unique opportunities on campus that show what it’s like to be in school at the University of Iowa,” Benning said. “For instance, an influencer might receive tickets to a performance at Hancher Auditorium, or we may suggest that they show off their residence hall or favorite spot on campus.”

Courtney Jones, another student influencer, uses the program as an opportunity to reach out to families who may not have the UI on their radar. Jones recently attended CNN commentator Van Jones’ Sept. 10 guest lecture at Hancher Auditorium and documented it with her followers. 

“I am glad to be able to show that the university offers something that can cater to anyone, whether it be a club, organization or group,” Jones said. 

Student influencer Katherine Kositzke said the program presents a unique perspective on the UI. 

“I think this is a good program to start up due to the very social media-oriented society we have today, and I’m excited to see where it goes,” Kositzke said. 

The students hope to use their platforms to grab the attention of prospective students and show them different events that occur at the university.

“The program is really great, because it uses normal people rather than authority figures or celebrities to find other normal people and tell them the truth about the university,” Jones said.

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