Now that Adele has swept the Grammys and La La Land gears up to do the same at the Oscars, awards season in Hollywood is coming to a close. But at Rock Valley College, awards season is just getting started.
The competition for the third annual Rock Valley College Social Media Awards (SMA’s) is heating up in anticipation of this year’s awards ceremony in April. The SMA’s were created to reward the most engaged and creative followers on any of the college’s official social media platforms. The college debuted the SMA’s in 2015 as an inventive way to engage more students on social media.
The idea was born as Dave Costello, RVC’s Executive Director of Communications and Marketing, was watching an awards show on television.
“We had been trying to think of new and fun ways to get students to interact with us more on social media,” says Costello. “As I was flipping channels one day I came across a video games awards show and thought, ‘Man, they have awards shows for everything.’ That was my ‘ah-ha moment,’ I suppose.”
The SMA’s were rolled out modestly that first year, hence no “awards show.”
“An awards event was the dream for that first year, but we had so much going on with our 50th anniversary celebrations that year that it just didn’t come together,” says Costello.
Even without a formal event attached, the first year was a success. Participation was abundant and enthusiastic and awards were presented in eight different categories, including Follower of the Year. Jessica Strapko-Williams took home that honor in 2015 along with a prize pack that included an iPad and a trophy.
“I think even we were a little surprised by the positive reaction we had that first year,” says Abbye Garcia, RVC’s Multi-media Specialist and social media guru. “That’s when we decided we needed to step it up for the following year.”
“Some of my friends were a little annoyed when I was taking so many pictures, but then they were pretty jealous when I won.”
Stepping it up meant it was time to pursue the idea of an awards ceremony and a great opportunity arose to make it happen.
“RVC Student Life hosts an annual Student Leadership Banquet every April and they asked us if we wanted to make the Social Media Awards a part of that ceremony,” says Costello. “It was the perfect solution.”
Last year, SMA’s were awarded in person at the banquet in seven different categories, including Best Photo, Honorary Award for Photography, Best Selfie, Student-Athlete Social Media User of the Year, Student Club/Organization Use of Social Media, Employee Social Media User of the Year, and Follower of the Year.
The 2016 Follower of the Year was Bethany Fiedler, who took home an Instax mini instant film camera along with her trophy and prize pack. Bethany also won the SMA for Student-Athlete Social Media User of the Year in 2015, and was nominated in the Best Selfie category in both 2015 and 2016.
“Bethany is our Meryl Streep,” quips Costello. “She has really embraced the spirit of the SMA’s like no other.”
For Bethany, taking aim at an SMA sounded like a fun way to show off the photography skills she had been honing since taking a Whiz Kids photography class at RVC when she was 13 years old.
“Ever since [taking the Whiz Kids class], I have always been into taking pictures,” says Bethany. “I feel like you can capture so much without having to say anything.”
Of course, the chance to win some cool prizes doesn’t hurt either.
“Some of my friends were a little annoyed when I was taking so many pictures, but then they were pretty jealous when I won,” adds Bethany.
For all of Bethany’s SMA success, and despite being nominated in the category two years in a row, the Best Selfie award still eludes her, giving her something to strive for this year. When asked what it takes to get the perfect selfie, Bethany doesn’t hesitate.
She also admits that she takes an average of 10 shots on rapid fire for every selfie she takes so she has options for selecting “the one.”
“It’s fun to see someone putting in that kind of effort and just having a good time with it,” says Costello. “That was the idea.”
Learn more about this year’s categories, prizes, terms and conditions, and view past winners at rockvalleycollege.edu/sma.
Here’s a look at some of the winning photos from the last two years of the RVC SMA’s: