When school meets social media: Butler fan accounts

Bulldogs are turning to the internet to show their school spirit. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

LEAH OLLIE | STAFF REPORTER | lollie@butler.edu

In today’s digital age, brands and institutions are finding more novel ways than ever to reach younger audiences through social media. Creating personable platforms and intimate intonations by using slang often promoted by or incorrectly attributed to younger generations, these brands aim to create a deeper connection with their audience and potential customers. Considering the success stories behind some of those brands, it is no surprise that colleges — including Butler University— are following suit

Universities expand their reach by increasing their successful social media followings, and an integral part of that engagement comes from current students and fans. Butler’s own Blue IV, a participant in the Butler Blue Live Mascot Program boasts 44,000 Instagram followers, as well as 13,000 on Twitter and 20,000 on TikTok. It is safe to assume that a large portion of those followers are students at the university, who enjoy keeping up with Blue and sharing their school spirit with him. Blue’s posts are almost always authored in a first-person perspective, providing updates on his schedule or relevant events on campus. This personal touch to university advertisements creates positive publicity and, in many cases, inspires students to create their own unofficial fan accounts to share the love. 

Gaby Nardella, junior dance arts administration major, founded a fanpage for Blue in March of 2020 when missing her Bulldog family because of social distancing at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Instagram account currently stands at 1,800 followers. 

“I met Trip and Blue in my freshman year and didn’t really consider a fan account until March of 2020,” Nardella said. “It really helped me feel close to my home at Butler and continue that school spirit.”

Nardella has since employed strategic communications ideas and tactics to increase engagement with her page, including interacting with students and other university accounts frequently. She tries to post at least once a day on Instagram, and she reposts content from others just as often.

“I’ve taken strategic communications classes that have helped me run my account,” Nardella said. “I try and let people know that I’m there for them, even in small ways.”

Beyond fan pages for official university programs or personnel, student culture has been enriched by social media as well. The presence of apps such as YikYak point to inside jokes between students and campus events, whereas wide reaching public accounts highlight student experiences. Two anonymous student-run accounts— overheardbutler and butleruaffirmations on Instagram— primarily run off of submissions from the student body. 

Jessica Hutzel, first-year pharmacy student, enjoys the variety of fan accounts on campus. 

“I love seeing all the different accounts because it gives me something to laugh about and shows that students share so many things,” Hutzel said. “It also makes the stressful things about school feel a bit smaller.”

By turning the face of the university and public opinion regarding the campus itself into students’ hands, more people are welcomed into the fold of campus culture. Complaining about final exam stress and campus dining options feels like less of a solitary battle when hundreds of others unite to share their thoughts, according to Hutzel. 

Brynn Baker, first-year biochemistry major, finds a sense of community in accounts that provide insights to college life around her. 

“I especially love accounts like ‘overheardbutler’ because they really encompass college life so far,” Baker said. “Those posts give my friends and I a good laugh, and we like sharing them with one another when we see something that pertains to one another.”

When anonymous contributors can find a sense of community or entertainment over a common experience on campus, social media can become a positive factor of student life. Whether prospective students use it to get a peek into Butler life or longtime students commiserate over their shared memories and favorite campus spots, the use of social media pages in the university world will likely remain constant in the near future.

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