While zoning out in class or waiting in the line for a calzone, you may have seen a trend in Halloween themed Buzzfeed posts all over your Facebook newsfeed. As the celebrated night draws near, University of Rhode Island students are using this holiday to analyze different marketing strategies used on popular social media platforms.

Dr. Christy Ashley, a URI graduate and first-year professor, is running the behind the scenes aspect of this very creative research project. Adapted from Scott Cowley’s award winning assignment at Arizona State University, Ashley is incorporating it into an optional Social Media Marketing class.  

“This is one of the applied projects where [students] would implement some of the things they are learning about, and also do the data analytic side of it where they look and their results,” Ashley said  

The response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, and some students are even including this assignment on resumes in order to show a creative edge to prospective employers.

Buzzfeed actually gives really good analytics and some sites don’t,” Ashley said. “It’s close to what we used to do with blogs, but [Buzzfeed] is faster and more hard hitting.”

One student in the class wrote an article about the top 20 haunted places in Rhode Island and has had over 50,000 views since it was posted last Tuesday, according to Ashley. “I didn’t expect that,” she said.  

Ashley said this assignment tasked students with using marketing strategies to target a wider audience. This project allowed students the freedom of choosing a topic and targeting a specific demographic.

“There were certain parts that were required and [students] had these rules on what increases the likelihood that someone will engage in social media content,” Ashley said. “So they were supposed to apply what they learned about those rules. Some of the rules include if the information is useful, funny, something that rewards you for sharing, resonates with someone or if people feel that they can give back.”

The students in Ashley’s class are about one week into the project and are analyzing data received from Buzzfeed to see how their articles fare. Katie Delaney, a senior marketing student in the College of Business, commended Ashley for using technology in such a modern and innovative way.

“I really enjoyed the assignment,” Delaney said. “It was cool to see how many other people are into the same thing I’m interested in. It was actually fun to put together because it was something that I’m passionate about… Projects like this will be helpful in future careers because it inspires us to be creative, meet deadlines and reach a specific goal.”  

Ryan Keelan, another student in the Social Media Marketing class, said this assignment demonstrates the powers of social networking.

“[The project] is an example of how businesses use their media page for advertising purposes. This has been one of the best assignment I have her done,” Keelan said. “I love business and I want to work in marketing. My first day I got 400 [views], now I’m at roughly 800.”

Next semester, Ashley is teasing the idea of repeating this project in February. One can only guess what the new topic and buzz will be about for that post; think roses, mixed chocolates and a little guy named Cupid.