(Photo: Franklin & Marshall College Office of Communications, AP)
Marc Torrence noticed a change in his popularity after covering his first University of Alabama football game -- he gained thousands of followers on Twitter.
"Even if 10 or 15 other people are tweeting the same quotes from (head coach) Nick Saban at a press conference, I get tons of retweets," Torrence said. "Everyone wants to know what Nick Saban is saying."
Torrence isn't the only college student increasing his professional interest in social media. As schools across the nation develop social media programs, students are finding out it might be a necessity.
Southern New Hampshire University offers a social media marketing M.B.A., and Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y., offers an M.B.A. in social media management. Courses in the curricula include classes such as social media marketing, the psychology of social media and social media campaigns.
Karen Riggs, a media studies professor at Ohio University, built one of these programs out of several specialized, social media-focused classes. The program will be available to any major, and a social media certificate is awarded after graduation. The program is in the process of being approved.
Riggs said the classes' focus isn't on teaching lessons that can be directly applied to social media; instead, she asks students to think critically and understand the environment is constantly changing.
"Students have to learn to become social media curators and be on the leading edge of what it's becoming," she said.
Riggs predicted the program would be popular at Ohio, but not only among communication majors such as Torrence.
"I think the certificate will be popular because it clearly cuts across all careers and society," she said.
Christian Collett, a senior at Oregon State University, said social media have changed his perspective and ultimately led him to career-changing decisions. As a general science major, Collett wasn't focused on social media and how they could enhance his career.
After gaining a recruitment position from his fraternity, he realized how vital a connection to the social media culture is.
"You can show people at any time what your organization is about, which is absolutely vital," Collett said.
Because of his experience with social media, Collett has begun to pursue a minor in business and entrepreneurship.
Like Collett, Torrence has seen positive effects from his interaction on media outlets. Torrence said he thinks it's essential for college students to use social media and build their own personal brand by the time they graduate.
"Even outside of Tuscaloosa, I'll meet someone on the road, and they'll tell me they've seen me on Twitter," Torrence said. "People are out there seeing my name that could potentially hire me down the road."
Though Riggs acknowledged the benefits of using social media, she warned students it's nearly impossible to separate personal and professional actions anymore. She said even though students are constantly told to use social media in mature ways, many reveal too much personal information.
Riggs said she knows students who opt out of using social media entirely.
"If they do, they're surrendering an ability to communicate fully with a large part of the culture, in terms of peers and citizens and consumers," Riggs said. "There's a limitation of what you can do without it."
Lexy Gross is a junior at Murray State University.