AmandaTysonForget the water coolers and happy hours. Social media is the proving grounds for professional and personal connections on a global scale.

Nearly 15 percent of the world population is on Facebook. That’s a staggering 1.11 billion users. Twitter has about 500 million users; Instagram hovers around 130 million. The list of social media platforms and number of users goes on and on.

For the storyteller or entrepreneur, that’s a large audience just waiting to be engaged. So, how do they do it? Here are three alumni who are making it count on social media.

Just imagine it: You post a status update on Facebook from your gym in Saco, Maine, and it’s sent directly to the newsfeed of 66,000 people – the population of Portland, Maine. Then you send a tweet to 4,000 people and a photo to 9,000 on Instagram. When she looks at her social media accounts from this perspective, Amanda Tyson ’11 is calmly taken aback by the sheer number of people who follow her. “It’s a lot of people. I guess I haven’t really thought about it.”

Tyson, an exercise science graduate, maintains these social media accounts to document her story with weight loss and healthy living. Her journey began in 2011 when she tried out for NBC’s The Biggest Loser. “They picked me out of 250,000 people to be a finalist, and they flew about 30 people to LA. During that week, they scheduled me for doctors’ appointments, psych tests … every test under the sun. I didn’t know how emotional it’d be.”

After receiving word that she didn’t make it onto the cast, Tyson dedicated herself to losing weight – and she was going to document everything online. “I started my Facebook fan page in March of 2012,” she says. “Friends of mine told me that I was inspiring to them because I was losing weight on my own. My friend Jen, who was just on the show, said, ‘Why don’t you start a fan page and see where it goes?’ I remember thinking that this was going to be embarrassing if no one liked it.”

At first, Tyson was encouraged by the number of followers. Posting images and thoughts of her journey through weight loss and living a healthy life, she remembers what at the time felt like a large following. “I think 500 was the big one,” she says. “I got to know the people really well, because it was an intimate group of supporters. Then it got crazy over a couple days. I couldn’t keep up with the messages – I had about 6,000 unread Facebook messages.”

Tyson’s venue for sharing her journey later blossomed into a place for others to share their stories. “They all wanted help: how to do it, how to find motivation, what I ate, what I do at the gym. Now, it’s a lot of people telling me their stories and showing me their before-and-after photos.”

Combining her education and experience with weight loss, Tyson is now studying to earn her personal training certificate. “I had professor Tom Dann for classes,” she says. “I carry those lessons with me every day. I am able to help these people because of my background.”

Look up Nick Mirabello ’03 on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and you’re immediately struck by his enthusiasm for pursuing dreams and creative energy. And that’s more than his life perspective; it’s his job.

Mirabello is a one-man marketing and motivational leader at URock Marketing, LLC. On its Facebook page, URock declares: “We Market. We Motivate. Let’s Talk, URock!” And that’s exactly what it’s all about for Mirabello. The Facebook and Twitter accounts for URock are filled with motivational quotes and calls to action. Inspiration” and “inspire” are buzzwords.

URock is a dynamic company. Mirabello gives motivational presentations for students, like at the January 15, 2011, Resident Advisor Leadership Conference, which he dubs a URock Talk. In addition, he hosts Dream Board parties (inspired by SJC Orientation guest speak Ed Gerety), where people connect, socialize and compose dream collages on whiteboards from magazine cutouts and other materials. URock also helps people find a foothold in marketing projects. Mirabello remembers launching the Instagram account for LaCasse Bats. Owner Jesse LaCasse ’03 wasn’t so sure at first. “He was already back at the lathe right after I posted a photo of his bats,” Mirabello says. “And within that minute, someone already clicked to like it. Jesse was shocked.”

From his apartment overlooking Market Street in downtown Portsmouth, N.H., Mirabello sees the dreams of others turning into realities. And his social media accounts document this energy and change. “I would not have the success of URock if it weren’t for social media,” he says. “Even when the days were tough, it’s been my MVP.” Follow Mirabello and URock on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for personal and professional inspiration, and witness the success of others whom he connects with – in person and online.

Marketing and advertising graduate Nicki Hicks ’08 entered the world of Web work immediately after college. “I got a job at Flyte New Media, a Web design and development firm in Portland, Maine,” she says. “They wanted someone with Web experience. I lucked out and got a good gig doing search engine optimization for them. That’s my background, my bread and butter. And that’s what started me in the social media realm.”

Now, Hicks and her brother run red vine web studio (, a Web design and presence development company they started together in early 2013. Hicks does her portion from her home in Saint Augustine, Fla., while her brother operates from South Portland, Maine.

“I do the marketing aspect,” Hicks says. “Web marketing, social media consulting, blogging, website, search engine optimization. I take what people have on their websites and rewrite for their target audiences, because as a company it’s very difficult to write about yourself. I try to make that a little easier.”

In her role, Hicks also needs to identify the best social media platforms for her clients. “I’m a big believer in doing one thing and doing it well,” she says. “Clients may come in and say they are being told they need to be on all the social media platforms. I see it way too many times where businesses will try to take on all these platforms all at once, and it’s overwhelming because they have a business to run.”

Choosing a social media account is no different than finding the right print, television or radio ad for a company. “Not every platform is right for every business,” says Hicks. “A women’s clothing line is perfect for Facebook. There are a lot of women on Facebook, and they can easily find their clients in a specific area. I do a lot of comparative research to find if anyone from a niche market is there, or if anyone is talking about it. There’s no reason to be wasting their time.”

Outside of red vine web studio, Hicks’ life continues online. In addition to her nearly 3,000 followers between Twitter and Instagram, she runs her own blog at “I tend to be an open book,” she says. “I started my blog three or four years ago as a place to have my own personal thoughts, outside of my professional writing.” Her blog’s categories range from art and fashion, health and fitness, DIY topics, and, of course, social media news, tips and insights.

by David Svenson

Counting on You

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(Source: Digital Marketing Ramblings, June 2013)