The Building Global Audiences course helps students develop social media platforms and fosters collaboration
If you’ve recently opened TikTok, you’ve more than likely seen a post from a student “Building Global Audiences” on your For You page. In this course, aspiring Duke influencers learn how to create their own platforms while learning about social media from an academic perspective.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lecturer Aaron Dinin designed the course as a collaborative experience where content creators can connect with their audience. The class focuses on the marketing and business components of social media, with plenty of class time devoted to analysis, growth strategy, and brainstorming.
Dinin’s interests in content creation are both academic and personal. In addition to teaching Building Global Audiences, the professor regularly posts on Medium and LinkedIn, hosts a podcast called “Web Masters” and, most recently, runs a TikTok account.
The course discussions influenced his own content creation. In some ways, teaching the course feels more like learning alongside peers than a traditional student-teacher relationship, he said.
“It was really rewarding to work with this group of students who were so passionate about the work of the class that it didn’t feel like a class. It looks like a community that by chance gets credit,” Dinin said.
Building Global Audiences has two distinct tracks: the “Team Track” and the “Creator Track”. In Team Track, groups of students collaborate on a partner project to develop content to help grow a company’s audience. In the “Creator Track”, individual creators focus on building their personal brands and social media following.
In an increasingly digital world, Dinin hopes her class will inspire students to make the most of the power of social media.
“I think the biggest responsibility, the biggest challenge in the class, is to help my students and other people in the community understand that this is an incredibly powerful medium,” he said. -he declares. “They should use it to spread positive messages and promote good things in the world.”
The Chronicle interviewed five budding influencers on Creator Track, whose platforms range from fashion to football.
Natalia Hauser@natisstyle on Tiktok/Instagram
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Sophomore Natalia Hauser started her social media platform as a simple outlet to share her love of style with close friends. After initially building a following on Instagram, she branched out to TikTok, where she currently has over 9.6 million likes and 215,000 followers.
“It may have started with fashion at first, but as soon as I started having legitimate questions about my life and my passions, I realized that I loved forming a community with individuals,” said Hauser.
A proud Venezuelan American, Hauser posts content in both Spanish and English, allowing her to connect with a Spanish-speaking audience.
“What I do on these platforms is just create lifestyle content about parts of my life, including Duke; where I’m from, which is Miami; and a bit of beauty and fashion,” she said.
Before enrolling in the course, Hauser struggled to get advice for his content from friends and family who had limited experience creating content. This semester, she benefited from the feedback and creativity of her classmates.
“I can just discuss ideas with them and get their feedback and improve my content as a whole. I think having that support, that backbone of individuals, has really helped me,” he said. she declared.
Athan WrightAthan Wright on YouTube
Many students remember watching daily vlogs in college while doing academic research, seeking insight into college life that would aid in the decision-making process. Freshman Athan Wright, who posted his first YouTube video just nine months ago, has steadily built a subscriber base of over 800 from his college vlogs. Some of his most watched videos include “What I Love About Duke University”, “Dorm Tour of EVER Freshman Dorm at Duke University”, and “College Move-in Day”.
“I’m focused on showing other people college life at Duke in a fun way that gives people, you know, a little break from their everyday lives,” Wright said.
Many of his vlogs feature interviews and commentary from students on campus, and he has collaborated with other content creators as well.
What surprised Wright the most about the class was the diversity of content creators.
“I’m so focused on vlogging and college life, but there are people here doing slime, fashion fanpage videos, it’s crazy. There is so much going on,” he said.
Wright also appreciates being able to draw on the knowledge of his peers in this unique environment. When one of his videos was not as successful as he had hoped, his classmates provided constructive feedback.
“I left the class so invigorated with a sense of purpose. Thanks to all the feedback I was getting on my video… I was able to kind of see what I was doing wrong with my video and find a new direction in which one to go,” he said.
As decisions for the Class of 2026 will be released this intake season, future Blue Devils will no doubt find a helpful resource in Athan’s Channel.
Jacob Whatley@jacobcwhatley on Instagram
First-grader Jacob Whatley used social media to share his work in film and photography with a wider audience.
Scrolling through her Instagram page reveals stunning images of nature, landscapes and portraits. Her flow reflects her desire to move into a full travel style gallery. In addition to her own artwork, Whatley works with the University to produce social media content, such as “Students on What I Love About Duke.”
“Working with my peers is an eye opener,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “When I’m confused, someone in the class might have a way to help me. I know how to operate a camera with at least some skill, but I have no idea about audio. But Max Hof , singer and songwriter of the pop duo W4VE, explained to me exactly what I needed.
Whatley pointed out that collaboration is one of the most important parts of creating media. He also expressed his gratitude for learning alongside peers who shared his goals and understood the daily challenges of creating original content.
“Most people have no idea how long they spend in a single position and working alongside other people who understand this is very motivating,” he wrote.
Ruben Mésalles@rubenmesalles on TikTok
Freshman Ruben Mesalles successfully juggled academics, an athletic career and a growing social media platform at Duke.
Mesalles, a midfielder for the men’s soccer team, has built a five-figure following on his TikTok account. His content is largely centered around his life as a student-athlete and featured collaboration with other Duke creators.
Mesalles’ journey with content creation began as a quarantine hobby. Inspired by two of his friends, he started uploading soccer videos to TikTok regularly in the spring of 2020. Today, he has over 10,000 followers on the app.
“I restarted my TikTok because of [Building Global Audiences] and it’s been doing really well lately. I’m getting a lot of engagement and a good amount of subscribers…I’m pretty excited to see how it goes,” Mesalles said.
Building global audiences made it clear to Mesalles the value of authenticity. The most important lesson of the course so far, according to Mesalles, has been “just to be yourself and do whatever content you want to do.”
Barbara Cardenas@barbarateresac on Instagram, @imbarbarateresa on TikTok
One of two musicians in Building Global Audiences, freshman Barbara Cardenas – known as Barbara Teresa on streaming platforms – used this course to expand her platform beyond music and connect with her public.
Cardenas’ music, which she describes as indie-pop, has already attracted nearly 1,500 monthly listeners on Spotify. His most popular song, “Saturday Night”, has been played over 43,000 times. It’s a track that really lets his artistic talents shine: his light, airy vocals are contrasted by melancholic lyrics that resonate with anyone who’s had their heart broken.
The singer-songwriter is inspired by performers such as Gracie Abrams, Lizzy McAlpine and Maude Latour. She admires the authentic images of themselves they portray online.
“They are artists, but they are also very authentic on social media platforms, and I think that is something very important. They are super outspoken,” Cardenas said.
Sevana Wenn is a Trinity freshman and reporter for the News Service.