Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites are sweeping the globe, making the world a lot smaller as it’s possible to connect with anyone in the world of similar interests. A new site focusing on connecting people in the Upper Peninsula is gaining traffic as well.
Marquette Social, which started as a midnight idea by NMU alum Jason White, began in March and has since gained almost 375 members just by word of mouth and use of media techniques. It has acted as a way for people in Marquette to connect with other individuals and businesses.
“Everyone on Marquette Social is connected to the Upper Peninsula in one way or another and have a place in their heart for it, so it makes it a special place,” White said.
White said he enjoys watching how people connect, the way that social networking can bring people together and, in a way, have a life of its own. Photo-sharing has become a popular use of the site, to exhibit the Upper Peninsula’s natural beauty, and people are finding ways to connect with one another just through that.
“My favorite aspect is watching the connections and seeing the diverse activities taking place in nature around Marquette,” White said. “It’s hard to sum up, but you see people, similar minded people out in similar or the same areas doing different activities. You get angles of Pictured Rocks from a surfer and then from a kayaker and from a boater; they’re all similar pictures at different times of day.”
White hopes to reach a more artistic community in Marquette and the Upper Peninsula, but also from Northern. He said that the site caters to artistic endeavors by easily permitting not only pictures but videos, and he hopes that a community of artists will emerge.
The site has seen a major draw, surprisingly to White, by people between the ages of 25 and 40. He hopes that students will find the site useful to connect within the community.
“When we do hit that 25 and under crowd it’ll receive a whole new breath of life, encourage and teach other people, the older crowd, how to engage with it a little heavier,” White said.
Whitney Oppenhuizen, a recent NMU grad with a degree in public relations, has used Marquette Social to look for possible jobs in her field. She said she enjoys using social networking sites to help with this because it gets her name out in a unique way.
“It really helps us find job opportunities nationally and locally, like Marquette Social does,” Oppenhuizen said. “I’d like to move back to Marquette, even though I’m not up there. (Jobs) under the radar I can find using Marquette social.”
Oppenhuizen hopes that students take advantages of a networking site that will cater to their interests.
“It’s really good for Northern students because they can connect with people who really care about Marquette but aren’t living there anymore. … It’s a good place to start your networking experience, getting your foot in the door, branch out through people who at one point lived in Marquette,” she said.
White intended to connect not only students with the community but also businesses. He hoped to cure an inevitable flaw that Marquette businesses were finding in social networking sites, specifically that they were trying to reach an audience that was hard to find due to the vastness of social networking sites.
“I think that what initially spawned my interest was seeing other places around town advertise their social networking presence but not necessarily finding the right market or niche, disappearing into the void, into the masses too quickly on the larger sites where people are networking globally and not locally,” White said.
White is working on finding ways to make the site more accessible but also to get the word out more effectively. Without a budget, he and his marketing partner Layla Wright-Contreras have been focused on reaching people via Twitter, Facebook, direct e-mails and word-of-mouth to get the word out. He said that for the first month after the site was created, he spent a lot of time on it.
“It totally took over my life for the first month; I definitely see a correlation between our direct participation and (website) traffic, that’s just going to be a reality until it has a large, deep user base that’s very active,” White said, which he said would be about the 2,000-user mark.
But White hopes that not only businesses, but students will benefit from the site in the next couple of months. Groups on the site, including one focusing on NMU students and others based on special interesting, including “Frisbee Fans and Fanatics,” “I Pedal” and “U.P. Mudders,” make it possible for people to connect with others in the Upper Peninsula with similar interests.
“You’re reaching a community directly connected to Marquette without a lot of surrounding noise,” White said. “Utilizing those groups, you’re specifically connected with people who are looking for things to do in that area right now.”