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  • Emily Miethner

Student Viral Projects Included Cats, Trump, Cake, Underwear, and Tinder Matches


In addition to being full-time CEO of FindSpark, a community dedicated to connecting employers to top, diverse early career talent and setting up our 26,000+ members for career success, I'm also an Adjunct Professor at multiple colleges.

One class I teach is called "Social Media Applications, CG 121" at Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. In the Fall, the class is open to any major, any year, and even continuing ed (yes, you can sign up!). In the Spring, it's exclusively for freshman photo majors, and it's required.

As part of the syllabus I developed, the students have a semester long "viral project" where they choose content they've made in the past or make new content, and to work to distribute it, getting as much engagement as possible.

At the end of the semester, the students present their viral project, including why they chose the content, and detail how they promoted it.. Then the class votes on the three projects (yes, voting for their own project is allowed) they think are most impressive and those people get an automatic A in the class.

I was really impressed with many of the students. It's a very open ended assignment (as are most of my assignments) and it was super cool to see what they chose to do.

Here is a mix of some of the viral projects from my 40 students, including the most viewed, my personal favorites, and a random mix to show the different directions students took.

Ryan started this Instagram account at the start of the semester, and grew it to 8,000+ followers (without buying them). His "viral post" was this photo, which included a caption sharing his tips for growing your following on Instagram.

I love how Ryan worked through the entire semester on this project, and now has something he can use long-term.

Kristen blogged about her experience photographing people she met on Tinder. I love how this project — from shooting to writing about it — pushed her out of her comfort zone. Plus, the photos are so damn sweet, and what a great title.

Alex was one of my more soft-spoken students, but the strategy behind her viral project was one of my favorites. Alex used Milk Makeup in this photo she took, and tagged the company's account, used their hashtags (and only those), and DMed the photo to the account. They liked her DM, and the photo itself, which resulted in it receiving more than double the number of likes her photos usually get.

Ashley has 23,000+ Twitter followers, and the post she did for this class wasn't even her most viral. The Tweet she posted, which included photos taken for one of her other classes, had more than 4,000 favorites before she took it down (she did some Twitter Spring cleaning).

I loved her explanation of her experience posting this — she didn't expect so much negative backlash, and was taken aback at first. But, then she realized even the negative people sharing it meant the possibility of more people seeing it who might appreciate it and think it's funny.

This student too the troll approach. After creating this photo (and making the mask), he shared the photo into multiple Trump supporter Facebook groups. Although we can't see the view count, he did screen shot the dozens of comments he received before the posts were (always) taken down and he banned from the groups.

Beyond the great photo, I liked seeing someone take the "antagonizer" approach to going viral.

Belle was one of the few students who knew about Imgur before my class. She also knows the internet loves cats, especially Imgur. She created this GIF specifically for the platform, and it got almost 7,000 views.

Here are some other projects, which included utilizing influencers, different platforms, humor, social commentary, submitting work to popular channels, #fails, and more!