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He works the social scene

New UNH technology and media specialist likes his work

Jason Boucher began writing computer programs when he was in elementary school on a Commodore 64, a breadbox-shaped personal computer that's a far cry from the iPhone he carries today.

And even the most visionary programmer back in the 1980s and 1990s couldn't imagine a world where technology has not only created but in many cases demands a job like Boucher filled earlier this month: social media coordinator for the University of New Hampshire.

The Portsmouth resident has only been on the job a few weeks, and it's mostly been meetings and greetings and getting up-to-speed, but he sat with the Monitor for a few questions about the past, present and future of social networking.

What were you doing before you took this position?

I spent the last six and a half years working for the UNH IT department as an information tech, which included desktop support, teaching new software to faculty and staff, and writing technology-related articles for Signals, our monthly IT newsletter.

What made you apply for this job?

In addition to my day job, I'm president of Social Media Club New Hampshire, a volunteer-run organization that meets monthly to help network people across all professions in order to expand social media literacy, share skills and encourage adoption of industry standards. I've been involved with the group for a few years now and I've always been interested in the power of social media. This new position is one I've been waiting for and I'm delighted to get the opportunity right here at UNH. There is no other place I'd rather be right now.

What are the benefits of having an active presence on social media outlets?

Social media is very powerful. By having a variety of social media channels, we can expand our online reach and engage with many different audiences. Social media is more than just marketing; it's sharing information and having an active conversation with those that matter most - the entire UNH community. Social media only works if it is social, meaning sharing and actively participating in the discussion. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube are just a few examples of the popular social media tools we use at UNH.

What would you say are the goals of you and your department and how will you know you've succeeded?

Our goal is to communicate with the UNH community using the most appropriate and up-to-date tools available for the various audiences. There is no finish line. Engaging with our community through social media happens everyday, every night and every weekend. By making sure we're active and engage our audience the best way possible, never losing focus will help make us successful. We must continue growing our online presence and keep paying attention.

Do you think you would handle social media differently if you worked for a private business than you will for UNH?

Yes. With a private business you tend to sell one product or focus on one area. At UNH, we want to engage with our students, staff, faculty, community and beyond. We also want to promote and share all aspects of the university, not just one thing, which makes the job more challenging, but also more rewarding and more interesting.

Were you very much interested in computers when you were young, mechanically or in terms of programming?

When I was in grade school, I enrolled in a summer computer class. My mom bought me a Commodore 64 and I started to write basic programs. I then got into drawing on the computer and took a few CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) courses in high school. I thought about being an architect, but I wanted to be more creative.

When did you first think this "social media" stuff could be sticking around, and why did you think so?

Remember Friendster? It evolved into MySpace and then Facebook and Twitter took over a few years later. Now we have Google Plus, which I believe will be very successful. In fact, UNH was one of the first 16 universities to jump on board, which was featured on Mashable.com.

Social media enables people to communicate faster, to share information quicker, and to engage with an audience where everyone can contribute.

What do you think "the next big thing" in social media will look like?

The next big thing has just started. It's all about being mobile and wireless. Within the next few years most students will be using mobile phones and tablets as their primary computers. Social media has already come to the mobile world with Facebook and Twitter apps, but it's going to get a lot bigger. Apps like Instagram, Foursquare, SCVNGR, and Yelp are all location-based services that combine the sharing of reviews, helpful tips, photos, maps, contests and location.

Home and work: Mac or PC?

Definitely a Mac. I love the simplicity of the operating system and variety of apps available. I also love my iPhone.

You're a UNH alum. What did you major in, and why?

I have a B.A. in history with a concentration in American studies. In college, I wanted to be a creative writer and poet, but expanded my knowledge of music through joining WUNH, UNH's student-run radio station. I began to study the history of jazz, which led me to my degree in history.

When you were still in school, what did you think you'd do when you graduated?

Open up a record store. But then the iPod was born and we all know the rest of that story . . . .

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com.)

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