Popularity and virality on social media are difficult to achieve, and even harder to maintain. However, some students at SIUE have found ways to capture that lightning in a bottle and keep it.
Chia Boxdorfer, a senior in mass communications, is one of these students. She is a member of the cosplay community; she puts on a costume and makeup and poses as a character or person from pop culture in photo shoots, short videos and at conventions. It was something she started while in middle school with her friends. She posts these videos and photos on Instagram and TikTok under the name Teakup.cos.
Boxdorfer said although she posts on both platforms, her TikTok has been the more successful page, with more than 20,000 followers. She started her Instagram around four years ago, and the TikTok account a year after that.
“In the beginning it was pretty slow, like getting your name out there is a whole process,” Boxdorfer said. “But with Instagram it’s definitely been slower. With TikTok, it’s definitely more of a quick-and-fast build. I think the first year I had done it, at the end I had gained around 10,000 followers or so. Since then, I’ve been getting 5,000 to 6,000 followers a year.”
Another social media page that may be recognizable to the SIUE community is the SIUE Bulletin, an Instagram page by the same name. The account posts satirical headlines about campus news. After the sign in front of Prairie Hall was hit by a car, a post from the Bulletin showed a picture of the ruined sign, with text that said, “Upon seeing first flake of snow, Prairie Hall resident instantly forgets how to drive”
The page was originally a spur-of-the-moment idea from Morgan Jackson, a senior in computer science. However, now it’s also run by junior political science and mass communications double major Madison Sample.
“I think I had the idea for it and had the first post within a 24-hour span,” Jackson said. “I was in the Engineering Building, I think, when I came up with it … I just had a goofy little thought, and was like ‘What if I posted this?’ I really like those sites like The Onion, Reductress. There’s tons of different ones that do all sorts of satire headlines. So I was like, 'What if I did something like that for SIUE?’”
Sample said although she started taking a more hands-on approach recently, she’s been helping Jackson run the account since the start.
“We’re really, really good friends. When he created the account, he sent it to me and a few friends,” Sample said. “Me and my fiancé were some of the first followers. Morgan has so many random Instagram accounts, we thought it was just another account he’d created that he would let fizzle out. But I thought it was funny. He started sending me the posts before he’d post them and I’d give my opinion on them. Slowly that transitioned into me writing the headlines you see on there now.”
Unlike the Bulletin, Boxdorfer said a lot of her work is solely hers.
“There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes. Obviously, I make most of the outfits you see, so hours upon hours go into that,” Boxdorfer said. “I’m very blessed that I have a job that gives me weekends off, so Saturdays and Sundays are really when I can get into the makeup, get in front of the camera, sew, do things like that.”
Although the length of time varies, Boxdorfer said all of her posts take full days of work. She said she’s currently working on one that’s taken more than 100 hours over four months. She explained her process using a recent cosplay of the popular video game character Kirby.
“It was 80 hours, put just into making it, as in troubleshooting, structuring, sewing, wig styling, makeup, all that,” Boxdorfer said. “Then, I had to film the videos, which can take two or three hours. And then, you have to export the video and edit them down, which can take another two to three hours. So by the time you’re seeing a video, around 90 hours could’ve gone into everything.”
Alternatively, SIUE Bulletin’s posts are much quicker and much more focused on timeliness, according to Jackson. He used the post about the Prairie Hall sign as an example.
“I went back up there for a photo [around 2 a.m.],” Jackson said. “The snow had just started, but it was worth it, because that has become one of our most successful posts by a lot. We gained over a hundred followers in one day.”
With their focus on jokes for the campus community, Sample and Jackson said they’ve both received generally positive feedback from the campus community. Both Sample and Jackson are members of the student government.
“[Former Student Government Vice President] Nicole Burbach is the hugest fan of us, and so is [Student Government President] Rahmat Salau. When we do Student Government jokes, they get so excited,” Sample said. “Greek Life has been very positive, as well, for the most part, but that’s because we try not to be too mean to them. There are some posts that don’t do as well with them.”
Sample said they try to ensure the Bulletin’s jokes punch upward, not downward. However, despite sometimes aiming the jokes at those in power, Sample said the SIUE Bulletin has still received support from them.
“We try to avoid bashing any specific groups or clubs too much, because we don’t want to ostracize people. I like it when pages for things like the library and the Cougar Store follow us, which they do,” Sample said. “[Associate Director of Resident Life] Rex Jackson also follows us … and I know the chancellor has at least seen the account, specifically one of the posts about him.”
Despite the large amount of time Boxdorfer spends on her account, she said it will never be a career for her.
“For me, it’s a hobby. People ask if I would ever turn it into a job. I would not, most likely. It's a hobby I’m very passionate about,” Boxdorfer said. “I’ve been doing cosplay for 10 years. It’s not something I see myself stopping doing soon. If it was up to me, the end goal is to go up on stage at the U.S. Cosplay Championships one day.”
Although Jackson initially created the SIUE Bulletin as a one-off joke, he does hope it can continue on beyond his graduation in May. Sample said she will remain at SIUE for another year after Jackson, and also said she intends to keep running the account while on campus.
“We’ve been trying to take on new people,” Sample said. “I’ll be taking over the account next year, and I’m not good at editing, like to make the little thumbnails we have. I’m good at the marketing and writing side of things, with my degree, but I’m not the tech-savvy one.”
Boxdorfer said the best advice to anyone wanting to start on social media is to find a unique concept that you love, and commit to it.
“Find your niche and go all in. I know people think ‘Oh, no one’s going to watch me, because there’s like a hundred other creators who do this,’ but you’re your own person, with your own unique style and ways to express yourself,” Boxdorfer said. “Find a niche and go all into it.”
Jackson said there’s room to experiment, but it’s also good to be prepared to take losses if you want to experiment.
“When people see the Bulletin, we’ve had the same alternating red-and-white text style for every headline,” Jackson said. “We’ve branched out a few times. One time, we tried out a Reel, and it didn’t do bad or anything … You can branch out your content a little bit, but make sure your content still appeals to the audience you already have, or you have to accept that you may have some losses if you want to change your content.”
To see Boxdorfer’s cosplays, visit her Instagram or TikTok pages, and for the SIUE Bulletin, visit their Instagram page.
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