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Social media class meets national football star

On the first day of finals week, most Emerson College students prepared for exams and worked on final projects. But students in adjunct faculty member David Gerzof Richard’s social media marketing class took a break from studying for a dinner with Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and his fiancée, Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozada, Tuesday at All Star Sandwich Bar in Cambridge.

The event was Ochocinco’s fulfillment of a promise made earlier in the semester to meet the class and talk about his use of Twitter. The social media savvy athlete has more than 3 million followers and tweets an average of 30 times each day.

A group of Emerson students got the opportunity to meet with NFL star Chad Ochocinco (front, fourth from left) and his fiance Evelyn Lozada (front, fifth from left), who are also Twitter enthusiasts, to talk about social media and marketing and branding.

Ochocinco said he thinks the media shape the public’s perception of him, which is why he loves Twitter. He said it lets him show fans his true self, unfiltered. “They say perception is reality, but it’s really not,” Ochocinco said. “Twitter gives me a voice, and it makes stuff like this possible.”

After all, Twitter is where the conversation between Ochocinco and the class began and continued throughout the semester. Each semester, the social media class members choose someone well known they wouldn’t be able to reach via traditional means and try to use Twitter to directly communicate with that person. Ochocinco, this semester’s chosen target, agreed to meet the class in October after a barrage of tweets from the students, and tweeted with them from time to time in the weeks following, but he and Gerzof Richard didn’t finalize plans until 10:00 am Monday—through direct messages on Twitter, of course.

Gerzof Richard emailed students at about 3:15 pm, though many said they saw the tweets before they checked their email. A few minutes later, All Star Sandwich Bar tweeted: “We are closing at 8:00 pm tonight for a private party. Chad Ochocinco has reserved the entire restaurant for #ESM students social media class.”

Many students said they didn’t expect the famous athlete to follow through. They were also surprised when they learned that their dinner together marked only Ochocinco’s second time in the Boston area since he began playing with the Patriots this season.

“The first time I was here, I got lost on Newbury Street, and I haven’t been back since,” he said. The class laughed, and Ochocinco kept them laughing for most of the night.

The moment he and Lozada walked into All Star Sandwich Bar, he asked everyone to join hands and say grace. The class repeated after Ochocinco, who said, “Thank you for David, thank you for ESM, thank you for Twitter, and thank you for Ocho.”

First, Ochocinco fielded questions from the students. Later, he told them about his aspirations to expand Ochocinco News Network (OCNN), and students offered social media solutions to his communication challenges.

The class got an unexpected surprise when Lozada took the floor to talk about how she uses Twitter to promote her T-shirt line. Then, she told students about her upcoming book, Inner Circle, and they gave her suggestions for promoting its June 5 release.

Throughout the night, the couple teased each other, much as they do on Twitter—which is where the pair met. Their online banter always draws Twitter followers into the conversation, which might be why the couple plan to invite some of their followers to their wedding next summer.

Gerzof Richard said he was happy with the way his class interacted with the celebrity couple, from the questions they asked to the social media suggestions they provided Ochocinco and Lozada.

“The students brought their ‘A’ game,” he said.

Ochocinco appeared to be happy with the way the dinner went, too.

“I think we should do round two of this,” he said before the night ended.

Gerzof Richard said Ochocinco will always be welcome in his social media marketing class, but next semester’s students will try to reach a different celebrity who has social media savvy. Gerzof Richard leaves it up to his class to decide. He said the only requirement is that they choose “someone [they] wouldn’t normally connect with by traditional means.”

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