Students in an Emerson social media marketing class got the rare opportunity to spend time with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on December 6 to talk Twitter and the awesome power of social media.
And with more than 378,000 Twitter followers, that’s something “Gronk” has become somewhat of an expert in – for better or worse.
“You learn from your mistakes,” said the 23-year-old player, currently sidelined with a broken arm.
Gronkowski was candid with students about his previous Twitter exploits – and a particular, headline-grabbing incident last year involving him posing for a photo with an adult film star.
“Obviously I would never, ever do that again,” he said. “Ever since then, [I’ve learned] that because you’re in the public eye and everyone is looking at you… If I put something out there I’ll have to deal with the media, the team, my friends, everything. I try to keep it PG.”
Gronkowski visited a class taught by David Gerzof Richard, a part-time Marketing Communication faculty member, who had students repeatedly tweet to Gronkowski over the last few weeks to ask him to visit the class.
They set up the @SocialEmerson handle for the class, and used the hashtags #ESM (for “Emerson Social Media”) and #SpikeOurProf to get his attention.
“Every time I looked at my ‘at mentions’ it had all you guys on it,” Gronkowski said.
Each year the class picks one local celebrity to invite via social media. Last year’s students went to dinner with former Patriots player Chad Ochocinco.
Throughout the semester, the students work for local businesses and use social media to create buzz, awareness and connect with customers, Gerzof Richard said.
Despite his previous Twitter trainwrecks, Gronkowski said there are numerous positives to the medium. He pointed to outrage by fans over poor calls made by replacement referees earlier this season.
“It does bring about change,” he said. “Everyone complained about the referees on Twitter. Everyone can see it, and [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell can sign right on and see what fans think.”
Gronkowski uses Twitter to promote his charity work and communicate directly with fans. He and his brothers, Dan and Chris Gronkowski, sometimes host “Twitter Tuesdays,” when they answer questions from fans for 30 minutes.
Gronkowski took questions from students for about 40 minutes before he was serenaded with an original song by students Sydney Manning ’13 and Lauren Coritzo ’13. After Manning began playing guitar and singing, and had the class join in on the chorus, Coritzo burst out of her chair and started freestyle rapping for Gronkowski.
He later tweeted at Coritzo, “That was legit! I was about to get up and battle back! Nice work!”
Gronkowski signed autographs and posed for photos with students when the class ended.