October 16, 2013
Michael Barnard Profile
It started off as a simple idea. UNH students will submit their confessions and secrets to a Facebook page and have them posted anonymously for anyone to see. They told him it wouldn’t work. They thought it would never catch on. He trusted his gut though and over 8,400 “likes” later, UNH Confessions is easily the most popular Facebook page on campus.
Most college students come into their own during their last couple of years. Freshman year is different though. It’s made to be awkward and somewhat lonely at times. It’s rarely the time when one creates success and a following of over 8,000 people. Creating a name on campus that most students easily recognize should be hard. If that was the case though, then how did Michael Barnard do it in only a few short months?
He leans forward and scrolls through the Google document on the page in front of him as the bright screen of his laptop shines on his short dark blonde hair. Usually relaxed and easygoing, he is now serious as he concentrates on what he’s reading. Suddenly he begins to chuckle though – gently at first, and then harder as he reaches the end of the submission. He quickly highlights the text and copies and pastes it into the space on Facebook made for creating statuses. With the click of a button, the confession is posted, and within seconds the “likes” are rolling in.
“I just kind of determine if I think it would be good or not, if I think it would be interesting or funny, and then I just post it and hope that it does good,” Michael Barnard, creator of UNH Confessions, said.
With over 8,400 “likes” and almost 15,000 total submissions since the page was created in March, Barnard has made a UNH success. Despite initial doubt from his friends, the freshman at the time stuck with his gut and was able to get the page up and running without the help of anyone. The page with so little faith behind it became an overnight sensation on the UNH campus and Barnard is reaping all the benefits.
Although UNH Confessions is a great place for students to go for laughs, Barnard is using the page to advance himself in the business world. The undeclared sophomore from Scituate, MA is currently trying to get into the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics and knows that running this page will look good on his resume when it comes time to apply for jobs and internships.
“I want to do something with social media and that’s what I’m doing right now,” Barnard said, “I’ve developed a passion for it.”
Barnard is also considering a career in online marketing and creating pages and websites for businesses. He thinks that being the creator and mediator of a page with such a large following while he’s still in college will look great to potential future employers. In the meantime though, Barnard is already using the page’s popularity to his advantage as he uses it to sell products and bring in some extra cash.
With the help of a friend, Barnard was able to make UNH Homecoming t-shirts with the design of the Budweiser logo, which he then advertised on his page. The duo brought in an easy $3,000 in profits. Seeing what a powerful marketing tool the page has become, Barnard is hoping to create and sell more t-shirts as the school year continues.
Looking to the future, Barnard is still determining what he’s going to do with the page, although he knows that he doesn’t want to pass it on once he graduates.
“I’m gonna try to, with the two years I have left at UNH, create a way that I can keep it so it can benefit this local area or UNH or something, but I would still be the manager of the page,” Barnard said.
A couple of ideas he has involve turning the page into a website or changing the name and giving the page a new focus. A bigger idea that Barnard has in mind though is to publish a book of the confessions and make it into a yearbook of his years here at UNH. Doing this would involve “just looking through and taking the best of the best and then it’d be kind of a cool read to have,” Barnard said.
Determining which are the best is easy for Barnard, seeing as he can quickly estimate how successful a post will be just by skimming through it. Some posts are definitely more popular than others and Barnard’s favorite part of managing the page is watching posts go viral.
“There was a picture of a UNH student helping out at the Boston bombing and someone just sent it in and I put it up and was like, ‘Respect this wildcat,’” Barnard said, “Then it got like 500 ‘shares,’ 4,000 ‘likes’ over night, and I think over 250,000 people saw the post. I would consider that kind of viral.”
Students especially like these posts, although many say that funny posts are their favorites. Junior Michaela Simpson says that she likes how amusing the page is and how she particularly enjoys reading the humorous posts in her free time. Junior Sydney Miller says that her favorite part of the page is that it’s relatable.
“A lot of the stories you can relate to,” she said. “We all go to UNH and tend to experience the same things around campus.”
For sophomore Connor Bazil, who also enjoys the funnier posts, his favorite part involves the piece that is essential to UNH Confessions popularity.
“I like how people can anonymously say whatever they want,” Bazil said.
Although the posts that evoke laughter are very popular, ones expressing acts of kindness are no different. Barnard thinks that UNH students like to feel a sense of community and according to his friend, UNH student Evan Feldman, Barnard is no different.
Feldman recalled a time during his and Barnard’s freshman year when they, along with a few other friends, went to Hoco to grab a bite to eat. After settling in at a table they began to wonder where Barnard was and what was taking him so long. After searching the dining hall for him they found him eating with a girl they didn’t recognize and they decided to leave them alone. Feldman questioned him about it later that day.
“He simply told us he didn't know her but he saw her sitting alone at a high-top table and she looked sad so he decided to sit with her and talk to her,” Feldman said, “He is just a genuinely nice kid and he really leads by example by doing things like this.”
Feldman, who grew close to Barnard when they lived on the same floor of Stoke, says that his friend truly enjoys bringing together the community and providing them with entertainment. Feldman says that although the popularity of the page constantly keeps Barnard scrolling through his phone, Feldman had originally doubted the idea.
“When he first told me I actually thought it was a dumb idea and wasn't going to get much attention but I supported him anyway,” Feldman said, “I'm still surprised that he gets more followers all the time.”
Barnard’s girlfriend, UNH student Libby Young, says that she believes Barnard loves the page mostly due to the way it connects him to UNH and to the student body. Both Young and Feldman spoke highly of Barnard’s kind personality and his desire to help others.
“He is genuinely interested in getting to know each and every person who crosses his path,” Young said.
This caring attitude is part of the reason why Barnard works so hard to publish as many good posts as possible. He likes to give people fun things to read and make people feel special when their submission is posted. With around 100 submissions a day though, Barnard can’t post them all. In fact, he’s only posted around 2,000 over the past seven months.
“I just like to have quality over quantity,” Barnard said. He said that he definitely spends a good amount of time “reading through the irrelevant and random posts” and finds this to be his least favorite part of running the page.
Overall though, Barnard loves what he does and he hopes to transfer the skills he’s gaining now into something that he can use to make a living one day. Starting the page as a freshman he knew little of what he was doing and just did it on a whim without the help of anyone. Now the concept is growing as other schools are making pages as well, and asking for Barnard’s help in doing so.
“It’s so helpful to be knowledgeable online,” Barnard said, “If you have a business mind you can create ways in which the Internet can benefit you.”
For Barnard, these benefits are endless as people are catching on to his idea to market on the page. Groups on campus are looking to Barnard for help and asking to advertise on his page. Part of what makes the page what it is, is that it’s fun, but also well structured, much like Barnard himself.
Feldman said, “He is a committed individual and takes things seriously but loves to have fun at the same time.”
Sue – I know in your comment to add some physical description, but I already had a little about his hair in lead #3. I wasn’t sure what else to say because I found it really hard to describe him. Maybe we could talk more about how to physically describe people in our conference or something. I just didn’t want to insult him. He looked kind of young, like 13 years old, but I wasn’t going to write that.