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sp0t, a new social media 'built by UNC, for UNC'

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UNC alumni and developers of Sp0t, a new social media platform designed for UNC students, from left to right Kenny Barone,  Riley Elliot and Tyler Trocinski, stand on Polk Place on Sunday, April 16, 2023.

A new way for students to share their unique campus experiences has entered the chat. 

sp0t, a new social media app designed by UNC alumni, launched in Chapel Hill last week and encourages users to share geotagged content anonymously with others in the area. 

Co-founders Tyler Trocinski and Kenny Barone said they were inspired to take a new approach to social media when they were roommates at UNC in 2017. The pair wanted to create an app where students could share their authentic selves with others.

"We kept thinking about a social media that was more focused on capturing your experiences for what they were, without worrying about how it reflected upon yourself," Trocinski said.

Under a pseudonym, sp0t users can post pictures and videos to share with their community. This creates a nearby feed where UNC students can scroll through the best "spots" in the area.

The app also allows users to create and join community maps within the area that are categorized by topic, so users can find a community of people who share similar interests and upload content. 

After being in the development stages for six years, sp0t is finally available to the public. 

Trocinski said students have started making maps that document UNC's squirrels, bathrooms and other popular topics on campus.

"I think that what people are looking for is a way to be creative on social media again, but with casual carefreeness —  authenticity," he said.

Riley Elliott, a first-year student at UNC and head marketing intern for sp0t, said he thinks the app will help foster unique social media content and relationships.

Aside from his role in marketing, Elliot has also been dubbed the “sp0t bot.” Sporting a hat made of tin foil, he goes around campus and interviews students about a variety of experiences at the University — including spring break secrets and finding love at UNC. 

Co-founder Kenny Barone said he hopes sp0t's location constraints make the content feel tangible to users. He said a UNC-centric app will give students the opportunity to engage with their community.  

"Everything is local and hopefully not super overwhelming,” he said. “I think having information coming in from everywhere in the world is a lot of what makes being online stressful at times.”

By staying connected to the campus community beyond their graduation, Trocinski and Barone have now been able to partner with current UNC entrepreneurs. 

Mary Esposito, a first-year student and founder of Money with Mary — a TikTok account with over 96,000 followers — discovered sp0t through a case competition at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. After a few meetings and conversations with the co-creators, she was brought on as a marketing consultant. 

Esposito implements social media marketing strategies that should help the app appeal to Gen-Z. Her financial literacy Instagram account gained over 12,000 followers in less than two months, and she said she has insider knowledge of what type of content appeals to college students.

"What makes these new apps go viral?" Esposito said. "It's by marketing them as a joke — essentially appealing to Gen Z's ironic sense of humor. So, taking that different approach with it has had a lot of good results."

Esposito's marketing knowledge has helped sp0t gain significant media attention before the app's official release. The @sp0tapp account's first post on Instagram — a street-style interview asking UNC students for their "spring break confessions" — has over 35,000 views.

Along with creating content and marketing strategies for the team, Esposito has helped the team find campus partnerships. 

For a recent Instagram post about "Finding Love at UNC," Esposito said she established a partnership with @unccrushes, a popular account where UNC students can share their campus crushes anonymously. This post raked in over 12,000 views. Esposito said she plans to continue establishing partnerships like this in the future.

If sp0t's launch at UNC is successful, the co-founders plan to expand the app at other college campuses in North Carolina. Barone said he hopes sp0t can serve as a "community message board" for universities. 

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However, Trocinski said it is important to emphasize that sp0t was "built by UNC, for UNC." 

The fact that the app was founded at the University will always be a part of the company's story, he said. 

"At the end of the day, it's the creativity of UNC students that's going to make sp0t what it is," Trocinski said. 

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