Introducing Students to Social Media Audience Research via the Facebook Audience Insights Tool

Lately, I’ve been writing about the importance for students to learn more about paid social media as part of the media mix.

In the below post, I’m going to share a new in class activity I did this semester in my COMM 322 Social Media class [see all posts about the class | see past class syllabi] to help students further explore paid social media.

One thing I struggle with in my social media class is finding a way to bring this into the class in a manner that helps students gain hands-on experience. In the past, I did an assignment where students identified a target audience and mocked up a Facebook ad in the Facebook Creative Hub. The purpose of the ad was to promote themselves in some way.

This year, I took a slight turn with the assignment. I backed away from the creation of the ad and placed more emphasis on what we can learn about Facebook users by exploring audience data and how that might inform ad planning.

Specifically, I wanted my students to understand what they could learn with Facebook Audience Insights data. I thought it would be very insightful to have them peel back the curtain and see what a business can see with Facebook Insights. While it would be best to have access to the Facebook page of an organization, this is not necessary to explore Facebook data.  Instead, any person with a Facebook account can explore user data through the Facebook Creative Hub by accessing the Insights tools.

About Facebook Creative Hub and Audience Insights

If you haven’t played around with the creative hub before, it is a series of tools that help advertisers research and plan ads for Facebook and Instagram. You can create ad mockups to share with others so that they can see what a potential Facebook or Instagram post would look like on the native platform. You can manage ads for clients that you manage. You can create Facebook ads and run campaigns. You can research and learn about Facebook users. You can do several other tasks to track behavior between Facebook, events, websites, and apps.

In my class, I wanted to focus on the tool within the creative hub that lets you do audience research on Facebook users. This part of the tool is called Facebook Audience Insights. You can read more about it here and watch a brief overview of the Facebook Audience Insights tool.  Now, it is a little confusing because Facebook also has an audience insights webpage called Facebook IQ that publishes brief reports based on Facebook data. They have a section about insights into Facebook audiences.

So, think of Audience Insights as the tool you can use to gain insights about Facebook users. Think of Facebook IQ as a resource for reports from Facebook about their user data.

Accessing the Facebook Audience Insights tool is a bit of an in-direct path. The link they promote in several webpages does not work for me and has not been working for the past month. It is: https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience_insights

However, you can get into the Audience Insights tool via logging into the Creative Hub.  Here’s how:

Once you’re in the Audience Insights tool, you can conduct research on people who like your pages (that is, pages that you manage via the Facebook account you are logged in with). Or, you can search data about all Facebook users.

In this video, which I made for my students, I play around with searching for data on Audience Insights. As you can see, you can search by demographic information, interests, affiliations, and the like.

The Class Activity

I wanted my students to try and deconstruct what data might be helpful to an advertiser planning to create a Facebook ad.  The rationale was for students to be thinking about how the Facebook audience data could inform decision-making.  So I had students work in teams and pick an existing Facebook ad from the inspiration gallery that Facebook provides. You can find the gallery here: https://www.facebook.com/ads/creativehub/gallery/.

For example, a team of student could pick the Audi Facebook video ad.

I then told the students to search a little bit about the ad campaign to see if they could find any information about it. For example, through some quick Googling I was able to find that the BMW 4in4 ad campaign was done by the FCB Inferno agency.

I then had the students go into Facebook Audience Insights. There, they researched a bit about the type of people who like the brand for the ad they chose. Now, there are a number of ways one could approach researching to create an ad on Facebook for a brand. But, what I wanted to do was have students try to learn 1) what they can do with Facebook Audience Insights and the kind of knowledge they can glean, and to learn 2) a bit about the type of user that already likes a brand with the rationale being that there may be some interesting insights here that could inform the creation of an ad based on people who are already interested in that brand. You could, of course, do a twist on this. For example, one of our groups was interested in an M&M ad and decided to search ‘chocolate’ as an interest to cast a wider net for the type of person that might like their product.

To search an interest, go to the ‘interests’ parameter on the left and type a topic. In the below image, I’ve searched “Audi,” If you return to the video I created, I show you how conducting this search will filter your results for Facebook users who have an interest in that topic. You can see demographic information, other interests, other pages liked, etc.

I asked students to put together a brief, impromptu presentation for the below questions.

I asked students to provide a breakdown of key takeaways of their audience across demographics, page likes, location and activity. Here, students were sharing screen grabs of their findings with the class.

Then, I asked students:

  • Given what you know, if you were creating a new Facebook Ad targeting this audience (explain briefly for each below):
    • What age range would you target?
    • What gender(s) would you target?
    • Which is the primary country and city you would target?
    • What is a bit of information from the page likes, interests, etc. that might help you in targeting or planning your ad?

In addressing the sections above, I asked students to consider these questions:

  • What would you do with this information?
  • What are the main points we should be aware of?
  • What ideas can we get from this data?

How It Went:

The students expressed interest in this and said it was cool to be able to explore Facebook or Instagram ads and think about who they were trying to target. They said it was also cool that they got to dig into Facebook Audience Insights as none of them had ever dug into this data before. One student, who owns his own small business, was very interested in looking at how he could use the data to help his business grow. He and I talked a bit about ways that he could use this data to do more research about his potential audience as well as ideas for how he can better use Facebook to advertise.

I think an added bonus was that this activity got students thinking about how their own data is used to target them on sites like Facebook. In peeling back the curtain, they could begin to see how the things we do on social media are used to target us.

I was particularly interested in a presentation that one group gave about Häagen-Dazs UK. They found that more women than men tended to like the brand on Facebook. The same was true for other ice cream brands. They noted that the Häagen-Dazs ad targeted women for a Wimbledon campaign. However, when they researched the brand’s other ads, they noticed that romance was a major theme, including a US campaign with Bradley Cooper. How would they use this information? They argued that they would create a campaign aimed at getting men to buy ice cream as a romantic gesture, targeting the men in one set of ads. They would also target the women with a different message to emphasize the brand as a desirable romantic gesture.

Things I’d Like to Expand Upon:

Altogether, I think this was an eye-opening activity and a hands on learning opportunity for the students. I think there is more that I could do with this next year. My students have little to no prior knowledge about paid social media before taking my classes. I feel there is more that I want to be doing in this space.

This activity took the entire class to complete, with 20 minutes that the end of class for each team to get up and deliver their findings.

In the future, I’d like to bring in Facebook IQ into the activity. I’m looking for a way to have students do some research on the reports in the Facebook IQ website. Then, I would like to eventually expand this out so that students are using the knowledge they gained to mock up their own ads. I would also like to get students thinking about searching for the brand itself as an interest, but possibly comparing a brand with its competitor’s audience.

How are you using Facebook Audience Insights in your classes? Or, more broadly, how are you getting your students thinking about paid social?

– Cheers!

Matt

credits:
Top photo is in the public domain. Other image is a screen grab I created.

 

 

 

 

Teaching PPC Ad Writing: The Mimic Search Engine Marketing Simulator Assignment(2 of 2)

This is post 2 in a two-part series about Stukent Mimic Intro. See Post 1 here.

In the first post in this 2-part series, I introduced why I taught PPC advertising in my Writing Across Platforms Class. I discussed the Mimic Intro PPC ad simulator by Stukent.

In this post, I’ll talk about my own results and thoughts when I went through the simulator, how the project went for my students, as well as provide a copy of my assignment. In so doing, I will explain why I chose to grade the assignment the way I did.

My Experience

As I mentioned in the last post, while I am familiar with SEO and using the Keywords Planner tool from Google, at the time that I completed the Mimic Intro simulator I had little experience in search engine marketing and creating my own search ads. My only prior experience was when I participated in the Google Adwords marketing challenge many years ago.

As a reminder, the simulator works in rounds. With Mimic Intro, students can complete up to two rounds. A round simulates data for a timed period, which if I recall was one month. At the end of the simulation – which takes maybe 30 seconds or a minute to run – the students see the results of their efforts.

To start, I gave myself about the amount of time students would have to complete a round of Mimic Intro. I told my students to watch the training video the night before (which is about 17 minutes long). So, subtracting that part of it, I gave myself 1 hour to go through the rest of the onboarding, plan my ads, and submit my ads to the simulator. My class is 1 hour and 15 minutes and I figured we’d need some buffer time at the beginning and end of class.

I watched the training video (the ~17 minutes) and started my timer. I read through the preparatory materials in Mimic Intro very carefully. First, they give you some background information about the past successes of the mock company’s sales and revenue. The mock company sells cameras. The idea is that you are now coming in and taking over advertising for the company and the goal is to do better than the old advertising efforts. So, this benchmark (it was somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 profit) allowed me to know whether or not I was successful with my simulation. In the simulator, this is supposed to be the first month that PPC will be tried and so your simulations represent the first attempts to profit off of this new approach.

You then learn about the products that are for sale, their different price points, and profit margins.

You then start your keyword research. A long list of keywords are made available, and you need to create keyword lists for different products. In the training, you are given tips for determining which keywords are actionable.

Next, you work through the additional steps. This includes determining what landing page you are going to use for each ad campaign and writing the campaign text.

Here is where I executed my strategy based on all I had learned from the training and from reading Chapter 6 of the Digital Marketing Essentials textbook. This is what makes or breaks your campaign. The goal is to determine what keywords people are searching that will drive sales of the 3 cameras you want to sell. Impressions are great, and so are clicks on your ads. But they mean nothing without sales.

Next, you work on your email campaign. I put my energy into the PPC campaign and basically skipped over this. I wasn’t planning to make it a point of emphasis in the class and so I didn’t make it an emphasis when I went through the training.

I reviewed my budget (I had $5000 to spend and spent it all), made sure I was happy with everything I did, and then I nervously submitted my ads to the simulator. It ran and cranked out my results.

Below, you can see my results for the PPC ad campaign. I have to say I was pleased because I wasn’t sure how I would fare. But when I compared the benchmark profit to my profit, I had brought in approximately $30,000 more in profit than the prior month. I’m not sure how these results would stack up to someone more experienced. But as a newbie, I was pleased with my first go round.

Upon completion, you see several stats about how your performance went for the PPC and email campaigns. Below is a screengrab GIF of my simulated results. The colors indicate how each of the 3 cameras performed during my campaign over the simulated month. One can use this information and other information provided to see how each ad campaign worked and what cameras were most profitable. This information can help you make adjustments for a second simulation. (Note: I didn’t complete a 2nd simulation but my students did).

 

Overall, I was pleased with my experience, what I learned, and how the entire simulation experience worked. I know I couldn’t have gotten this experience without having a real $5000 budget and a real client.

The Classroom Experience

In the previous post I explained how I set the assignment up in class. In short, I lectured about PPC on one day. During the next two class periods, students completed the first and second simulations.

But there was a twist. I pitted the students against each other by making high-scoring grades (As) scarce.

This approach was something I saw debated on the Mimic professor’s discussion board. Some professors liked this approach while others felt it was not the best way to give grades. Considering the pros and cons, I decided to set up my grading scheme so that a limited number of students could get an A. The rest would get a B for trying.

Some students loved the idea and others reacted at first with concern or fear. But I explained that this is a reality they would be facing in the business world. Only so many people succeed in business. In fact, most fail. So, getting a B for not selling many cameras was actually pretty generous. I also pointed out to the students that we were doing 2 rounds and that one’s highest score on each round counted as their final grade. That meant that potentially 8 out of 20 students could get a 90% or higher and thus earn an A.  To incentivize those students who did well on the first round, they could earn 5% extra on their grade if they made were one of the top scoring students on both rounds, even if their second score was below their previous score. For example, if a student earned a 95% on the first round, and a 90% on the second round, she would earn a 100% on the project because her highest grade of 95% would have a 5% bonus added to it. Note that no students complained about this grading scheme.

You can see the assignment sheet below.

Once we got going, the students’ competitive nature emerged. During the competition, they were tight-lipped on how they were approaching the task. After each round, they would ask one another how much profit the other made. I didn’t share who did well, because I would be sharing someone’s grade. So they had to rely on the willingness of others to be forthright. From my vantage, it seemed just about every student was happy to share and compare. Students rooted for those who did well, and pried for tips. Students who did well seemed to feel a sense of pride and they didn’t want to give away too much after the first round because they knew they were still in competition for the second round.

Before the second round, I shared my own performance in the simulator and showed some of the things I had done in my keyword research. I told students to focus on relevant keywords that were actionable towards buying intent. I also emphasized making sure that the proper landing page was selected, as some didn’t think much about this in round one. This helped students who were struggling take a new tact.

On the last day after we had completed both rounds, I masked the names of the students who had done well and showed their results. We dissected what worked and what didn’t.

All told, students seemed to enjoy the hands-on nature of the assignment. Their faces lit up and they were engaged, competitive, and clearly in problem-solving mode. The conversations they had were competitive but playful and friendly, and I enjoyed seeing the peer-based-learning taking place.

I like to ask my students what they think of new assignments. The feedback was positive.  Student Mia Holland, told me, “It’s not very common that students are able to participate in a hands-on project that mimics a task you would be given in the real world. I really felt like a communications professional when I was completing the assignment. It was also fun to get the results back and compare with the other students in the class. ”

In closing, this was my first time doing a simulator like this in one of my classes. It was different and I think the students appreciated that. I wanted to introduce them to what search engine marketing was and how it worked and to enhance their knowledge about using keywords in writing. I believe this assignment achieved those objectives.

-Cheers!

Matt

Teaching PPC Ad Writing: Using the Mimic Search Engine Marketing Simulator in my Writing Class (1 of 2)

This is post 1 in a two-part series about Stukent Mimic Intro. You can see post 2 here.

Last spring I decided to try something new with my Writing Across Platforms class. These past few semesters we have witnessed the rising importance of paid as part of the PESO model when it comes to PR.  With that, I’ve been seeking ways to bring paid into my classes. It is hard to do this, of course, without a class client and a budget. And sometimes that isn’t reasonable given the structure of a class.

A few years ago I did a project in my social media class where students learned to create an ad on Facebook. But the assignment wasn’t all that great and I wasn’t super happy with it. I did require students to complete parts of the Facebook Blueprint training so that they had knowledge of how Facebook ads worked. And that part I was pleased with. (As a sidebar, I’ll write a blog post later about how I tuned up this assignment and tried something new).

Unsatisfied, I looked for something more. That’s when I heard about Stukent.

The logo is property of Stukent.

Stukent offers a mix of simulators for classroom projects and digital course textbooks. At the time I learned about them, they had the social media simulator (which many friends on the Social Media Professors community group have chatted about) as well as two search engine marketing simulators: Mimic intro – which is a basic overview – and Mimic pro – a more robust product.

I got interested in Mimic intro because it teaches students the basics of PPC/search engine marketing. A few clear benefits presented themselves. While PPC ads may not be a major part of the PR space, here are some benefits I saw:

  1. A strong understanding of SEO is needed in PR. If students can learn some SEO basics from this simulator, I felt it would greatly bolster what I was doing in the class in terms of keywords research.
  2. It isn’t that different than creating ads on social media. You have to understand how ad bidding systems work. You have to consider your content, audience, product and budget. (See the note at the bottom of this post about the Stukent social media simulator).
  3. It could help students understand how keywords are used in writing.
  4. It could help students learn to write concisely.
  5. It could help students analyze data from their simulations to make adjustments to their content.
  6. An understanding of what SEM is and how it works could only benefit students.

With that in mind, I signed my class up for the Mimic Intro because it is a short simulator that I determined I could do in 2 weeks during my class. Because my class is aimed at teaching students to write in a variety of fashions, I felt this was the best fit. After all, in addition to this assignment, in this class students learn to write news releases, to write to optimize their news releases for the web, to create micro-targeted content through the BuzzFeed assignment, and to write a more traditional white paper. So, as you can see, it is a busy semester.

How the Simulator Works

In short, each student is tasked with creating search engine ads for a an online camera retailer. The goal is to sell a few different products at different price points, and which have different profit margins. The students are given a budget of a few thousand dollars and are told to spend it all.

Before students start, the simulator provides a video-based education about how to effectively plan, write and execute their campaigns. Students are given hypothetical past data to work off of, and text explanations accompany the overview which I found very helpful in getting clarity on terms. Students then work through some additional need-to-know info to succeed at their projects before starting. Altogether, I was happy with this set up because, as someone knew to PPC myself, I felt prepared upon entering the simulator.

The campaign works in rounds. With Mimic Intro, students can complete up to two rounds. A round simulates data for a timed period, which if I recall was one month. At the end of the simulation – which takes maybe 30 seconds or a minute to run – the students see the results of their efforts.

So, for each round, students write their ads in a set up that is very similar to Google Adwords ads. A student creates an ad group. In that group, the student writes the ad headline and body text, picks the link they want to use from a list of options, writes the display text for the ad, etc. When the student is ready, they run the simulator as I described above.

In Mimic Intro, you also create emails for email marketing. However, there weren’t a ton of instructions here so I didn’t place much emphasis on it. Maybe I should next time.

The professor can see how each student performed in comparison to one-another. This enables you to provide feedback on ways the student can improve.  You could also use this information in grading or choose to grade each student individually.

How I set it Up

Before assigning anything like this, I always do the project myself. I wanted to really know how PPC works and because it was something knew to me, I really invested the time to do the best I could. I will talk more about that on the follow up post to this post in 2 weeks.

For now, let’s look at how I worked the assignment in my class.

  1. Earlier in the semester: I introduced the concepts of search engine optimization and had students do some basic keyword research using Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner.
  2. Day 1: I assigned students to read Chapter 6 of the Digital Marketing Essentials textbook for an introduction to key concepts. The book is part of the Stukent offerings and the chapter was an add-on product that the students got when they paid for their Stukent subscription. An instructor in the Stukent community shared her slides on how she introduced the topic of PPC ads and keyword research. [Note: Stukent has a community where professors using their products can share content and discuss best practices]. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who it was and cannot find where I found her post. I apologize for not being able to provide due credit. These slides were super helpful time saver and I used them as the foundation to create my own lecture slides. The lecture explains 1) What PPC is and how bidding works for it, 2) What the goal is – to sell specific cameras – 3) how to set up their ad campaigns in the software, 4) some basics of the math related to cost per click, cost per acquisitions and conversions, and 5) some tips for success.
  3. Day 2: Day 2 was the first round of the Mimic intro software. We have computers in our classroom. I made sure students understood how to proceed with the software and set them loose to work on their campaigns. They had to run the simulator by the end of the class and see their results.
  4. Day 3: Day 3 was an opportunity for students to see how they did and find ways to do a better job on their second and final round creating PPC ads. The second round is the same as the first. But the focus is on improvement and learning. Stukent doesn’t provide specifics to the students as to why they did/did not perform well. So, at the start of class I explained some findings and some things to consider. Students applied what they learned and were given the rest of class to complete round 2 of the simulation.
  5. Day 4: On the last day, we spoke a bit about how the entire project went, what students thought, and what they learned. We then moved onto another topic.

In the next post, I will talk about how the project went and my own results and thoughts when I went through the simulator. I will also provide a copy of my assignment and explain how I graded it and why that stressed some students out but ultimately created an engaged learning experience.

As a note: I have since learned that the Stukent social media simulator is about social media advertising. I had misunderstood, thinking it was more about learning to create and schedule organic content. Therefore, I could see this simulator working in this project as well, depending on how much time you have in your class.

On a further note, I wrote in a previous post this semester that I was frustrated that Stukent was no longer opening Mimic Intro software to courses that were smaller than 80 students and courses that were not “Principles of/Intro to Marketing courses.” I have since spoken with Stukent and they were very understanding of my concern that this would limit access such that communication students couldn’t benefit from it. They have allowed me to use the Mimic Intro software again this spring in my writing class and I am very glad about it. If you are outside of marketing and want to use Mimic Intro in your class, contact support@stukent.com to apply for access.

Post #2 in this series on Mimic Intro is now available!

-Cheers!

Matt

 

 

 

 

Changing the Conversation! Reflections on my National Millennial Community trip to NYC

Last week I had a truly life-changing experience. I went on my second National Millennial Community (NMC) trip as the advisor to our university’s chapter. The trip was to Manhattan where we met with major brands, non-profits and agencies including: McCann World Group, NBC Universal, BuzzFeed, Condé Nast, Barnes & Noble, the Ad Council, Pfizer, Droga5, Wells Fargo, Nielsen, among others.

The BuzzFeed offices in Manhattan
The lobby of One World Trade Center at the Condé Nast entrance

What is the National Millennial Community?

The mission of the NMC is to change the conversation surrounding the Millennial generation. Currently, the organization is represented by students and alum from 40 campuses across the U.S.

As you probably know, the Millennial generation (and Gen Z behind them) have been maligned as lazy, selfish, and disruptive. They ruin industries and don’t buy homes or cars.

So how do we change that conversation? By meeting with executives and authentically sharing the Millennial perspective.

As a think tank, the NMC members engage in many fascinating conversations about the state of the media industry, including offering insight into the views, trends and habits important to young adults today.

NMC members learn a ton on these trips. Organizations offer an ‘under the hood’ at projects they are working on and often seek our members’ feedback on how the organizations can better connect with the Millennial and Gen Z generations. In this spirit of sharing, both our members and the organizations we meet with walk away having benefited greatly.

On this trip, we also participated in the GenWorks 2 conference with Wells Fargo, Nielsen and the IW Group. The purpose of GenWorks is to rethink how generations work. I had the opportunity to co-lead the discussion around stages in life and media consumption with a very sharp leader and student from UNC Greensboro, Gene Mance. I have no doubt that Gene is poised to do big things!

Co-leading the discussion on Stages in Life and Media Consumption at GenWorks2

Below, I’m going to share my key takeaways from the many conversations we were apart of over a busy 3-day schedule all over Manhattan from Wall Street to midtown.

While I can’t go into any specifics (I signed several NDAs), let’s look at a few themes that emerged across the conversations as a whole.

Here are my 5 takeaways from this NMC trip to NYC:

  1. Stories Are Tops – When it comes to what type of content works best, a common point of conversation was the power that stories have in resonated with Millennials. Millennials like them and companies find they work best.
  2. Empathy: There is no Substitute – We heard a lot about the importance of understanding the audience and the common human experience that binds us together as humans. If you want to succeed working in communication, you need to have emotional intelligence. While Millennial media habits create challenges and opportunities, what hasn’t changed is that great communicators see the world through the eyes of their audience.
  3. Simplicity is Power – You may have heard this famous quote by Pascal: “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter.” Another theme I took away from our meetings was that the successful companies thrive when they take complex ideas and make them simple. Simple language is a key part of this. But that’s not the only thing. A complex idea can be confusing and when too much nuance is presented, learning gets lost. Take a complex product, service or problem. Take the core of human emotions and needs. Put them in a pot. Boil them down and you’ve got your message.
  4. Enthusiasm Wins – Certain types of content do well at certain times. This is a content cycle. That means that the type of content that’s popular now might not be popular in a year. One executive we met with stated that while irony and cynicism were popular a few years ago, “we’re in a content cycle where people want enthusiasm.”
  5. These students are going places! – Now this takeaway is a bit different than the list above. But I’ve got to make a sidebar. The students that were on this trip came from universities across the country, including Alaska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Wyoming, New York, Florida, California, and more. I am impressed with how professional, sharp, kind, and ambitious they all are. I am proud to be an advisor to the Shepherd University chapter of the NMC. I can see both the impact the organizations we meet with on these trips have on these students but also the impact these students are having on these organizations. These students are poised to offer diverse, unique, and exciting perspectives that will continue to change the field of communication in the years ahead. What does the next 5 years hold for PR, advertising, and related fields? If these students are any sign, the future is bright. There certainly is no shortage of young talent.

– Cheers!
Matt

What’s Changing? Hubspot Social Media Certification, Persuasion Class and More!

Fall 2018 is underway and I can’t believe it is already September! To keep the trend up, I’m starting the semester off by sharing some of the things that are changing this semester in my classes. As I look at former “What’s Changing” blog posts from past semesters, I’m surprised to see that I’m not changing a whole lot this year.  Still, some fun things are in the works:

Comm 321: Public Relations Principles

This is the first course students in the Strategic Communication concentration take.

  • Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of our seniors when they leave the program has led me to try and improve 2 areas in this class. Specifically, these past few semesters I have been working to 1) improve student skills for generating creative ideas to address real-world communication problems, and 2) improve student skills in articulating and building interest in those ideas (i.e., pitching and presenting ideas in a succinct and powerful way). Thus, I am walking back on “content-packing” my classes a bit and increasing more in-class exercises and guided brainstorming activities. In the past, I have let brainstorming be a bit of a ‘free for all.’ But I picked up a few brainstorming games while visiting a few agencies during an NMC trip last February. I plan to implement them in both my principles class and my campaigns class.

Comm 322: Social Media

  • The big change this year is that I’ve switched over from the Hootsuite certification to the Hubspot Social Media certification.  I considered assigning both, but because I have also added some of the Facebook Blueprint educational materials and a new assignment to the class, I felt that it would be too much to ask the students to do both Hootsuite and Hubspot. After all, the class is stuffed already with projects. So, this year I’m going to see how the Hubspot cert goes and make a decision of which I prefer. It seems the Hubspot cert is more strategy whereas the student-version of the Hootsuite cert has been narrowed in recent years from its original broad scope to just the Hootsuite software. I got excited about the new Hubspot cert after hearing that two folks that I’ve always admired, Karen Freberg and Ai Zhang, both helped with it.
  • The other big change is the addition of a Facebook IQ case study assignment. With paid now well-established as a central component of digital communication strategy, I have been looking for ways to increase students’ education in paid (see my comment about Stukent below).  Coupled with that, I’m always looking for ways to help students gain further exposure to analytics and data.  As Facebook IQ offers a treasure trove of interesting data, I thought I’d create an assignment around that.  I’ll be sure to do a blog post about that sometime son.

Special Topics: Persuasion and Message Design

A big change this year is that I’m teaching my Persuasion and Message Design class for the second time ever. I first taught this class in Fall 2016 as a special topics class. I am teaching it again as a special topics class. I’m really excited to be teaching it again, because students told me 2 years ago that the course really helped them with the campaigns class and their capstone projects.

While this class is not directly about social media or technology in general, it is a relevant class for communication educators broadly and PR, advertising, and marketing professors specifically.

The course description is: “Persuasion plays a central role in both our personal and professional lives. This class explores an array of theories, approaches, and research findings about how and why persuasion works. The course emphasizes the ethical application of persuasive messaging and strategies, with an emphasis on how persuasive strategies can be used to design communication messages and applied in communication campaigns. The course also seeks to prepare the student to deconstruct persuasive messages and become a more critically-minded receiver of the persuasive tactics one encounters every day. ”

I wrote about this class in a past blog post where I explained my rationale for creating this course at Shepherd. But I haven’t yet shared the syllabus. So I thought I would in this post in case it is of interest to anyone.

Other Notes: Frustrations with Stukent

While I am not teaching the Writing Across Platforms class this semester, I was disappointed to see that Stukent has now limited access to their Mimic Intro SEM simulator (which serves as an intro to SEM) to large classes of 80 or more students and to classes that are “Principles of/Intro to Marketing courses.” This is according to an email I received on August 17.

Therefore, I will be looking for something else to do in that class next semester. If you’ve got ideas, I’m all ears. Tweet me!

While Stukent offers other products (I know many of us in the Social Media Educator’s Facebook group have discussed using their software in our PR and social media classes. Granted, much of that discussion has been around their social media simulator), I feel that this decision by Stukent is limiting and fails to consider smaller programs and programs outside of marketing. Because I put a great deal of time and effort into planning to incorporate the Mimic Intro software into my class last semester, I am frustrated to find that I won’t be able to use it again this upcoming spring. Had I known that Stukent was going to make this change, I would not have spent all that time planning to incorporate Mimic Intro into my class.  I would have found something else. I do think that, as educators, we need to be aware that anytime we are using an outside product, we must understand that there is no guarantee of longevity.  As such, I must balance my feelings of frustration with this understanding.

I had been planning to write up a blog post about how things went with the Stukent assignment I created in my writing class last semester. In fact, students seemed very happy to be learning about paid search. I am debating whether to bother writing this up or not as it appears it would be of little use to readers of this blog.

That aside, I’m excited for the year ahead. I have a few ambitions of up my sleeve that I’m hoping I can find some time to work on this semester.

Have a great semester!

-Cheers!

Matt

Reviews of Two Resources Often Discussed on this Blog Published in JPRE: Social Media Campaigns Text and Meltwater Software

The semester is right around the corner! Classes start for us next week.

I had an amazing and very busy summer with travel to 3 continents: Europe, Australia and South America. In addition, it was so great to see many great friends and people whom I truly admire at AEJMC in Washington , D.C. I cannot truly express the depth of the admiration I have for all of the people who’ve worked so hard to advance the field and who’ve truly made AEJMC PRD such an amazing  educational opportunity. I left AEJMC inspired. I just wish I had more time to chat with everyone.

I recently had the opportunity to write and have published 2 reviews for the Journal of Public Relations Education.  Each review explored resources that I have discussed on this blog. So I thought I would share my reviews in case they are able to help readers get more information about either resource.

Book Review

The first review was of Dr. Carolyn Mae Kim’s social media text: Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing.

You can read the review below or see the review on the JPRE website.

Here is a separate review I wrote of Kim’s book for this blog.

Software Review

The second review I wrote was of the Meltwater Social Intelligence Software.

You can read the review below or see the review on the JPRE website.

If you’d like to see more about what I’ve written about Meltwater on this blog, here are 2 posts I recommend. First, here’s how I used Meltwater last fall in my social media class. Second, this post discusses an assignment that uses Meltwater to pull down data.

I want to thank the editors and staff of the Journal of Public Relations Education for the opportunity to write these reviews and for all of the hard work that went into editing and publishing them. It is an honor for me to have these two reviews published in the journal.

I hope everyone’s semester is off to a great start. I hope you are feeling energized for the academic year ahead. This past summer, I took a bit of a (much-needed) break. I’m energized to be back and look forward to learning from everyone this year!

– Cheers!

Matt

 

 

Watch my Internet Day 2018 keynote at the University of Aveiro Portugal

Recently, I had the tremendous honor of being invited to serve as the keynote speaker for the Internet Day 2018 celebration put on by the DigiMedia lab and the Department of Communication and Art at the University Aveiro in Portugal.

My keynote, titled “The Cost of Clicks and Shares: Questions on the Civic and Political Potential of the The Internet in the Attention Economy,” looked at trends in social media, politics and civics today. It drew, in part, on my co-authored research with Dr. Masahiro Yamamoto and Dr. Francis Dalisay on social media.

Highlights from the event can be seen in the video below.

Knowing that I would be speaking with researchers and graduate students who are working to design and create Internet-based solutions for today’s problems, I wanted to focus on the wider, often unintended ramifications on society that come from the decisions Internet architects make.

You can see the full speech, broken in to two slightly overlapping parts on Periscope:

The event was sponsored by the American Corners program through the American Embassy in Portugal.  Through this trip, I also got the opportunity to speak at the University NOVA Lisbon in the FCT library.

Poster promoting my talk at the University of Lisbon

I have to say that Professor Nelson Zagalo and all of the faculty and administrators at the University of Aveiro and the University of Lisbon NOVA were tremendously inviting and gracious hosts. I feel that I felt the experience having learned more than I gave. I was truly inspired by the work I saw in the DigiMedia lab from the faculty and the graduate students.

I had the opportunity to take a tour of the kinds of projects that the DigiMedia lab team was working on. The manner with which they intersected scholarly research with applied solutions to real-world problems was inspirational and motivating. Just seeing how dedicated and energized everyone was to work with government and corporate partners really left me thinking about ways that I can better use my position as an academic to seek out technological solutions to the problems we face.

The FAB Lab at the University of Lisbon NOVA and the awesome 3D printing that they were doing was incredibly cool to see.

In summary, it was an eye-opening experience to get the chance to interact with passionate, brilliant scholars across the ocean. The opportunity to discuss ideas helped me see new connections between my own teaching, research and global issues.

This was my first trip to Portugal. It is a beautiful country with wonderfully kind people, amazing history, and an awe-inspiring culture.

I want to express my sincere and humble thanks to everyone who made this opportunity possible.

I hope everyone is having a rejuvenating summer.

-Cheers

Matt

From Sydney Australia: Reflections on ICBO 2018 and my event app planning experience

The spring semester has come to a close!

I have recently returned to Shepherdstown from a 1.5 week trip to Sydney Australia. There, I had the amazing opportunity to execute the ICBO One app event experience for attendees to the International Congress of Behavioural Optometry event at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center.

The famous opera house in the Sydney Harbour near Circular Quay

The event app was a huge success, with 90% of attendees actively engaged on the app. So, our time promoting the 2018 ICBO event has come to a close. Over two years of work went into creating the ICBO One app. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to travel all over the globe to help promote the event and to provide the app to ICBO partner events in the U.S., Montreal and Toronto, Canada, Toledo, Spain, Vienna, Austria, and Sydney, Australia. I also got to travel to Budapest to help pitch the app and make it a reality as well as to Dubai to help promote the ICBO 2018 event.

The Sydney Harbour bridge. The opera house is in the background. Photo taken from ferry.

It has been a truly eye-opening, learning experience from event planning to digital communication strategy, to designing and executing a successful digital event experience, to working with sponsors, speakers, and event attendees from different cultures and countries. The professional development experience was truly one of a kind.  But, more than anything, I loved the opportunity to meet generous, kind, and motivated optometrists and vision therapists from around the world. As someone who is, of course, not in optometry myself, I learned so much about how much passion behavioral optometrists have for their field. I think it is fair to say I made many friends these last few years.

The walkway to Manly beach. Photos taken right before Anzac Day, thus the flags and signs. Pacific ocean in the background.

The ICBO One event app came out of my professional development experience at the ICBO 2014 event in Birmingham, UK. There, I created and executed the precursor, the ICBO Social event app.

The ICBO event apps are built on the Double Dutch event app platform.

Below are the main stats from the event. An additional 299 questions or comments were posted in the chatroom, which are not reflected in the data below.

An interesting trend, is that comments and updates were down slightly from four years ago, even when we consider the additional 299 chatroom posts. Part of this is likely due to the fact that attendance was down slightly (it is hard to travel to Australia) and we only created 1 account per exhibitor booth, rather than 1 account per booth attendee.  But, what’s interesting is the huge spike in likes. We can see that more than twice as many likes occurred this year than in 2014 (There were 13,812 likes in 2018 and 5,753 likes in 2014). I think this shows a larger trend in social media. Content overload has driven people towards greater likes and fewer posts.

With ICBO over and the 2017-18 academic year behind me, it is time to start planning for summer. Here are a few things I have planned:

  1. I am traveling to Portugal the week of May 14th to speak at 2 universities there. One of my talks will be at the Internet Day Celebration at the Universidade de Aveiro and the other at the Universidade Nova Lisboa. I am beyond honored and thrilled about this opportunity.
  2. Teaching an online summer class for the first time.
  3. Attending AEJMC in DC in August (and hopefully presenting a paper we submitted).
  4. Working on a few research studies, of course.
  5. Reading and writing.
  6. Working to stay current in social media trends and teaching
  7. Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.
  8. Spending time with family.

With all of that said, I will be blogging very infrequently over the summer. As always, you can find past blog posts, assignments, and syllabi via the blogroll or the navigation menu in the upper right of this blog.

Have a wonderful, rejuvenating, and safe summer.

See you in the fall!

Missed the Social Network Analysis Basics Webinar? Here’s How You Can Watch It

Last Friday, April 13, I had a wonderful opportunity to participate with Kathleen Stansberry on a webinar about social network analysis basics.  The focus of the call was to introduce strategic communication and social media professors to social network analysis.

The idea for the call came out of a thread on my favorite resource for social media education: the  Facebook group  Social Media Professors Community Group.  (If you’re not a member, I strongly suggest joining! The people are generous, curious, and extremely supportive).  A member asked if anyone had insights on reading NodeXL network maps and the video conference call sprang from that.

Dr. Stansberry has some really impressive experience with social network analysis. As someone who considers himself a fan with much to learn, it was an honor to be invited to be on the call as a co-presenter with her.

I shared my knowledge of social network analysis basics and provided an assignment I teach in my Comm 435 Communication Research class. In that class, students use Netlytic.org, which is an accessible online social network analysis tool (See my blog post about the Netlytic assignment).

I learned a ton from Dr. Stansberry and was inspired to dig deeper into social network analysis so that I can bring my knowledge up and do more with this fascinating method!

If you missed the live webinar, you can watch a rebroadcast of it anytime in full [you may need to download a plugin].

Below, you can find the handout and assignment that I shared during the call and the slides I shared on the handout.

Thank you again to Dr. Stansberry for inviting me to participate! And a big thank you to Karen Freberg and the Social Media Professors group for hosting this call!

– Cheers!
Matt

Reflection on my first National Millennial Community Trip

Students and I in Lockheed Martin

Over spring break, I had an amazing opportunity to travel with 2 outstanding Shepherd University strategic communication students, Ellen Buchanan and Sarah Burke, to Philadelphia and Washington DC.  We participated in the National Millennial Community (NMC) trip, and met with executives from major brands such as Comcast NBCUniversal, Lockheed Martin, Nestlé, and WeWork, top agencies such as Tierney, Vault Communication, Burson-Marsteller, and government entities, including the White House, the RNC and the Office of Personnel Management.

The trip was an incredible learning experience for me. It was an intensive professional development experience. The opportunity to be exposed to the work these organizations and corporations are doing in the communication space helped in several key respects. Below, I will share some key reflections and takeaways from this amazing experience.

Group in Comcast NBCUniversal main lobby in Philly

This trip offered myself and our students a voice in helping bring positive change to the conversation around the millennial generation. We provided feedback on ways these organizations can better harness the talents of young people and helped to counter existing stereotypes. An executive in corporate communication at one organization said to me that she was very impressed by the millennial generation and their level of engagement and caring.

We learned by seeing the research and development phases of communication campaigns. These are skills that we teach our students. For example, in my research class, students learn to conduct interviews and focus groups. In my campaigns class, students conduct interviews and focus groups to test the messaging they are developing. It was insightful to see how different companies approached this process. We were able to participate in focus groups and brainstorming sessions with several of the companies that we met with.  We offered insights into the news and information consumption habits of millennials to help organizations better adapt to changing consumer habits and demographics. It was clear to me that the companies truly valued our feedback and planned to take it into consideration. To have that kind of input helped my students see how what they are learning is used in the corporate world and the impact these techniques can have.

Group at Burson_Marsteller

We were able to see how several of the organizations we met with were striving to address key social issues that we discuss in my classes. Having this exposure takes an abstract classroom concept and makes it real. I am able to walk back into the classroom and demonstrate how these issues are being tackled outside of the university setting. For example, two of the organizations we met with discussed the importance of bridging the digital divide and getting high-speed Internet access to low income and rural areas. One organization approached this issue from a corporate social responsibility standpoint and another approached it from an advocacy standpoint.

Also, my students were exposed to key life lessons in leadership and professionalism that one simply cannot get in the classroom. The students and I had several discussions about the leadership styles we observed from senior executives at various companies. Students received input from employees at various companies on tips for interviewing, finding a company that is a good fit, and professional development. In another case, we received advice from an entrepreneur we met at WeWork on ambition, seeking opportunity, and lifelong learning. In fact, he encouraged us to read two books that I am already using in my classes. (#ProfessorWin!)

Group on WeWork rooftop downtown Philly

Additionally, I can’t say enough about how impressed I was by all of the students I met from over 2 dozen universities from Alaska to Wyoming to Massachusetts. Each student was dedicated, passionate about the mission of the NMC, professional, and engaged. Everyone was welcoming and sincere and the entire trip was filled with an energy unlike anything I have experienced. I left the trip with an enormous respect for every student I met and for the hardworking people who made the trip possible.

I want to thank all of the companies, agencies and government organizations that took time out of their busy schedules to host us. I also want to thank the Shepherd University President’s Club for generously providing funding for this trip. And of course, I want to thank Eljay, Edith and Bill Imada for all their hard work in making the NMC and this trip a possibility.

I am very much looking forward to the next opportunity to participate in one of the NMC trips.

Oh, and #lifegoal accomplished! We got to go see the Rocky statue in Philly! Anyone who has taken a class from me knows what a big Rocky fan I am!

having fun at the Rocky statue in Philly

About the National Millennial Community

Founded in January 2016, the mission of the National Millennial Community is to change the conversation about millennials. The organization has 37 member colleges in 37 states plus the District of Columbia. The organization has taken 18 trips to visit with corporate, foundation, and nonprofit executives.

A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.