Working with Charles Town Now: Shepherd Students Aim to Help #StartCT

I can’t believe its mid October and … even scarier, it is midway through the semester! Its been fun but it is moving fast!

One thing that has made this semester so fun and rewarding is our brand new COMM 470 Strategic Campaigns class in the Department of Communication at Shepherd University that I had the opportunity of adding to our curriculum.

This class works with a real world client to teach students how to build a strategic campaign. Hands on learning and real world experiences are some of the most valuable opportunities we can provide our students, particularly those that are upper division. When looking for class project clients, I always look for local prosocial organizations filled with passionate people who are truly dedicated to improving their community. That sort of passion and excitement is infectious to me and the students. And the people behind our client this year are most certainly that! We have an amazing client this semester.

We’re working with Discover Downtown Charles Town (DDCT) and its social media outreach Charles Town Now. DDCT is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit aimed at promoting the revitalization of the small town of Charles Town, West Virginia.

You may have heard of Van Applegate and Charles Town Now from the widely popular “This Guy Promotes an Entire Town Online” article in Small Business Trends, or seen Van on ABC 7. Charles Town Now has a great Facebook and Twitter account and hashtag campaign #StartCT.

Our class has been so impressed by what they have achieved and the passion and dedication people like Van Applegate and Patrick Blood have accomplished for Charles Town already.

Our class has 3 goals for the campaigns they are developing (students work in teams, each team creating their own campaign; we have 2 teams):

  1. Help articulate the Charles Town Now brand and what its mission is
  2. Raise awareness of Charles Town Now and its mission among local businesses and community stakeholders such as the town council.
  3. Get local businesses to buy into Charles Town Now’s efforts to assist downtown Charles Town businesses to expand and grow.

Since our concentration here in the department emphasizes social media, we hope to help Charles Town Now grow and enhance their online efforts. But that doesn’t necessarily mean social media alone – we are seeking not to simply recreate what they’ve already done well but to create communication across digital and “analog” :) that will leverage what they are doing.

The benefit of working with groups like this, is that the project becomes more than simply an exercise for students to learn how to put a campaign together. The work they do is work the client is seeking help with and, as I tell my students, if they do great work there is a high likelihood the client will use their work. That means, the students have a real opportunity to help grow and shape the economy here in West Virginia.

I’ve spent countless hours myself thinking of ways to get involved and improve Charles Town, and have increased the time I spend in Charles Town supporting local businesses (I live in a neighboring town).

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback and thanks for sharing my other syllabi. So I will be sure to share my Campaigns syllabus here soon and hope to keep you all apprised of our class project as we go along this semester.

What tips do you have for choosing and working with clients?

Cheers!

-Matt

Sharing My Social Media Class Fall 2014 Syllabus

Last week I posted our semester long project in Comm 322 Social Media class. Below is my Social Media class syllabi for Fall 2014.

A few quick highlights:

  • New Semester-long Project – Each semester I’ve done something different in terms of a project that spans the entire semester with multiple assignments tied to it. Last year I did niche blogs. This year I’m doing the department social media - please read this post to learn about that project in detail.
  • New books this semester – I’m sticking with a favorite, “Likeable Social Media.” I really enjoy that book and think it explains things in a well organized, simple to understand format. And even though it focuses on Facebook, the lessons span the social media sphere. I’ve dropped the others from last year. And I’ve added “Your Brand: The Next Media Company.” I had a few others in mind, but thought I’d give this a go.
  • A guest speaker in my own class – This seems strange. Let me explain. :) You’ll see on the syllabus that I have myself listed as a guest speaker. Because I’m doing the ICBO Social campaign for the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, I thought this was an amazing opportunity to come in not as the professor but as a guest speaker and present to my students the plan I put together and discuss its execution, and challenges we faced. I also plan to have an external guest speaker too. Have any recommendations? Tweet them my way!

One cool “professor nerd” thing I’d like to point out. You’ll notice icons in the schedule. This is something I’ve started using in recent semester in various classes to highlight important things on the schedule to students. So days where students are presenting will jump out at them, as indicated by the presentation icon. :) I’ve found this to be really helpful!

You can see previous social media syllabi via the menu on the left. Mouse over “syllabi.” If you’d like to see how I changed my social media class last year and what I had planned for Fall 2013, see this post: “What’s Changing? Plans for My Fall 2013 class“.

-Cheers!

Matt

Social Media Class Fall 2014: Class Project Overview

At the start of each semester I try to share relevant syllabi for classes I’m teaching that semester (hint: see all my syllabi in the menu on the left). Here are my plans for my social media class this semester. I’d like to discuss the major project that students will work on this semester, that has a series of assignments tied to it. Then, I will post the syllabi in an upcoming post.

I’ve taught this class differently each time I’ve taught it. And this is my 4th time teaching this class. Maybe my 5th. I always find myself wanting to try something new.

Recently, I’ve had projects that span the entire semester. Last year students were responsible for writing niche blogs across the course of the semester. (here’s the syllabus from last year) They were responsible for planning the blogs and then promoting them, as well as writing them of course – here’s my review on that project at the  end of the semester. This year I’m doing something different and unique – and a bit risky. And I’m interested to see how it goes. My students will be responsible for planning and creating content for our department’s social media.

Here’s my thinking for this. I want my students to get hands on experience planning a social media campaign. And I want them to get experience executing it and dealing with the results of the campaign – having opportunities to see how their content goes over with an audience (what works, what doesn’t, why?), interacting with the audience, and seeing the results of their work. I also want them to be able to have experience directly influencing engagement and measuring it.

I could partner with an organization to do this. But I’m not. Students do this in our Strategic Campaigns class, where they are working this year with an awesome client (I’ll talk about that in a future post). Those students will put together a plan for that organization. When working for someone else, there are a number of limitations. And the campaigns class focuses more heavily on how to put together the campaign plan from scratch. The students will present their plan and hopefully the client will like it and go on to use it. But students in my social media class are in a preparatory stage for the campaigns class. I want them to go into that class already with some experience.

Running the social media for our class enables me to create a laboratory of sorts where we can experiment and I can have close oversight of what we’re doing. Since I have access to all the accounts, I will have editorial control over what we publish. And because there is no client involved, managing this process and channels of communication will be much more simplified.

This also ties into our goals as a department. Our department here at Shepherd University is small. And we don’t have a lot in terms of a social media presence at the moment. We decided as a department that we ought to change this and discussed a number of ways to get students involved in the process like capstone projects, a club, etc. We recognize the importance of social media in connecting with alumni, attracting new students, and keeping our current students engaged and excited for what we offer. And so I decided, what better opportunity to help my students learn by doing than to empower them to help us build this social media presence that I can manage.

And I know you are thinking there are a number of risks involved in this, like, what if the students create poor quality content? What if the content isn’t appropriate? I’ve built in a number of incentives and checkpoints (e.g., I’m the gatekeeper of what gets posted, and students and myself decide collectively what the best content is – I’ll try and discuss how that will work in a future post) But, I think we need to encourage our students to take risks and I think as professors we need to take risks. If we don’t push and try new things, then how can we expect to cultivate students who are innovators? If we don’t let them take control and learn by doing, how will they be able to do it when they get out in the work force and suddenly the responsibility of, say, Tweeting for this non profit or that brand (See: the interns take the blame for social media slips)?

I look at my classroom as a laboratory for experimenting and trying new things. Perhaps this model will work excellently or perhaps I’ll find that the classroom isn’t the best place for this and a social media club is a better solution. But I’m so excited to see how it goes and I think students are going to feel empowered and thrilled to be the ones communicating with and building a relationship with their peers! In fact, this is a major benefit – students understand and relate to their peers better than I can. They, in theory at least, should be able to come up with content that more closely matches what will be attractive to their peers.

So in quick summary, here’s how it will work: A former student put together a strategic plan for our department’s social media for his capstone project. Students will take the foundation of and build off of his plan – SWOT, goals, objectives, messages, social media channel purpose statement, etc – and do their own planning, such as original audience research, build strategies and tactics, etc.

Each team will be in charge of a different social channel – e.g., Instagram, Twitter. They’ll work over a series of weeks to build content that they’ll present to the class. We’ll decide as a class what content will be posted – only the best, and only content that is consistent with our plan. They must demonstrate how the content they are proposing is consistent with our class plan. We’ll then schedule the content out. And they’ll begin creating more content, that they’ll present, we’ll vote on. The cycle continues.

I hope this provides students a focused, strategic, and hands on learning opportunity where the results are tangible and something they can take pride in.

I’ve spent a lot of time planning this out, and all the accompanying in class activities and assignments. I will write more about these activities and assignments this semester and expand on how this is all planned to work. Right now, students are in the planning stages and I am trying to teach them about the stages of audience research and planning content that meets objectives, is consistent with our messages, fits consistently platforms, and meets our project theme – that the Communication Department at Shepherd University is “the best kept secret on campus.”

What do think? Is this a good idea for a class project? Why/Why not? What recommendations or thoughts do you have? Would you do something like this in your department? Why/Why not?

 

  • Cheers!
  • Matt

graphic: CC Sean MacEntee

In Review: The Social Conference Experience at ICBO 2014

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I had an absolutely amazing time at ICBO 2014 in Birmingham, England this past week. I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my career serving as the head of the digital media strategy for the conference. Our ICBO Social app was a tremendous success that far exceeded my expectations. The positive feedback was off the charts!

When we decided to go “all in” on an interactive mobile conference app, I knew it was a tool with a great deal of potential. Since it is its own social network centered around the conference, I believed the tool had unique advantages over relying on dispersed platforms like Twitter and Instagram. But, would people use the social features of the app? OR, rely on what they’re used to – i.e., Twitter. There were several hurdles and questions.

The attendees at ICBO ran the gamut in terms of age and technological familiarity. A good number of them are older. Would an older optometrist who doesn’t use social media in his daily life or for his business use this tool? Would people have no interest in the social features – finding them superfluous, or worse, a distraction from agenda and other information? In short, would people “get it”? And I worked very hard to address these and several other issues in building my plan for this event.

To my delight, the conference attendees and nearly all exhibitors (as well as many speakers) enthusiastically adopted the ICBO Social app. Anecdotal feedback suggests the app served as a great icebreaker, enabled attendees to forge new and more robust connections with one another, and truly enhanced engagement with the speaker sessions and speakers themselves by enabling meta conversations and because we used the app to solicit questions that the speakers responded to during Q&A.

We had an amazing group of attendees – and their energy, friendliness, and passion for their profession played a big role in the success.

Here are the final stats for the 5 and 1/2 days (2 days of pre-conference and 3.5 days of conference).

ICBO soical final stats

  • Total Active Users: 237 (Unfortunately, I don’t have the total # of attendees and exhibitors at this time – ballpark of 300-15)
  • Status Updates: 3,082
  • Photos: 2,363
  • Comments: 1,878
  • Check-Ins to exhibitors and sessions: 890
  • Ratings completed: 1,261
  • Total Points accumulated by all participants: 36,365 (points are earned for in app activities)
  • Total # of badges earned: 706

In the weeks ahead, I look forward to finding the time to sit down and reflect on the event, and write up my report. For now, it is back to my “day job” as a professor. I’m back in West Virginia after a long flight yesterday. It is good to be back but I miss all of the wonderful people I met and amazing experiences I had at ICBO 2014. :)

 

Cheers!

Matt

An ICBO Social Update from Birmingham

You may have noticed I haven’t been on Twitter lately. I am here in Birmingham, UK working the social element of the ICBO 2014 conference. It has been super busy and a wonderful experience!

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I thought I’d write a quick post as the conference is getting very busy today with the exhibit hall opening and the second day of the preconference lectures. 

Our ICBO Social mobile conference app (available in the app store – but only availabe to attendees, speakers, and exhibitors) has been a roaring success so far!

The app was released about a week prior to the start of the preconference – the preconference has been going on yesterday and today. And in the days leading up to the preconference, we had already earned some very strong engagement!

The conference hadn’t even started, with only few folks having arrived. and already we had 593 comments, 309 status updates, 245 photos, and1594 likes. 

After our first day, we gained 67 more photos, 97 more comments, 246 more likes. That is great considering most attendees haven’t yet arrived – only a percentage of people attend the preconference.

As people have arrived today and yesterday, they’ve already known others via the app. And this has been a great “icebreaker” and networking lubricant.

Feedback on the app has been tremendous – we’ve received a number of compliments in person as well as through the app including these from the app:

“This ICBO App is truly amazing! We haven’t even arrived in Birmingham and already I feel the love and excitement! This is more addictive than Facebook!”

“I can only congratulate you all, for what you have done and already have achieved. This app is like a pre-pre conference. We have the feeling that everything is already there in Birmingham. Thanks for your ingenious idea you have created a warmth and a big family feeling.” 

That’s all for now! I hope all is going great!

- Cheer!

 

4 Awesome Things That Have Inspired Me For The Semester Ahead

Before I do my annual practice of posting relevant syllabi to this blog, I want to take a minute to reflect on a few highlights from the last academic year and this summer. These are 4 awesome things that have me excited for the year ahead. And here are my thoughts on how I hope to grow, change, or improve.

I wrote a similar type post in December focusing on my teaching goals for Spring 2014. I liked that process, so I thought I’d try it again with a different twist.

1) An Opportunity to Grow A New Program – The fall 2013 semester was the start of the strategic communication in the Department of Communication at Shepherd University. I’m the coordinator for this concentration and put it into the curriculum during the year prior. I’m excited for what we accomplished in the first year. And I feel that in Spring 2014 we started to make traction. But there is still so much more to do. I want to see the concentration grow and expand and be the best it can be. And that is going to take starting to spread the word more about our program! While I’ve put a lot of my effort into building the program, I know the next few years are going to be instrumental in helping it grow and improve.

2) Awesome Social Media Educators – I’ve met some incredible educators virtually that have taught me so much and inspired me to continue to strive and push myself. As I’ve said before, I believe teaching social media is a different animal than other areas. Things are constantly changing. And these great educators are more than up for the task. Karen Freberg from the University of Louisville writes an amazing blog on social media education filled with tons of tips, ideas, etc. She is a true resource in the field and prolific across her blog and social media. I strongly encourage you to follow her. Carolyn Mae Kim from Biola University is another professor doing awesome things in the realm of social media education. She also has a great blog where she discusses education in a social / digital world that I strongly recommend following. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both of these folks on a recent social media education project. And I finally got to meet them in person at AEJMC a few weeks ago. Having the opportunity to interact with and learn from Karen, Carolyn, and several others, makes me excited for the year ahead because I know there is a growing network of folks out there who are going to continue to push the envelope in social media education. And that motivates me to grow and improve my own classes.

3) Contributing to the Social Media Education Discussion via this Blog – This blog has been great. Meeting the educators mentioned above as well as others I’ve communicated with has re-affirmed what I have set out to do with this blog – to contribute to the convo on social media and try and help others seeking to teach in this area. In addition, I’ve sought to be open and share things I’m experimenting with in a changing field, so that others can learn from my mistakes or improve upon my ideas. I believe is important that those of us teaching in this area are out there sharing our thoughts, our work, our activities, our advice, our trials and errors, and our outright mistakes. I’m so thankful for the praise I’ve gotten on this blog. And I find it most rewarding when I see people checking out the syllabi I post and the classroom assignments and activities. But there is a lot more that I wish I was doing with this blog. So here’s the truth:

This blog has a ways to go.  There were a number of blog posts I intended to write last semester and this summer that I never did – such as a full review of AEJMC and my assignment for conducting surveys with iPads! I was just so busy working on so many exciting and cool project. When I started this blog, my hope was to turn it into a resource on social media education. That includes teaching material: syllabi, class assignments, class activities, slides, etc. But it also includes linking you with great resources and leading educators, and news and articles that can help you in the classroom. I hope that this year I can recommit more time to this blog and to getting those posts up, particularly about what we’re doing in the classroom. Here’s how you can help me: Please leave any comments or feedback on the sort things you like and find helpful on this blog so I can do more of them.

4) New Activities, Assignments, and Partnerships The truth is that I love teaching. I’m excited to be back in the classroom. And I can’t help myself from constantly trying new things and seeking to get better. This year, I’ve made a few changes to my classes. I’m excited to see how they go. I am trying new things, taking new risks, and looking for ways to push myself and my students. I’ll be teaching the Campaigns class for the first time in our department. And we’ve got a great client for our class that I’ll be talking about in an upcoming post. I’ll also be sharing my Social Media syllabus for this fall – which will have an entirely new semester long project. So check back as Fall 2014 gets underway!

I hope everyone has an awesome 2014-2015 academic year!

- Cheers!

-Matt

photo CC Lel4nd

 

Why I Love the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program

hootsuitehigheredprogram

Recently I had the opportunity to write a guest blog post on the Hootsuite blog about harnessing the social media mindset our Millennial students bring into the college class today. That post was published yesterday!

Here are two great things I love about Hootsuite and their higher ed program.

1) Dedication to Social Media Education and Professors: Thanks so much to the awesome people at Hootsuite for inviting me to write this post and for all the great support they’ve given social media educators. I know of no other company like Hootsuite that has done so much to support social media education in higher education. And I am very proud to have had the opportunity to write a post for such a great brand. Hootsuite is a leader in helping give students free access to professional social media tools, and has shown a true dedication to supporting social media educators with the Hootsuite University Higher Education program - a free program available to university educators and their students.

They continue to take steps that have demonstrated their dedication, including a free webinar this Thursday (August 21st) with tips from professors teaching social media. They also presented at AEJMC 2014. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend because I had to present elsewhere. But the word is that it was a great presentation to a packed room.

To learn social media, students need hands on experience with the tools they’ll be using in the field. Unfortunately, the high cost of many of these tools makes them inaccessible in many classrooms unless there is substantial funding. And in today’s educational environment, that is hard to come by. I truly wish more companies in the social media space would follow Hootsuite’s lead and provide access, training, and support to social media professors and our students. I’ve attended numerous conference sessions where I’ve heard these sentiments being expressed among new media educators.

2) Benefits of the Hootsuite Program – I began using Hootsuite University in my social media class last fall and loved it. Prior to that, my social media students were using Hootsuite for in class assignments but I wasn’t yet aware of Hootsuite University program.

I’ll be using Hootsuite University again this year because it is truly an essential tool for the social media classroom. I say that because it offers not only access to a paid version of the Hootsuite dashboard – Hootsuite Pro – with advanced features that students can learn from hands on, but also a rich library of educational videos that really help students learn the professional use of social media. As I mentioned in my blog post on Hootsuite’s blog, while students today are digital natives they do greatly benefit from our help when it comes to moving from personal to professional use of social media.

Hootsuite University also includes a number of video case studies professors can use in the classroom.

Here are 3 Great Benefits of the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program, a previous post I wrote about this great resource.

One thing I don’t mention in that post is that Hootsuite also provides material for professors via suggested curriculum:

How I use Hootsuite University:

I like to use the Hootsuite University videos as supplements to class lecture, activities, and assignments. All of my students are required to complete the certification exam, which includes with it a series of courses to be completed before taking the exam. They also must complete a few of the other course that I assign from Hootsuite University program as well as one course of their choosing.  In the classroom, we use Hootsuite dashboard and the things students learn via the educational videos to complete in class activities and assignments. In this way, I bring what they’re learning in HU into the class – these are skills they must learn in HU and apply in class to succeed. I wrote about one such activity in the blog post on Hootsuite’s blog where students search brands using the Hootsuite dashboard.

Last semester I also used a few video case studies in class and plan to use a few more this semester.

If you’re not familiar with Hootsuite, they are the creators of an awesome social media dashboard that I’ve been using for years. The dashboard integrates Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other services and enables you to spread your lists into columns for easy viewing. It also offers some powerful tools like scheduling posts, auto scheduling, and Klout search.

If you have anymore questions about my thoughts or experiences with Hootsuite, drop a comment or contact me via Twitter.

Cheers!

Note: Hootsuite and the Hootsuite logo are copyright Hootsuite Media.