Summer 2017 Recommendations

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This post is a quick reminder that, as always, during the summer months I will be toning back my frequency of posting on this blog. But don’t you worry! I’ll be picking up full steam with my regular publication schedule of posting every 2 weeks during the academic year.

The streets of Toledo, Spain in May 2017 during my trip to the SIODEC conference.

This blog tends to get a lot of traffic during the summer with readers looking for assignments and syllabi as they work on updating courses for next academic year. So I’d like to point out a few resources below. But first…

A few Recommended Blog Posts, Content & Articles

Summer Reading Suggestions

App Recommendation (to Get Motivated)

A few Resources From this Blog for Summer

Assignments:

If you are looking for assignments and syllabi, you’ll see that I’ve written about many of my assignments and included the assignment documents themselves.

To access those select the green menu bar at the top titled “Blog topics” -> “Teaching Social Media” -> “Classes” and then select the class.

Syllabi:

Syllabi can be accessed either via the “Syllabi” menu at the top of this blog and selecting the course, or by selecting the “Teaching Materials” menu and navigating to an external document repository to access all my uploaded syllabi.

If you have questions about any of the assignments or syllabi, please do not hesitate to send me a Tweet. I’d be happy to chat.

What’ll I be doing this summer?

Let’s just say it’s going to be a life-changing summer. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter to find out. 😉

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Teaching Basic Social Network Analysis of Instagram and Twitter Data Using Netlytic.org (Post 4 of 4)

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This is post #4 in a four part series about a new assignment that I used this semester in my Communication research class (all posts on that class).

That assignment is a 3-part social media analytics project. Each part is related but unique, allowing students to pick up a new skill set. In this post we’ll discuss part 3 of the assignment. If you haven’t read the assignment overview post, and the earlier post about pivot tables in Excel or my other post on this assignment about Microsoft Social Engagement,  I encourage you check those out.  In the first post, you will see a copy of the assignment that is discussed below.

This last part, part 3 of the assignment, asks student teams to do basic network mapping of their client using Netlytic.org.

netlytic-dot-org-social-network-analysis
Map of Twitter data I created using Netlytic.org for #CincoDeMayo May 5, 2016.

Why Teach the Basics of Social Network Analysis?

This semester, I wanted my students to get exposure to, and a basic understanding of, social network analysis. I am not a social network analysis. But it is something I find fascinating. And I think it is important that as professors we have at least a basic knowledge of this field and that our students do as well.

I feel this way in part because of the rise of professional tools that social media professionals have for visualizing social media data. While several of the questions that can be culled from the work students did in the portion of the project described below could also be answered through other means – such as Microsoft Social Engagement -, learning about social network analysis and having this experience offers a different and valuable way of understanding who is connected to whom within a network.

With the above said, the below-described project provides students a chance to visualize a social network and see how different actors relate to one another around a specific topic on Twitter or Instagram. Students explored the conversation around their client’s Twitter and/or Instagram account to see not only who was talking about their client but the connections among those people talking about their client, who was talking about the client the most, and who was talked about the most.

About Netlytic

There are many ways to visualize a social network. It can take quite a bit of time to learn the software. For example, I spent a weekend working on a #hokies network map using Gephi (read that post for a step-by-step guide of how I created a basic Twitter social network visualization). As you can see in that post, there are a lot of steps involved in building that one network map. But the upside is that Gephi is pretty robust and in my weekend working on it, I only scratched the surface.

Fortunately, there is a much simpler way to do some social network mapping. Netlytic.org is described on its website as “a cloud-based text and social networks analyzer that can automatically summarize and discover social networks from online conversations on social media sites.”

I first began playing with Netlytic soon after realizing that, for the baseline knowledge I want my students to have, I could not afford enough class time during the semester to warrant the investment in time and effort that would be needed to teach students all the steps of getting Twitter data and analyzing it in Gephi.

The downside of Netlytic is that is not quite as powerful and the visualizations are not as visually stunning.

Despite those limitations, I found Netlytic to have many upsides. For one, it is very easy to use and learn. A basic account is free and Netlytic will pull down the social media data you want directly into its service. From there, you can begin analyzing the data with just a few clicks.

I provide resources for learning how to use Netlytic below.

Setting Up the Assignment

Weeks before the we analyzed Netlytic in class, students were to create their own free Netlytic account and program their client’s Instagram or Twitter account and any hashtags they wanted to track on Twitter or Instagram related to their client.

The free version of Netlytic only allows an account to track up to 3 different searches at a time. Thus, teams were limited to 3 different networks to map. Each team approached this slightly differently, depending on their client.

There are 2 days of the semester dedicated to social network analysis and working with Netlytic. Day 1 is primarily lecture based. I provide a lecture of what social network analysis is, why it is good to have a basic understanding of it, and basic concepts that we’d be exploring. Specifically, I introduced nodes (e.g., Twitter users) and directional and uni-directional edges (the connections between them, such as retweets), talked about degree centrality (e.g., in-degree and out-degree density) as well as reciprocity, centralization, diameter and density.

On day 2, we relate these concepts to social media via a 15 minute lecture. For example, we discuss how in-degrees (who is mentioned a lot) and out-degrees (who posts a lot) would relate to Twitter posts. I then show several examples of social network maps of Instagram and Twitter and how concepts discussed in the prior class relate to them. And the rest of class is dedicated to working on analyzing the students’ client network.

There is a third day that is dedicated to students finishing up their Netlytic as well as anything they didn’t get done related to their Excel pivot tables and Microsoft Social Engagement.

As is the case with the other 2 parts of this assignment, students work in the computer lab on their Netlytic portion of the assignment during class time. I provide a basic lab guide of how to use Netlytic. The great thing is, Netlytic provides a lot of instructions on their YouTube page on how to use the software.

This great video shows you how to analyze your network map.

 

The lab guide I created for my students can be found here: bit.ly/435_netlyticlab

It walks you through all of the steps of doing the network analysis and provides a list of resources for further understanding basic social network analysis.

I provide a few different research questions to the students that they have to adapt from, based on whether they are analyzing hashtags or other search terms or if they are analyzing mentions of their client. I have provided the information below just as it is described in the assignment:

Depending on what your networks are, you’ll need to choose from the RQs below. Choose all that are appropriate. Feel free to create your own. Discard the rest.

For networks that analyze hashtags or search terms:

  1. What Twitter accounts are popular in this network and how often is each popular account mentioned?
  2. What accounts mention others or RT others a lot in this network?
  3. What unique clusters exist in this network?

For networks analyzing mentions of your client

  1. What Twitter accounts mention your client the most? How often does each mention your client?

  2. What communities are talking about @USERNAME?

Reflections on the Project

This project has three parts to it. Part 1 teaches students about using Excel pivot tables to analyze Twitter data. Part 2 gets them using industry social media analytics software. Part 3 introduces students to social network analysis and mapping a social network. The project takes several weeks of hands-on learning during the semester. For the students, a lot of work goes into the final product.

Because there were many moving parts, it was a little difficult at times for students to grasp all of the details of what we were trying to accomplish. Some student groups lost sight of the fact that the data they were dealing with was from different time periods because it was not all collected at the same time (a weakness I discuss in post #1 on this project).

One area of weakness was that some of the groups struggled with interpreting what their data meant and offering actionable suggestions to their client on how to enhance their social media based on the data.

Next time, I am going to try and tighten the assignment up. For example, I want to slim down a few of the research questions students had to answer that seemed a little redundant across the 3 different parts. I also want to place more emphasis on helping students think about what their results mean and how they can use the knowledge they have discovered through this analysis to make meaningful recommendations for their clients.

In summary, this is the first time we’ve run the project, and overall I am pleased with the outcome. I feel that this project helped me further ‘modernize’ my communication research class by placing greater emphasis on getting students working with social media data and thinking about what that data means.

I hope you enjoyed this 4-part series on the new social media analytics assignment in my communication research class! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out post 1, post 2 and post 3.

  • Cheers!

Matt

Teaching Students to Analyze social data with Microsoft Social Engagement: Social Media Analytics Assignment (Post 3 of 4)

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This is post #3 in a four part series about a new assignment that I’m using this semester in my Communication research class (all posts on that class).

That assignment is a 3-part social media analytics project. Each part is related but unique, allowing students to pick up a new skill set. In this post we’ll discuss part 2 of the assignment. If you haven’t read the assignment overview post, and the post about pivot tables in Excel, I encourage you to do so before proceeding. In the first post, you will see a copy of the assignment that is discussed below.

Part 2 of the assignment asks student teams to analyze their client and its competitors using Microsoft Social Engagement (sometimes called Microsoft Social Listening).  You can learn more about how our communication department is participating in the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance program program in my initial post on Microsoft Social Engagement.

Microsoft Social Engagement in the classroom

Setting Up The Assignment

As I wrote in my prior post, Microsoft Social Engagement” is a social listening tool that enables users to track metrics for public social media accounts or posts (e.g., keywords or hashtags) such as posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  You can also track mentions forums and blog.”

Keep in mind that you have to program what you want the software to track ahead of time.  It isn’t like a Twitter search where you can go in and look into past 2,500 posts on a topic after the fact. So, we have to program the student team’s clients and 1-3 competitors into Microsoft Social Engagement several weeks before the students sit down to work on the assignment. That way, there is some data for students to analyze.

I required students to turn into me the Twitter, and if available Instagram account, for their client and their competitors. I programmed them about a month before we worked on the assignment. To make my life simple, students had to turn all of this in at the same time they turned into me the Excel file of their client’s Twitter data (discussed in the pivot table blog post).

In my social media class, students were introduced to Microsoft Social Engagement and were given some guidance on how to use it to complete a metrics tracking spreadsheet. The purpose there was for them to track data week by week. In this class, we went a bit deeper. My purpose here was for students to look at the sum of data over a given period and extract specific insights. I added geolocation (q 3), a look at top engagement across time (q 4), parsing top positive and negative keywords (q 6 & 7), and exploring critics of the brand (q. 8).

Taken together, my goal was for students to learn the software in my social media class by throwing them into it. In this class, I wanted them to gain more experience, think a bit deeper and dig a bit deeper into the software.

The Assignment

For this part of the assignment, I created specific questions I wanted students to answer (below). To guide them through the steps needed to answer the below questions, I created this lab guide. Students worked through the lab guide in class and I was on hand to assist them.

This lab guide is similar to the lab guide I provide my social media class (and which I shared in the original blog post on Microsoft Social Engagement). However, this lab guide is appropriately more thorough.

Sentiment view of Microsoft Social Engagement

For the client and each competitor, the students were to answer the below questions.

  1. For CLIENT’S NAME what is the total number of a) shares, b) replies, and c) posts on Twitter during TIME PERIOD?
  2. For each keyword, what is the share of voice for the client and its competitors?
    1. (repeat this for however many keywords you have – up to 3)
  3. In what STATE/COUNTRY were the top posts posted that mention CLIENT?
  4. What day(s) of the month was CLIENT talked about the most on each social media platform?
    1. Note: if we only have data from Twitter, then just use Twitter.
  5. What is the sentiment percentages (positive, negative, neutral) for CLIENT?
  6. What are the top positive keywords associated with CLIENT on each social media platform?
    1. Note: if we only have data from Twitter, then just use Twitter.
  7. What are the top negative keywords associated with CLIENT on each social media platform?
    1. Note: if we only have data from Twitter, then just use Twitter.
  8. Who are the top fans and critics for CLIENT on each platform?

Of course, the above 8 questions are just a sampling of what you could do with the software.

In Summary

The software can be a bit challenging to use. And I found that students struggled at times to navigate it. It is important to make yourself available in class to help students.

Also, because the students had to answer these questions for their client and then for their competitors, it was rather time consuming. Teams that tackled this project in a smart manner, divided up the work and then put their answers together and reviewed them.

Some students may feel that this part is somewhat redundant to what they do in Microsoft Excel pivot tables. Questions 1 and 2 from the pivot exercise are similar to questions 1 and 4 from Microsoft Social Engagement, respectively. But, in my point of view, it is different enough and, importantly, it is a different way of analyzing things. Still, because this project overall requires a good deal of work when you consider the pivot tables and the social network mapping ,which we’ll discuss in the next post, you may find it useful to remove some of the above questions.

Projects like these can be intimidating and challenging for students. But I truly believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The opportunity for students to learn industry software in the classroom is highly valuable. And it is better for students to dive in while in school than have their first exposure be overwhelming on the job.

In the next post, we will discuss part 4 of this assignment which gets students using Netlytic.org to do some basic network mapping of their client’s online network.  I will be publishing that post in 2 weeks.

Update: You can now read Post #4 on Netlytic.

Teaching Students to Analyze Twitter data with Excel pivot tables: Social Media Analytics Assignment (Post 2 of 4)

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In my last post, I discussed a new assignment that I’m using this semester in my Communication research class (all posts on that class).

That social media analytics project assignment contains 3 parts. Each part is related but unique, allowing students to pick up a new skill set. In this post, post 2 of 4 in the series I’m writing about this assignment, we’ll discuss part 1 of the assignment. If you haven’t read the assignment overview post, I encourage you to do so before proceeding. There you will see a copy of the assignment discussed in the below post.

Part 1 of the assignment asks student teams to analyze the Twitter data provided by their clients by creating pivot tables in Microsoft Excel.

social media analytics pviot tables excel Twitter data

If you aren’t familiar with pivot tables, they enable you to filter and visualize spreadsheets. This allows you to focus in on specific data points and quickly extract insights from large data sets.

I got the inspiration to create this part of the assignment from a very helpful conversation I had with Professor Stefanie Moore at Kent State University. A big thank you to Stefanie for taking the time to chat with me and for providing me with insights to how she teaches analytics. I am really impressed and inspired by what Professor Moore is doing at Kent State.

Preparation: Getting Twitter Data
In order to analyze Twitter data using pivot tables in Excel, you need to first download Tweets from Twitter’s analytics (ads) page. If you’ve never done this before, it is really quite easy.

The reason we use Twitter is because Twitter enables you to extract a ton of valuable account data from your account in the form of a CSV spreadsheet. But, as an aside, you could analyze just about any data with pivot tables.

My students were required to get the Twitter data from a client. Therefore, I created a step-by-step guide that they could provide to the client so that the client could extract the appropriate data and supply it to me.

To ensure we had enough data, I instructed the students to ensure that their client was posting at least a few times per week. I asked students to get 6 months of Twitter data if possible. In short, I wanted to ensure that there were at least 50 Tweets from the client in the time period we collected. This number is somewhat arbitrary. And ideally you’d like to have more. But, 50 Tweets is enough to sort and play with.

Here are the steps for extracting Twitter data from an account:

Step 1:  log into your organization’s Twitter account at http://twitter.com. Next, select your account profile picture (as shown below) and select “Analytics.”


Step 2: A new window will appear. Click “Tweets” from the menu at the top. Then, select the date range (see below). A menu will open. Please select a date range of at least 3 to 6 months back so that there are enough Tweets for the students to analyze.
Important: Click “Update” to change the selected date range.
In the below example, I selected Feb 1 through May 1 (3 months).

Step 3: Once the dates have been selected, click “export data.” A new window will appear. Click “save file” to save the file to your computer. Email that file (it should be a .CSV file named something starting with: “tweet_activity_metrics…”). You have your data. If someone else is downloading the data – such as a class client – , they will need to email the file to you or your student.

Using Pivot Tables to Analyze Twitter Data

A few days were set aside in class to work with the pivot tables and learn how to answer the questions students were asked to answer in the project. On day 1, I provided a brief lecture  (about 10 minutes). And then I instructed students to begin working with the lab guide I had created. If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know I am big on creating lab guides to assist students in learning software.

See the lab guide students used to learn to analyze their Twitter data using pivot tables: http://bit.ly/435_pivottableslab

While working with the lab guide, students were to have a copy of the assignment that contained the research questions they needed to answer using the pivot tables. Those research questions were:

  1. Which Twitter posts received the most (Fill in the blank – you need to decide what variables are important engagement data for your client. You’ll need more than 1 variable. And, you’ll want to show more than just the top Tweet for that variable, but the top few)?
  2. What is the client’s Twitter engagement by month? (again, you choose the appropriate engagement metrics)
  3. Come up with 1 other RQs for important data points you extract from your pivot table analysis that you believe will be of value to your client.

For the above questions, students needed to pick what engagement metrics they wanted to analyze. There are several engagement metrics in the CSV file when you download it from Twitter. Examples include retweets and favorites.

For research question #3, most groups analyzed engagement by Tweet category. As you’ll see in the lab guide, students learned how to comb through their Tweets and identify common themes by which to categorize their Tweets. Examples may include promotional Tweets, humorous Tweets, Tweets that ask a question, etc.

The above 3 research questions are just a sampling of what you could do with the pivot tables.

In Summary

In the next post, we will discuss part 2 of this assignment which gets students using Microsoft Social Engagement to answer some research questions about their client.  I will be publishing that post in 2 weeks.

In the meantime, if you want to get your feet wet, I encourage you to download your own Twitter data and walk through the lab guide above. Or, check out some of the sources listed below to learn how to analyze Twitter data with pivot tables.

As you will see when you take a look at the lab guide, you must first clean the data so that Excel can analyze it. I then walk you through a number of different ways you can analyze your Twitter data.

The fact is that I was a bit of a newbie to pivot tables when I created this assignment. To build the above-discussed lab guide I provided students to help them through learning how to use pivot tables, I relied heavily on several key resources. Much of what is in the lab guide is built directly on what I learned from these sources. To learn directly from the sources I learned from, check out the sources below. A big thank you to all of them for sharing their knowledge publicly. I hope I was able to honor them in adapting their work for a classroom assignment.

Update: You can now read the follow up posts to this blog series.

Sources:

 

The New Social Media Analytics Assignment for my Comm Research Class (Post 1 of 4)

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A few months ago I wrote about how students in my social media class were using Microsoft Social Engagement to track metrics and do some social listening. At the time, I said I’d follow up with a post about how we were using the software in my communication research class. Well, the time has come! But, this post will do more than dive into how we are using Microsoft Engagement in my class. It will share with you a whole new project my research students are doing.

This is post #1 in a 4 part series on a new assignment my students are working on in my communication research class. The assignment spreads over several weeks with a good amount of time in class working in the computer lab. The project is the result of continued and ongoing efforts I’ve been making in a few classes to enhance student education in social media analytics. The project replaces the sentiment analysis assignment I wrote about a few years ago.

This post will cover an overview of the assignment (A copy of the assignment is below). Post #2 will discuss using pivot tables to analyze Twitter data. Post #3 will discuss Microsoft Social Engagement. Post #4 will discuss Netlyitic.

Update: Post #2 on pivot tables is now available, as is Post #3 on MS Engagement and Post #4 on Netlytic.

First, let me provide some context. In my communication research class (see all posts related to the class), students work in teams to complete 3 projects. Each project gets progressively more difficult. The project we are going to discuss today is project #2.

Overview of Social Media Analytics Project for A Client

The purpose of the assignment is for students to get experience performing a social media analytics audit of a client using a variety of social media analytics and social network analysis tools. The goal is for the students to try and understand their client’s current use of social media and provide insights and recommendations for enhancing that client’s social media presence.

Each team was tasked with going out and finding a client that would agree to participate. While I had hoped that most groups would approach local businesses, they tended to focus more on on-campus groups like athletic teams. This may have been a result of convenience because each team had to acquire several months worth of Twitter data from their client. I will explain that in further detail when we discuss pivot tables in post #2. So students tended to go to on campus organizations where they already knew who ran the Twitter account.

The three main components of the project are:

  1. Client Social Media Profile & Engagement Analysis
    1. Students use Pivot Tables to explore your client’s posts on social media and analyze their overall engagement. For example, students determine the top posts by their client which made that have gotten the most likes.
  2. Analyzing Trends
    1. Students use Microsoft Social Engagement to monitor and analyze the conversation surrounding the client’s brand.
  3. Social Network Analysis
    1. Students use Netlytic.com to build visual representations of their client’s social network on Twitter or Instagram and do some basic analysis.

For each component, I have created a set of research questions that students answer using the appropriate software. The students adapt the research questions a bit to their context when necessary. You can see the research questions in the assignment below.

The Plan in the Classroom

On day 1, I provide a 10 minute lecture on pivot tables. The rest of the class is a lab for students to work on learning how to create pivot tables to analyze Twitter data and answer the RQs.

On day 2, I give a 20 minute lecture about the social engagement software and talk a little about sentiment analysis so students understand what it is when they look at it in the Microsoft software.

Day 3 is a lab day to work on whatever they weren’t able to get done in the pivot tables or the social engagement software.

On day 4, I lecture about social network analysis and some basic concepts. (We cover some other material this day about writing research papers).

On day 5, we finish talking about social network analysis – about 15 minutes – and the students analyze their client’s data.

Research Write Up

After students complete all 3 parts of the project, they then have to write up their study. The research paper format I use in this class is inspired by Don Stacks book, Primer in Public Relations Research.

In the past, by the second project students are writing brief literature reviews. However, because this is the first time I’ve run this project and it has been a lot of work, I called an audible and removed the requirement for the lit review in this project. So, you will see in the assignment below that those requirements have been withheld.

Thus, by the second project students have been taught about writing research problem overviews (problem statement, campaign goals & objectives, research objective & RQs/hypotheses), methods, results and discussion sections.

The students write up their reports. And they are encouraged to share them with their client.

Limitations & Final Thoughts

There are a few drawbacks I’ve experienced thus far with this project.

First, there is a lot of info coming at the students with this project. The assignment sheet itself is several pages long. As such, it is important to explain things several times and work with the students as they are doing this project.

Students need to be responsible for getting the data for this project from their client, creating their own Netlytic account and setting it up to collect data. And, they need to provide me with who their client is and some competitors of the client far enough in advance that I can program it into Microsoft Social Engagement (I’ll go into more depth on this in the individual posts about each section). We had a few groups that made mistakes along the way and were short on data or had to do some last minute scrambling.

The data collection periods across the Twitter CSV file, the Microsoft Social Engagement and the Netlytic are not consistent. This is simply a result of the classroom setting and a lack of full control over when data collection happens. For example, a team’s client may have sent their Twitter data which covers the last 6 months one day, a teammate set up Netlytic to collect data another day, and the day I set up the Microsoft Social Engagement to collect data on their client on a third day.

With these another limitations in mind, the project has been fun thus far this semester. A major benefit of this assignment is that most of the tools used in this assignment are free or inexpensive and not too difficult to learn (and thus teach your students).

Over the next few posts, I will offer some depth on each section of the project.  So check back soon! For now, you can get a copy of the assignment below.

Update: You can now read the follow up posts to this blog series.

A Roadmap for Teaching Social Media by Karen Freberg (Book Review)

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As many readers of this blog know, I’m a major fan of Dr. Karen Freberg and her leadership and work in the field of social media education.

Last year, Dr. Freberg published A Roadmap for Teaching Social Media: All the assignments, rubrics, and feedback you’ll need to present a strategic social media course. So, of course, when this book came out, I had to get my hands on it.

This book is unlike any other book in the social media space that I know of presently. It is not a book that you assign to your students to learn about social media. It is a one-stop guide for professors with just about everything you would need to know to build a social media class from the ground up. And it is awesome.

Freberg covers key considerations that I’ll break down into 2 parts. The first part of the book deals primarily with publicity and public interaction surrounding your class, and the second half of the book focuses on assignments and rubrics that you can use in the class.

In the first part of the book, Dr. Freberg reminds us: “First, build self-confidence and project that you KNOW what you are doing. If you walk into the class with any self-doubts, the students will be able to read that in a hearbeat” (p. 11).

I like how Dr. Freberg gets the reader thinking of the important but often overlooked consideration of branding your class. After all, if you’re teaching a social media class, your students may be engaging with the public online. She touches on tips for building a hashtag for your classes (something I’ve honestly not done a good job of remaining consistent at) to foster interaction between yourself, your students, and thought leaders. Even if you have your social media class built and feel you don’t need any additional tips or assignments to enhance it, the book is valuable for the wider lessons in here for personal branding for professors. That is, in branding your class, you are branding yourself as a professor. And doing so can open many opportunities for you (e.g., networking opportunities, requests to speak, etc) as well your students (e.g., guest lecturers). There are also great time management tips that will help any professor dealing with the flood of information and the rapid pace of change that social media professors deal with on a day to bay basis. This section of the book then goes on to discuss social media etiquette for students and tips for inviting and working with guest lecturers.

In the latter half of the book, Dr. Freberg provides an in depth look at several valuable assignments that you can incorporate into your social media class. This includes an online reputation assignment, a social media strategy assignment, and more. A sample social media class syllabus is provided as well. The assignments include detailed explanations, instructions and rubrics.

There is much in this book that I found useful and am in the process of putting into practice. For example, I adopted the assignment and tips on personal branding from this book for my public relations principles class. I want to get my students thinking about personal branding early on, and this book and a panel I attended last fall at the PRSA Educators Academy Super Saturday inspired me to take the leap.

Altogether, a big congratulations and thanks to Dr. Freberg for creating this helpful resource.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It means a lot.

-Cheers!

Matt

Considering assigning your students the HubSpot Academy certification?

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Long-time readers of this blog know that I use the Hootsuite University certification program in my social media class.

Having students complete industry certifications are a great way to get students gaining hands-on experience with industry tools. Also, they extend the classroom and free up more time in class because many of the certification programs are self directed. That means, students complete them on their own time via following video demonstrations or lectures and completed a certification test or quiz outside of the classroom.

Certifications are also cool because they offer students resume-building credibility.  Having done research with other scholars on perceptions of the Hootsuite certification among potential employers, I know that employers appreciate such certifications.

So what other certifications are there available that can help our students prepare for the digital workplace?

This question came up in a recent discussion on the Social Media professors community group on Facebook.  Many online learning tools or certifications were mentioned including Twitter Flight School (this is new to me, I’m going to have to check it out!), Google Adwords, and Google Analytics (I did this a few years back but alas, it has expired). I’m bringing in a few Facebook Blueprint courses into my writing class this semester. Though a full certification is beyond the scope of what we’re doing.

But one that caught my eye was HubSpot Academy (Thanks to Tyler Thomas and Ai Zhang for recommending this!).

The Hubspot Academy offers several free online certifications that generally span a few hours and require passing an online exam to earn certification.

Currently, the courses that are free and which I believe may be interested to social media students include:

  1. Inbound Certification
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Content Marketing

See the full list of Hubspot certification courses.

Thus far, I have completed the inbound certification which was 12 video lectures across 4.5 hours and an exam that took about 45 minutes to complete.

The inbound marketing course provides a broad overview of subjects from SEO to creating content to solve customer needs, to building lead pages to the basics of email marketing, and beyond. The purpose of the course is to introduce the student to the inbound marketing method. While inbound marketing isn’t directly tied to what I teach, many of the concepts are salient.

For example, I was able to augment my discussion of SEO in my writing class with content from the Hubspot course. I was able to introduce students to the buyer’s journey as a consideration when crafting topic ideas and doing keyword research.  It was a greater refresher for many of the concepts we already discuss around keywords.

HubSpot Buyer's Journey

(Buyer’s journey image above is from HubSpot cited above)

With all of that said, I had thought it was best to start with the inbound certification before proceeding to the other courses. Though, I’m not sure if that was necessary.  Now, I wish I had jumped ahead to content marketing or email. It was my initial intention to assign students the inbound certification as an extra credit opportunity in my writing class.  However, I’ve decided not to. The reason for that is that the last few hours of the program are more focused on dealing with leads and sales. This information was great for me to learn about for a variety of reasons. But it was not particularly relevant for the purpose of my class. Given the level of commitment to earn the inbound certification, I don’t think it is a prudent use of students’ time in my writing class when there are many other things they can be learning.

Still, I’m glad that I completed this course. It gave me a great insight into the inbound marketing strategies that are used on us every day by online marketers. And having that knowledge, I believe, will make me a smarter and more critical consumer of online content. It has already helped me in crafting my own content. My hope is that the email marketing and content marketing certifications cover some of this useful content. If not, I may encourage students to enroll and at least complete the first 6 or so courses.

I’m hoping to find some time to complete the email marketing and content marketing certifications. I want to go through the certifications myself before possibly assigning them to students. My thinking is that the email marketing might fit in my Writing Across Platforms course. The content marketing may fit in that class or the social media class.

There’s only so much time in the semester, as one contributor stated in the Facebook discussion. With assignment creep a growing struggle for many of us as educators, it is a challenge to decide what to assign to students and what not to. With so many options and opportunities out there, I think we should be careful not to throw stuff at students in a horse race mentality.

From what I’ve heard, several professors are offering either extra credit or encouraging students to do some extra education outside of the classroom through such self-directed programs like HubSpot or Google academy.  I may take this tact with future certification opportunities.

While altogether, I didn’t get as much value out of this course as I had hoped from the standpoint of being able to offer new training to my students, I would encourage any social media professor to complete the course if time is available. If you teach more on the PR side than the marketing side, as I do, it is very helpful to get a deeper look into the marketing and sales side. It is very important for us to have that perspective. Most importantly, if writing for the web, SEO and keyword research are new for you or are areas you’d like to get a greater understanding of, definitely take this course.

-Cheers!

Matt

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