Why I Love the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program

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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.

#AEJMC14 Highlights: What are the Ethics of Content Marketing?

After two weeks of traveling to New England for a vacation and to Montreal for the AEJMC, it is good to be home! AEJMC flew by!

I’d like to look at one of my favorite panels from the conference: the Ethics and Brand Content panel put on by the Advertising and Media Ethics divisions.  Let me recap and add my thoughts, because the ethics of content marketing is something we need to consider as educators.

The media system "Clover Leaf" from the panel Source: Contently

The media system “Clover Leaf” from the panel
Source: Contently

This panel included Ira Basen (CBC Radio) Michael Mirer (Wisoncin-Madison) and Karen Mallia (South Carolina) and was moderated by Kathleen Bartzen Culver (Wisconsin-Madison). They looked at content marketing, including the different types of content including brand publishing, branded content, native advertising, sponsored content, and brand journalism (the latter of which was a term the panel did not prefer).  It was interesting to look at the ethics of content marketing from the perspective of both a journalist, Ira, and advertising, the other panelists. Ira focused on native advertising, which he defined as: “relevant to the consumer experience, which is not interruptive, and which looks and feels similar to its editorial environment”

Examples of good content marketing, as presented by conference panel presenters

Examples of good content marketing, as presented by conference panel presenters

Interestingly, Ira noted that research shows most consumers are unaware of what “sponsored content” means on sites like the New York Times – they don’t know that the news outlet didn’t write the content. For example, when you watch the news programming and a company sponsors the program, you don’t assume that the company also wrote the news piece on the program. This is a great point. The intent of sponsored content on online publications is just that – for you to not know that the news outlet didn’t write it. What happens when people find out?

One of the best examples was the article and infographic on the New York Times sponsored by Netflix to promote (a show I love) Orange is the New Black.  Netflix paid a freelancer to research and write the piece, focusing on the need for female focused prison policies. You probably saw this floating around. Did you know Netflix sponsored it? I didn’t (despite the logo clearly printed at the top, I hadn’t even noticed it).

Let me make my second point and then I’ll try and tie this together.

Ira also stated that trust in brands is high, while trust in journalism is low (did not catch his source for this statistic. But I am going to take it at face value for this blog post). Ira acknowledged that, for journalism, many of those hits to their trust were self-inflicted. I take it that what he means is that journalists have made a number of public mistakes over a period of time that have resulted in distrust among the general public.

If it is true, why is it that trust in brands is so high right now (at least, compared to journalists)? And how might that change?

Let’s think about it. The purpose of content marketing is to create content for your audience. Continuously. As a brand becomes a media company, there is an imperative to continue to create more and more content.

And that opens up companies to the possibility of making the same mistakes as journalists have. Ok, not the same mistakes exactly. But you know what I mean. The more content you create the greater the chance you will say or do something that will be a mistake – a false or misleading claim, a sensationalist move to gain viewers, a gaffe, offensive or insensitive content, etc.

It is an interesting dilemma. You’ve got to create content. The more you exposure yourself, the more risk you are essentially taking. So as everyday companies strive to become media companies – creating and reporting their own news – will trust in brands decline?

Let me say that differently. Will content marketing, the tool many are counting on to build meaningful relationships and thus trust, result in the decline of trust in brands over the long term?

And how should we deal with this long-term possibility?

It may be that we are simply at a place where mediated relationships with brands are still relatively new and that is why trust remains high. We haven’t had time to grow cynical yet.

Or am I thinking about this all wrong? Perhaps there is something fundamentally different about journalism. After all, a journalist is supposed to be looking out for our best interest. While we acknowledge that a company seeks a profit and offers a specific service to us. Further still, journalism is an institution. We may look at it on the whole. But loss of trust in one brand, does not inevitably lead to loss in trust in another brand. In fact, a brand may benefit by loss of trust in its competitor.

Whatever the case may be, as educators there is a need to really think about what the ethics of branded content are so that our students thrive as ethical content creators.

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

Of course, I talk about ethics in my classes. But I haven’t looked at them through this specific lens – the comparison with journalism as media outlets and the issues journalism faces with public trust- and I thank Ira and the other panelists for prompting me to do so.

What do you think?

In sum, it was a fascinating panel that really got me thinking about this question. And this question was just the tip of the iceberg of what came out of a truly fascinating panel.

In closing, I got to attend a number of other great panels while at AEJMC and learned a ton from them! Unfortunately, there were more panels I wanted to attend than time to attend them. It is super busy now with classes 2 weeks away and the ICBO deadline fast approaching. But I hope to get another post up later this week or early next week looking at some of the other great takeaways from the conference, including the great people I met and more!

 

FYI: I’ve written a lot about content marketing on this blog. Here are my other posts on the subject.

Update: Planning Social Media and Mobile App for An Event

As you know, one of the big projects I’ve been working on this summer is creating and executing the social media event plan for the International Congress of Behavioural Optometry (ICBO) conference in Birmingham, England this September.

This project, which was sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation, has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I’ve been working with the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF) who is organizing the conference. OEPF is an international nonprofit that does important work advancing the discipline of optometry.

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I thought I’d take a moment to post a status update on the project. After completing the social media plan for the event, the majority of the work has focused on preparing the ICBO 2014 conference app to create an app that helps OEPF meet its goals. The app is titled ICBO Social and works on iPhone, Android, and HTML5.  Once complete (I hope to finish building the app over the next few weeks), we’ll move onto promoting the app as the primary means of social engagement at the conference. We’re also presently working to get buy in from key stakeholders: exhibitors and speakers.

The reason the app is our primary social tool and centerpiece of the plan is because (as I like to say) ICBO Social is no ordinary conference app. OEPF and I have been fortunate to be using DoubleDutch as the platform to build our app. DoubleDutch is doing amazing things pushing the envelope on conference apps and what they offer is like no other conference app I’ve seen before.

ICBO Social (and all DoubleDutch apps) is a comprehensive social network built around the conference and thus exclusively for conference goers.

So attendees won’t just be seeing an agenda, or have the ability to create their own schedule, or see a list of exhibitors. And they won’t be limited socially by Twitter feeds. While it has these features, the app is really designed for the social interaction to occur within the app itself.

It contains an activity feed (like Facebook or Twitter) where you can see what other attendees are posting (comments and photos), liking, and where they are checking in.

Gamification is a great part of the app. Users are rewarded for their app activity. They can earn badges (like on Foursquare) for checking in, posting photos, and more. And, they can earn points for in app activities. I will be creating custom badges and designating higher point values for certain behavior to encourage desired behaviors. There is also a leader board app users can check to see how many points they’ve accumulated in comparison with others. And we may use those points to give prizes as further incentive to use the app.

Each individual has a robust profile that shows their activity, what badges they’ve earned, and connections to their social media accounts.

The app also encourages deeper engagement with exhibitors. Attendees can check in to exhibitor booths, share photos, leave comments, etc. Given these abilities, features of the app can be harnessed depending on what the exhibitor is looking to achieve.

The app also enables us to easily get feedback from attendees by the use of surveys and ratings.

We also plan on  using the app to bolster our Q&A speaker sessions at featured speaker events in order to give more attendees the opportunity to ask questions.

Lastly, we talk a bit about analytics on this blog. By driving activity within the app (as opposed to encouraging its spread it across social networks), I’ll be able to get a more comprehensive look at engagement via the app analytics in the CMS  – such as # of check ins, what events people checked into the most, top contributors, and other engagement metrics.

Having been to many conferences and used social media at many and many conference apps, I know the value of being able to connect and stay current with the conversation at the event. I believe using this app will greatly enhance that experience by centering it and making it super easy for participants to stay up to date with and be a part of the conversation. All of these things will enable ICBO attendees to network, interact, and build lasting connections and thereby further establish the ICBO conference as a highly valuable must attend event.

While the app is the major focus of the social media engagement experience of the conference, we’ll also be encouraging attendees to discuss ICBO 2014 on external social media channels as ways to build excitement before the event, continuing the conversation after the event, and, importantly, increase awareness of ICBO among the wider optometric community and non attendees.

It is exciting to see how the DoubleDutch platform is enabling us to create a true, encompassing social experience for attendees and I’m very fortunate to be learning and using this cutting edge tool.

Note: The app is sponsored by HOYA and the app splash screen shown above was designed by one of their very talented graphic designers.

 

Top Journals in Communication According to Google Scholar in 2014

Google Scholar recommendations

If you are a lover of Google Scholar like me (I’ve written a few posts on becoming a G Scholar power user, in case you’ve missed them) you may have seen that the 2014 Google Scholar Metrics are out.

Here are the top 5 journals in Communication according to the ranking:

  1. New Media & Society
  2. Journal of Communication
  3. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
  4. Public Opinion Quarterly
  5. Public Relations Review

 

A complete list is here.

So how is it ranked? According to their site, Google uses h5 scores for h-index and h-medians. An h-index is described on the Google Scholar Metrics page as: “the largest number h such that at least h articles in that publication were cited at least h times each. For example, a publication with five articles cited by, respectively, 17, 9, 6, 3, and 2, has the h-index of 3.” They describe an h-median score as “the median of the citation counts in its h-core. For example, the h-median of the publication above is 9. The h-median is a measure of the distribution of citations to the articles in the h-core.” The h5, what they use, is that score for only articles published in the last 5 complete calendar years.

What’s covered in 2014’s list? Articles published between 2009 and 2013, indexed in Google Scholar in June 2014.  Here’s more detail on what is included.

There you have it. According to Google’s ranking system (that is, based on citation numbers as described above), those are the top journals in Comm. You can see all the different fields, browse, and search the Google Scholar Metric here.

For more information on G Scholar Metrics, here’s a release on the Google Scholar blog.

Cheers!

Matt

Facebook’s Controversial Study: Some Thoughts and Teaching Opportunities

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By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the massive study conducted by Facebook, titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks” and published in the June Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences.  In the study, individuals, and lots of them (there were 689,003 unknowing participants) were exposed to positive or negative posts on the service. The study then looked to see if people who saw more negative posts in turn wrote more negative posts.  (As a side note, if you aren’t familiar with the idea of emotional contagion, a few semesters back I used an interesting book called “The Dragonfly Effect” in my Social Media and Social Change class. The book discusses the concept. Essentially, the value of the idea as argued by the book is that an emotion has a viral quality to it that can spread and that thus telling the emotional aspect of your cause is critical for spreading support for a social causes.)

I’m not here to comment on whether the study was ethical or not (certainly it wouldn’t have passed any IRB I’ve ever heard of). No matter your opinion, this case brings up a very interesting situation that will make for a great discussion opportunity in a research class when it comes time to talk ethics and IRB.

In my experience teaching research methods, students tend to be disinterested (see: blank stares, checking smart phones) in discussions of the ethical obligations of researchers and the IRB. And I understand. Unless a student is going to graduate school the likelihood that she will have to deal with IRB and research ethics outside of our class seems fairly low (unless of course they participate in studies). But this case is an important reminder to students that research does not have to be confined to the academic setting. While this study was published in an academic journal, the Washington Post reported that according to posts on the Facebook page of employee and co-author Adam D.I. Kramer, Kramer stated “… we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.”

And what better way to find out than through social scientific study? Facebook has the access and clearly the ability through their algorithm to manipulate what you see. The fact that they are doing this doesn’t surprise me (They manipulate users’ news feeds in an attempt to optimize their service). And the anxiety and controversy it is causing doesn’t surprise me (It brings questions to the mind of many: How else are they manipulating me? And that breeds distrust). What I find interesting is that they make public their work and used it to contribute to scientific understanding. And, in a way, I’m glad they did because it creates teaching and learning opportunities for all of us.

Great Discussion Topic For Class #1: Informed Consent: What is it?  What consists of consent? And did users consent in this case? And what are the ramifications of not having informed consent?

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I tell my students Informed Consent means exactly that. You are INFORMED as to what the study is about and you CONSENT to participate. There was no overt informed consent. No one actively stated their agreement to participate in the study, and they were not informed about the study and what it entailed.

The obvious argument is that Facebook should have disclosed this information. From a professional communication perspective, this works. Clear. Transparent. Don’t violate the trust of your users.

If Facebook was concerned that negative content might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook, was their answer to enlist users in an experiment without their consent? Which is more likely to keep people from visiting Facebook?

I always tell my students that one of the ramifications for unethical or deceptive scholarly research is the threat to public trust of scholarship and scholarly institutions. The public has long heard about the Milgram studies and other ethically dubious research. And they’re nervous to participate in academic research for those reasons. People don’t like to be duped and the common perception is that scholarly research involves deception or trickery – that some hidden hand is manipulating them in an uneven interaction where the researcher is supposed to be blindly trusted. And this case with Facebook may produce the same wariness among the public psyche as those famous studies we all learn about in school. Indeed, it seems more and more people are concerned about privacy and what they’re giving up about their lives for gain of free services (e.g., concerns about Google and its Google Glass).

Now, Facebook argues that your consent to participate is implied as a result of agreement to the Facebook terms of service.  And it can be argued that if people knew they were being manipulated then the Hawthorne Effect would likely take place. And thus the experiment would have not been effective – thus, in the eyes of some, justifying the use of deception.

I’m sure that asking my students next time I teach communication research class: “What if you were one of the participants? How would you feel?” will produce a lively response. I’ll be sure to remind them that it is possible they were and they’ll never know it. I’m interested to know their informed opinion after we discuss these topics: What responsibility does Facebook have to disclose this information?

Great Discussion Topic For Class #2: IRB – what is it? Why is it important? And what needs to be reviewed and what can be exempted?

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Who is responsible for reviewing a study such as this and making sure it passes appropriate guidelines to ensure participant rights are considered and protected?

Of course, at a university we have the Institutional Review Board. We’ve all dealt with them at one time or another. But when a corporation does a study, shouldn’t that also fall under review of a governing board?

Interestingly, this study was done in part with researchers at Cornell. And a quick read of this Washington Post article gives the casual reader the impression that Cornell IRB reviewed and approved this research. However, you’ll note that it states that they approved the use of pre-existing data from Facebook. And that is something many of us have used in conducting our research on Facebook or Twitter. Simply, the data already exists and we’re going to analyze it. But that wasn’t the case in this study, really. Facebook conducted the experiment and now researchers from Cornell were going to analyze it. It seems there may have been some confusion about the fact that Facebook conducted the experiment. And clearly there was some confusion in how the media reported this / or how the public was interpreting it. Because that article was updated to note that Cornell did not approve manipulation in the study. And a follow up article discusses that Cornell’s IRB has made effort to clarify that the study was conducted prior to Cornell’s IRB was consulted.

Because it may seem confusing to someone not familiar with the distinction between conducting an experiment and using pre-existing data, it is a great opportunity to explicate this distinction to students and help them understand the notion of pre-existing data and public data and what can be exempt and what can’t be (and that even if something is going to be exempt, it still needs to go through IRB!).

Altogether, I’m sure this will really help students see why IRBs are in place, the importance of their role, and while it is a lot of work to go through the process, why it is important for ensuring public safety and trust.

These are just some thoughts and starting points. And this post is getting rather long. So I’ll leave it there. I’m looking forward to sharing this with my students and a more relatable and lively discussion when it comes time to talk ethics and IRB next time around. :)

What do you think? Was the study ethical? What other articles or questions would make for a great class discussion on this subject?

** Facebook logo Copyright Facebook. photos: Crystal Campbell | Neil Conway

Time Management: How to Read when You Don’t Have Time with These Tricks

I like to write posts every once in a while about productivity tips and tricks or time savers. That’s because I know I love reading these types of posts and believe maybe some of the tricks I’ve picked up along the way might help others.

I wrote the below blog post months ago but never got around to publishing it. When I came across the Umano  app yesterday I was so happy. I was also reminded about the below post I’d drafted.

umano

First, Umano. Umano is an app that reads popular articles to you (you can also listen on their website). Voice actors record the articles and you listen. Simple as that. You can build a playlist so the articles cycle through one after the other. There are advanced paid features but the free app works great for me. Since downloading the app I’ve listened to about 10 articles already and I love it. I can tell this is going to be one of my most used apps for getting content. Here’s why:

I’d been long using Pocket and my Mac computer to achieve what Umano does. But Umano uses real voices rather than the robot in your computer or phone. This is a huge time saver. I get lots more content when I’m doing things that prevent me from reading – like brushing my teeth or cooking.

So why not just use Umano? Because Umano only has articles that are popular. I like to read a lot of posts from academic blogs and social media blogs I follow, the type of niche content that wouldn’t make it into Umano. In fact, I listen to a lot of content – such as websites or documents. That’s why I use the Pocket app and the text-to-speech engine on my Mac. So here’s the original article I drafted up:

You want to read more but don’t always have time to. You know that staying up to date on the latest news and trends in your field is no longer an option. It’s a must.

But great articles go whizzing by on Twitter or your RSS reader that you never get around to reading. You’re busy.

That’s why having your computer or smartphone read to you is an efficient way to save time while staying up to date on the latest buzz.

Imagine having blog posts and news articles are read to you while getting ready for work in the morning, cooking dinner in the evening, working out at the gym, or.. well, anytime you don’t feel like staring at a screen.

A student told me about this about two years ago. He’d have his Mac read him the online assigned for my class while he cooked dinner. (I’ll explain how below). But since you can’t always be at your computer, there are smartphone apps that can read to you on the go.

The one I’ve used is called Pocket (formerly ReaditLater) for Android.

getpocket

With Pocket, you can use the TTS (text to speech) engine on your Android phone to have your articles read to you. (I’m not sure if the iPhone has a similar function – does anyone know?)

Pocket is a simple but extremely useful app that allows you to collect articles on websites, blogs, news outlets, and so forth. There’s a browser plugin for that. Installing the plugin adds a button on your browser. Click it whenever you’ve got an article open in your browser that you want to save for later.

All the articles you “pocket” are saved to your account and accessible on your app, on the web, or on your Mac via their app in the Mac App store.

Using Text-to-Speech with Pocket on Android

In the Pocket app on your Android, select the more button (in the top right. It looks like 3 buttons on top of each other). And then Listen.

It’s as simple as that.

Listening on a Mac computer

To get your Mac to read text to you, go to Settings -> Speech. Click “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.” Then select the key command you want to use. I use COMMAND+S. Now, go into MS Word or a website in your browser, highlight the text you want the computer to read and click your command key. Your computer will begin reading.

As I said, I’ve been doing this for about a year. The voice sounds like a robot. But it’s not hard to comprehend and I don’t mind it. The way I see it. Time is precious. Time management is learning to maximize time – and time spent doing mindless tasks like cleaning, getting dressed in the morning, etc. are perfect opportunities to get more out of time.

How do you “get more out of your day”? If you’ve tried having your computer or phone read articles to you, how have you found it?

logos: copyright of their respective companies.