My Fall 2014 Social Media Class Project In Review

shepherdcommunication-socialmedia

In the last few posts, I’ve been writing about my Social Media class and the semester project we’ve been doing. To recap, students create a social media content strategy for our department’s social media (the details of the assignment are on the previous post). They then use this plan to create content for the department. They create content 3  times, each time they are creating content for a certain time period. The content is presented to the class and then goes through an editorial process (i.e.., I grade them and make any needed mods) if needed before being published.

With the semester winding down, I want to share some of the work the students have been doing!

Students have done a great job across the semester and have worked hard to try to create content that will resonate with students while also targeting our goals and conveying our key messages. Running an account for a small university department is a unique challenge. Although as professors we are exhilarated by what we teach and have a love and passion for school, it is a bit tougher to get students excited about, well, that part of the college experience responsible for all the work they have to do. :) Believe it or not, school is the last thing some students want to be thinking about when they aren’t in class. :) And I think having to try to overcome the challenge of promoting school is a great experience for students. I’m very pleased with how the students have done in the face of these challenges. The semester began with very little content on our accounts, and few followers.

Students have done a particularly strong job working between groups to create content that works across platforms. For example, you’ll see how some of our blog posts tie into our Instagram and Twitter in regard to profiles of students and faculty.

Our class was divided into 3 groups:

Twitter – Prior to the class starting, we had a Twitter account but it was rarely posted to. Now, we have a variety of content from the informative to reminders of important dates to community-building memes and humorous posts students in our department can relate to.
Blog - The blog is brand new and our department hasn’t done much to publicize it yet. But students have done a great job getting it going. We’ve had highlights of students and insights into classes and events students are apart of. Note: Part of the reason it hasn’t been publicized, is the university is in a tradition stage with its website. And we are waiting to see how that will impact our online presence.
Instagram - Similar to Twitter, Instagram was something we had set up. But hadn’t done much with before the semester. Our Instagram team  began creating videos to highlight professors and students (we’ve had a few sound issues, but are working them out). These videos are accompanied by photos of the individual “behind the scenes.” There are also other photos of other events.

Students have one more round of content they will be turning in this week. And that content will be scheduled to carry us through the winter break.

Altogether, I’m very pleased with how students have worked to help humanize our department and enable current students to connect with one another and perspective students to get a look at who we are and what we do.  I feel we are moving in the right direction.  In the last few days, interest in our content has really taken off as students have reached out and begun highlighting the work their fellow students are doing. I am excited to see how the department’s social media grows and advances in time.

Is this a project I would do again? Absolutely. Students really bought into this project and worked hard to see it through. They expressed to me that they learned a lot from the class and doing this project. And, they said they enjoyed the opportunity to get hands-on experience. It was a very fun semester! I had a great bunch of students and I am very proud of all of them! I plan to continue with this assignment next year.

I’m not teaching Social Media next semester. So where will the department’s social media content for Spring 2014 come from? I’m not entirely sure yet. But I’ve got some ideas in the works and a strong foundation to build upon!

Thoughts? Questions? Recommendations for this project? Would love your comments and feedback below or send me a Tweet.
– Cheers!
Matt

A Look at My Social Media Content Strategy Assignment

Several weeks ago I mentioned that a big change in my Comm 322 Social Media class this semester (syllabus), is that students will be working to create the social media for our department’s Twitter, Instagram, and a brand new blog.

getexcitedI want to share a little about the first assignment students do towards this project. My goal with this project is to provide students opportunities to apply what they are learning in class to planning and executing social media content plans for an organization.

One of my main emphases is getting them intermediate experience planning and thinking strategically about social media content strategy. They get advanced experience with these things in the campaigns class. So social media class is a great stepping stone.

So here’s what I did. I assigned a strategy plan assignment that students complete as the first step in the class. This gets them creating a plan for the type of content they want to produce, and how that content will align with our target audience, theme, and key messages, which I provide for them and emphasize repeatedly. The purpose is for them to learn to align their content plans with the overarching framework for our content – where we want to go.

For example: One of our key messages for the Comm Department’s social media is: “Department classes are exciting, dynamic, relevant and innovative”

(As a note: A senior completed an original plan for our department social media for a capstone project in a previous semester. I worked with that student to create some of this background planning, and some of it I created or modified)

They then produce goals and objectives (or adapt from the goals & objectives a student created in a project he completed), create a channel purpose statement, and create a team workflow for how they plan to get their work done. I provide a series of roles for this, which you can see in the assignment below.

To go along with their plan, they present to the class some sample content that aligns with their strategy plan and that they would like to see posted to our department social media. Other classmates complete an evaluation sheet of their peers, assessing in part whether the content is consistent with our class-wide goals, theme, audience, and messages. They also provide feedback on what content should be posted or not. And we only post the best content that aligns with our theme, messages, and hits our target audience.

So, for example, does the content your team is proposing creating align with our key messages such as the one I’ve shared above?

From there, I give students feedback on any adjustments to their plans or the type of content they want to create. And from there, they begin working on creating content that aligns with their plan – which they do 3 more times during the semester (creating the content, not redoing the plan). They present the content they created for a given time period class their content several weeks later.

So far I am really enjoying this project. I truly believe students are getting to think through what they are learning and apply it. This way, they can see it put to practice, learn about the roadblocks and challenges, and get the benefit of the successes. Students have done a great job collaborating across teams to ensure consistency across different social channels, which is something else I emphasize in the class – the importance of consistent messaging and content experiences across multiple screens, which Brito talks about in Your Brand: The Next Media Company (one of our course books – thanks to Karen Freberg for recommending this text!). I’ll talk a little bit more about how the teams are organized, and share the content they’ve created in an upcoming post!

Here is the assignment! Let me know if you have any questions, or thoughts on how i can modify or improve it!

You Can Tweet a Quote Directly From a Pew Report

I teach Comm 335 Writing Across Platforms (see syllabus), a class that in part looks at writing news releases and other content for the web. One tactic we talk about is creating Tweetable content for our social media releases assignment. PitchEngine - the social news release website we use for this assignment – enables users to write ‘quick facts’ that readers can Tweet.

So when I saw today a similar, more streamlined approach used by the Pew Internet project in their reports, I had to make a quick blog post about it. I was reading the Cell Phones, Social media, and Campaign 2014 report when I stumbled across this.

See screen grab below:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

I love this tactic – and wish I had thought of it to teach to my students. :) I may just integrate this into my lecture next semester. I wish I had access to stats from Pew to know how effective these are.

Have you seen this before elsewhere? What do you think?  Is this effective – do people want to share pre-written Tweetable quotes, or do they want to be able to put it into their own words?

Strategic Campaigns Class Overview and Syllabus

2014-10-25 15.03.23

Fall is in full effect here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia! As a follow up to my last post about my Comm 470 Strategic Campaigns class client, Charles Town Now, I want to share the class syllabus.

A few quick things to note about Comm 470 Strategic Campaigns.

  • The purpose of the class is to teach students how to plan a campaign. Thus, they learn via class lecture and activities, as well as by taking on a real world client to practice what they are learning.
  • Students work in groups and this semester we had a single client for the entire class.
  • Students work with a client – they create a campaign for the client, including materials for the client to implement. However, due to the condensed nature of a semester, they do not execute the campaign.
  • Students create an evaluation plan, but do not do evaluation because the campaign does not run.
  • The major project for the semester – the campaign – is broken into 3 parts. Students complete the background research section of their campaign plan (ending with a SWOT analysis), and turn that in for grading. This is an opportunity to provide students feedback for modifications to make. They then make modifications, and add the proposal components (channels & opinion leaders, key messages, goals, objectives, strategies, tactics). They then present this to the class. After getting feedback, they will put together their implementation materials and evaluation plan.
  • The text for this class is: Developing the Public Relations Campaign: A Team-Based Approach by Bobbitt & Sullivan
  • Additional assignments include:
    • Campaign Case Study paper
    • CisionPoint University Software Training . If you’re not familiar, Cision has an online, self-direct training program that works like Hootsuite University. But it is aimed at teaching students how to use CisionPoint. Students can become accredited in CisionPoint.
    • Team Evaluations – students evaluate one another in terms of their effort and dedication to the team project. Since most of the work in this class comes from a team project, peer evaluation is worth 16% of their grade.

I know many people have found the syllabi I share helpful, and hope this one is helpful as well. Please remember that you can access all of my syllabi by hovering over ‘syllabi’ from the menu on the left.  If you have any questions, contact me via Twitter or leave a comment below!

How do you teach this class? What recommendations do you have for improving my class, or assignments and activities I should consider?

-Cheers!

Matt

photo credits: Me. :) 

 

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

I can’t believe it’s mid October and … even scarier, it is midway through the semester! It’s 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