This semester has certainly crept up on me. I had a very busy winter break. The realization that this semester has crept up on me has me realizing a few other things, things that have gotten away from me.
One such thing that has gotten away from me is keeping the syllabi on this blog up to date. As longtime readers of this blog probably know, my mission here is to share what I’m doing in the classroom as well as what I am thinking about as it relates to teaching and learning social media and related fields. While my primary means of doing that is via blog posts, from the start I also set out to share syllabi. Yet, as we turned the page to 2019 I realized I have neglected to share syllabi from anything after 2017, sans my 2018 persuasion and message design syllabus. Eek!
One reason for this was because sometimes, on the surface that is a syllabus, not a lot has changed from year to year. The main changes tend to be ‘under the hood’ – that is, in the day-to-day class and related assignments.
Yet, when I add up the changes that occur from semester to semester, it is clear that over a few years, a lot changes on my syllabi.
I’ve also noted that many of you download the syllabi I share on SlideShare. For example, the social media syllabus from my fall 2016 class has been downloaded 65 times to date.
So, I have updated the syllabi menu of this blog to include my 2019 spring research class syllabus, my 2019 spring campaigns class syllabus, my 2019 writing across platforms syllabus, and my fall 2018 social media class syllabus. I also placed the fall 2018 persuasion and message design syllabus in the syllabus menu.
You can access the syllabus menu at the top of this page (see image below). You can also see them below. To download any of them, click the LinedIn icon. This will take you to the full page on Slideshare. There, you will see a download button.
I feel good. Everything is in equilibrium. We’re all up to date… for now.
Be sure to check back in 2 weeks for my “What’s Changing?” blog post, a long-running series on this blog where I start the semester by sharing changes, updates, and new approaches I am taking to my classes for the semester. Can’t wait? Read last semester’s “What’s Changing?” post.
COMM 322 Social Media Fall 2018 Syllabus
COMM 335 Writing Across Platforms Spring 2018 Syllabus
COMM 402 Persuasion & Message Design Fall 2018 Syllabus
COMM 435 (Applied) Communication Research Spring 2019 Syllabus
This is post 1 in a two-part series about Stukent Mimic Intro. You can see post 2 here.
Last spring I decided to try something new with my Writing Across Platforms class. These past few semesters we have witnessed the rising importance of paid as part of the PESO model when it comes to PR. With that, I’ve been seeking ways to bring paid into my classes. It is hard to do this, of course, without a class client and a budget. And sometimes that isn’t reasonable given the structure of a class.
A few years ago I did a project in my social media class where students learned to create an ad on Facebook. But the assignment wasn’t all that great and I wasn’t super happy with it. I did require students to complete parts of the Facebook Blueprint training so that they had knowledge of how Facebook ads worked. And that part I was pleased with. (As a sidebar, I’ll write a blog post later about how I tuned up this assignment and tried something new).
Unsatisfied, I looked for something more. That’s when I heard about Stukent.
Stukent offers a mix of simulators for classroom projects and digital course textbooks. At the time I learned about them, they had the social media simulator (which many friends on the Social Media Professors community group have chatted about) as well as two search engine marketing simulators: Mimic intro – which is a basic overview – and Mimic pro – a more robust product.
I got interested in Mimic intro because it teaches students the basics of PPC/search engine marketing. A few clear benefits presented themselves. While PPC ads may not be a major part of the PR space, here are some benefits I saw:
A strong understanding of SEO is needed in PR. If students can learn some SEO basics from this simulator, I felt it would greatly bolster what I was doing in the class in terms of keywords research.
It isn’t that different than creating ads on social media. You have to understand how ad bidding systems work. You have to consider your content, audience, product and budget. (See the note at the bottom of this post about the Stukent social media simulator).
It could help students understand how keywords are used in writing.
It could help students learn to write concisely.
It could help students analyze data from their simulations to make adjustments to their content.
An understanding of what SEM is and how it works could only benefit students.
With that in mind, I signed my class up for the Mimic Intro because it is a short simulator that I determined I could do in 2 weeks during my class. Because my class is aimed at teaching students to write in a variety of fashions, I felt this was the best fit. After all, in addition to this assignment, in this class students learn to write news releases, to write to optimize their news releases for the web, to create micro-targeted content through the BuzzFeed assignment, and to write a more traditional white paper. So, as you can see, it is a busy semester.
How the Simulator Works
In short, each student is tasked with creating search engine ads for a an online camera retailer. The goal is to sell a few different products at different price points, and which have different profit margins. The students are given a budget of a few thousand dollars and are told to spend it all.
Before students start, the simulator provides a video-based education about how to effectively plan, write and execute their campaigns. Students are given hypothetical past data to work off of, and text explanations accompany the overview which I found very helpful in getting clarity on terms. Students then work through some additional need-to-know info to succeed at their projects before starting. Altogether, I was happy with this set up because, as someone knew to PPC myself, I felt prepared upon entering the simulator.
The campaign works in rounds. With Mimic Intro, students can complete up to two rounds. A round simulates data for a timed period, which if I recall was one month. At the end of the simulation – which takes maybe 30 seconds or a minute to run – the students see the results of their efforts.
So, for each round, students write their ads in a set up that is very similar to Google Adwords ads. A student creates an ad group. In that group, the student writes the ad headline and body text, picks the link they want to use from a list of options, writes the display text for the ad, etc. When the student is ready, they run the simulator as I described above.
In Mimic Intro, you also create emails for email marketing. However, there weren’t a ton of instructions here so I didn’t place much emphasis on it. Maybe I should next time.
The professor can see how each student performed in comparison to one-another. This enables you to provide feedback on ways the student can improve. You could also use this information in grading or choose to grade each student individually.
How I set it Up
Before assigning anything like this, I always do the project myself. I wanted to really know how PPC works and because it was something knew to me, I really invested the time to do the best I could. I will talk more about that on the follow up post to this post in 2 weeks.
For now, let’s look at how I worked the assignment in my class.
Earlier in the semester: I introduced the concepts of search engine optimization and had students do some basic keyword research using Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner.
Day 1: I assigned students to read Chapter 6 of the Digital Marketing Essentials textbook for an introduction to key concepts. The book is part of the Stukent offerings and the chapter was an add-on product that the students got when they paid for their Stukent subscription. An instructor in the Stukent community shared her slides on how she introduced the topic of PPC ads and keyword research. [Note: Stukent has a community where professors using their products can share content and discuss best practices]. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who it was and cannot find where I found her post. I apologize for not being able to provide due credit. These slides were super helpful time saver and I used them as the foundation to create my own lecture slides. The lecture explains 1) What PPC is and how bidding works for it, 2) What the goal is – to sell specific cameras – 3) how to set up their ad campaigns in the software, 4) some basics of the math related to cost per click, cost per acquisitions and conversions, and 5) some tips for success.
Day 2: Day 2 was the first round of the Mimic intro software. We have computers in our classroom. I made sure students understood how to proceed with the software and set them loose to work on their campaigns. They had to run the simulator by the end of the class and see their results.
Day 3: Day 3 was an opportunity for students to see how they did and find ways to do a better job on their second and final round creating PPC ads. The second round is the same as the first. But the focus is on improvement and learning. Stukent doesn’t provide specifics to the students as to why they did/did not perform well. So, at the start of class I explained some findings and some things to consider. Students applied what they learned and were given the rest of class to complete round 2 of the simulation.
Day 4: On the last day, we spoke a bit about how the entire project went, what students thought, and what they learned. We then moved onto another topic.
In the next post, I will talk about how the project went and my own results and thoughts when I went through the simulator. I will also provide a copy of my assignment and explain how I graded it and why that stressed some students out but ultimately created an engaged learning experience.
As a note: I have since learned that the Stukent social media simulator is about social media advertising. I had misunderstood, thinking it was more about learning to create and schedule organic content. Therefore, I could see this simulator working in this project as well, depending on how much time you have in your class.
On a further note, I wrote in a previous post this semester that I was frustrated that Stukent was no longer opening Mimic Intro software to courses that were smaller than 80 students and courses that were not “Principles of/Intro to Marketing courses.” I have since spoken with Stukent and they were very understanding of my concern that this would limit access such that communication students couldn’t benefit from it. They have allowed me to use the Mimic Intro software again this spring in my writing class and I am very glad about it. If you are outside of marketing and want to use Mimic Intro in your class, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to apply for access.
Fall 2018 is underway and I can’t believe it is already September! To keep the trend up, I’m starting the semester off by sharing some of the things that are changing this semester in my classes. As I look at former “What’s Changing” blog posts from past semesters, I’m surprised to see that I’m not changing a whole lot this year. Still, some fun things are in the works:
Comm 321: Public Relations Principles
This is the first course students in the Strategic Communication concentration take.
Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of our seniors when they leave the program has led me to try and improve 2 areas in this class. Specifically, these past few semesters I have been working to 1) improve student skills for generating creative ideas to address real-world communication problems, and 2) improve student skills in articulating and building interest in those ideas (i.e., pitching and presenting ideas in a succinct and powerful way). Thus, I am walking back on “content-packing” my classes a bit and increasing more in-class exercises and guided brainstorming activities. In the past, I have let brainstorming be a bit of a ‘free for all.’ But I picked up a few brainstorming games while visiting a few agencies during an NMC trip last February. I plan to implement them in both my principles class and my campaigns class.
Comm 322: Social Media
The big change this year is that I’ve switched over from the Hootsuite certification to the Hubspot Social Media certification. I considered assigning both, but because I have also added some of the Facebook Blueprint educational materials and a new assignment to the class, I felt that it would be too much to ask the students to do both Hootsuite and Hubspot. After all, the class is stuffed already with projects. So, this year I’m going to see how the Hubspot cert goes and make a decision of which I prefer. It seems the Hubspot cert is more strategy whereas the student-version of the Hootsuite cert has been narrowed in recent years from its original broad scope to just the Hootsuite software. I got excited about the new Hubspot cert after hearing that two folks that I’ve always admired, Karen Freberg and Ai Zhang, both helped with it.
The other big change is the addition of a Facebook IQ case study assignment. With paid now well-established as a central component of digital communication strategy, I have been looking for ways to increase students’ education in paid (see my comment about Stukent below). Coupled with that, I’m always looking for ways to help students gain further exposure to analytics and data. As Facebook IQ offers a treasure trove of interesting data, I thought I’d create an assignment around that. I’ll be sure to do a blog post about that sometime son.
Special Topics: Persuasion and Message Design
A big change this year is that I’m teaching my Persuasion and Message Design class for the second time ever. I first taught this class in Fall 2016 as a special topics class. I am teaching it again as a special topics class. I’m really excited to be teaching it again, because students told me 2 years ago that the course really helped them with the campaigns class and their capstone projects.
While this class is not directly about social media or technology in general, it is a relevant class for communication educators broadly and PR, advertising, and marketing professors specifically.
The course description is: “Persuasion plays a central role in both our personal and professional lives. This class explores an array of theories, approaches, and research findings about how and why persuasion works. The course emphasizes the ethical application of persuasive messaging and strategies, with an emphasis on how persuasive strategies can be used to design communication messages and applied in communication campaigns. The course also seeks to prepare the student to deconstruct persuasive messages and become a more critically-minded receiver of the persuasive tactics one encounters every day. ”
While I am not teaching the Writing Across Platforms class this semester, I was disappointed to see that Stukent has now limited access to their Mimic Intro SEM simulator (which serves as an intro to SEM) to large classes of 80 or more students and to classes that are “Principles of/Intro to Marketing courses.” This is according to an email I received on August 17.
Therefore, I will be looking for something else to do in that class next semester. If you’ve got ideas, I’m all ears. Tweet me!
While Stukent offers other products (I know many of us in the Social Media Educator’s Facebook group have discussed using their software in our PR and social media classes. Granted, much of that discussion has been around their social media simulator), I feel that this decision by Stukent is limiting and fails to consider smaller programs and programs outside of marketing. Because I put a great deal of time and effort into planning to incorporate the Mimic Intro software into my class last semester, I am frustrated to find that I won’t be able to use it again this upcoming spring. Had I known that Stukent was going to make this change, I would not have spent all that time planning to incorporate Mimic Intro into my class. I would have found something else. I do think that, as educators, we need to be aware that anytime we are using an outside product, we must understand that there is no guarantee of longevity. As such, I must balance my feelings of frustration with this understanding.
I had been planning to write up a blog post about how things went with the Stukent assignment I created in my writing class last semester. In fact, students seemed very happy to be learning about paid search. I am debating whether to bother writing this up or not as it appears it would be of little use to readers of this blog.
That aside, I’m excited for the year ahead. I have a few ambitions of up my sleeve that I’m hoping I can find some time to work on this semester.
I hope that everyone had a relaxing and rejuvenation winter break.
I’m going to kick off Spring 2018 with something I like to do on this blog at the start of the semester: Offer a preview of some of the changes and updates I’m making to my classes (Here are all past “What’s Changing” blog posts). Some of the things I will share below are items that I have blogged about recently. However, most of these items are new topics that I I hope to expand upon with blog posts during the course of the semester.
COMM 321 Public Relations Principles
Last semester was the first time that I did not teach this class in a few years. Here are a few things that I did lats year that I want to improve or keep working on in the class:
The public relations class is the first class in the Strategic Communication concentration. In short, this is where students are introduced to the field of study. I will be working to provide a greater emphasis on personal branding in this class, as I discussed in a recent blog post about an online personal branding assignment. My hope is to, therefore, start the personal branding conversation as early as possible. As a result, I hope to be able to continue to emphasize it and expand upon it as students work their way up through the concentration.
I teach this class once a year during the spring. Each semester, I have made modifications to the class. But, at this core, this class aims to prepare students to conduct applied research using both new (e.g., analyzing social data) and traditional research techniques (e.g., content analysis, surveys, focus groups and interviews). We touch on both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Students complete 3 projects, each aimed at addressing a different hypothetical situation that they may face in their careers.
For the past few years, the first project in this class has been a basic quantitative content analysis of media artifacts assignment. I find that teaching content analysis first is a good way to get students warmed up to conducting research. The content analysis method is used to address the following situation: A media campaign has been run to promote a new Netflix show. The class project begins after the campaign in the evaluation stage. The students need to assess the coverage of news articles to see how effective the campaign was in getting media placement. We look at share of voice, placement within the article, whether our hypothetical key messages made it into the article, etc.
In the past, to get the data, I gathered news media artifacts via LexisNexis and distributed them to the students. It was not the most hands on learning experience. This semester, I’m super excited because the students will be using Meltwater social intelligence software to create their own search for articles they will be analyzing. This will enable students to have a data set comprised of both traditional news as well as newer, online publications. Adding this little touch will improve the learning experience, provide a better data set, and make things feel that much more ‘real.’ It’s the seemingly small but powerful improvements like this that make all the difference! A big thank you to @Meltwater and Carol Ann Vance, director of university relations at Meltwater!
As frequent readers of this blog know, I had the opportunity to use Meltwater in my COMM 322 Social Media class last semester. I am pumped to bring it into my research class this spring.
There has been a lot of discussion about certifications in the social media professor’s Facebook group. Like many of you, I’ve been wanting to get my students to complete certifications that have been created by industry. Students will be given the opportunity to complete the Google Analytics certification this semester in the class. I’m approaching this as a beta test. I’ve been wanting to get my students trained in analytics. However, my class is so packed already that I haven’t dared bring it in. The compromise I’ve decided upon is to let students complete the analytics assignment outside of class on their own in place of the research analysis paper that I traditionally assign in this class. Thus, the decision is entirely optional. And my goal is to assess feedback from these students on how it went. From there, I’ll decide how to approach the certification in the future.
COMM 335 Writing Across Platforms
I teach the writing class every year during the spring. If memory serves, this is the 5th year in a row that I will be teaching this class. Each semester, I have tried to change up at least one of the major writing assignments in the class, while making tweaks and improvements to all of them. Here are the big changes that I have in mind:
The BuzzFeed assignment will continue. But, this semester we’re going to do the BuzzFeed assignment as the first major writing assignment instead of as one of the last assignments. Therefore, I will be shifting the focus of the assignment from spring break to a new topic. Students will need to write about West Virginia, or their home state.
I will be removing the Facebook ad writing assignment (and moving it to the social media class next fall). Last year, I had my students write a Facebook ad promoting themselves. The assignment was based on Dennis Yu’s lecture to my class from several years ago and his unique approach to Facebook ads: The $1 a day strategy. The assignment was great. But I’ve decided paid social needs to be covered in the social media class.
I’ll be adding how to write for paid search in its place. Students will be learning about paid search using the Mimic Intro simulator. Paid has become increasingly important. And I’m finding that many employers are seeking students who have knowledge of paid. I’m interested to see how the software simulator goes, as I’ve never done something like this before in one of my classes.
To keep up with my push to increase the certification opportunities in my classes, students in my writing class will now complete 1 of the Hubspot Academy certifications. They’ll have the choice of completing the email marketing or the content marketing certifications. Students can get extra credit for completing both. (I wrote about my experience with the Hubspot Academy here).
These are the major changes coming to my classes in the spring that I’m excited about. It looks like Spring 2018 will be busy! If you have experience with any of the certifications or activities above, I’d love to hear your input or recommendations.
As part of that project, students are in charge of monitoring the conversation around our department’s social media. Last year, my students used Microsoft Social Engagement which is a great piece of software that we also use in my Comm 435 Communication Research class (all posts about that class). This year, my social media class students will use Meltwater to do the social media listening.
Students will use Meltwater to work on the “social listening” tab of that spreadsheet.
The other tabs in the spreadsheet are about tracking our own performance. The social listening tab is for seeing what is being said about our brand every week. So, students go into this spreadsheet and fill out the below questions from weeks 9-15 of the semester. Specifically, the spreadsheet asks the students to answer 5 questions each week. I modified the questions slightly from last year because the last question from last year could not be answered with Meltwater. You can see this year’s questions below. A hint is provided to students on where to look to find this answer by mousing over each question.
Even though students will have experience using Meltwater by the time we start doing the social listening about our brand about 8 weeks into the semester, I created a lab guide (about lab guides) to help students walk through the steps of answering these questions. My hope is that after they use the lab guide once, they’ll know what to do to be able to answer the questions.
The lab guide is linked in the spreadsheet. You can also access it directly here. If you are new to using Meltwater, the lab guide walks you through how to do some basic social listening. I encourage you to check it out.
In summary, I’m super excited about the growing opportunities my students have had to work with industry software like Meltwater and Microsoft Social Engagement to get real world experience with social listening. I know many of us have worked hard in the last few years in seeking out opportunities like this. And I am extremely pleased that companies like these are making their software solutions available to our students. It matters a lot! I know that my students will leave Shepherd with hands on experience using the same industry software used by many of the largest brands.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It helps a lot.
In the below post, I will discuss my current plans to use the Meltwater media intelligence software in a 300-level strategic social media course.
First, some background:
Most of my students have searched social media sites for their own personal uses. But, before taking my class, few have had to put themselves in the seat of an organization that wants to see who is talking about them.
So, to get students thinking about why an organization would want to monitor the conversation about its brand and the sort of things the organization would want to monitor, I start students out with a brief lecture an a simple in-class exercise.
In the past, my social media students have used a slew of free tools to complete some of the early social media listening activities that I like to assign to get students thinking about the value of social listening.
This semester, students will use some of those tools. But, we’ll be adding Meltwater to really round out these activities.
Using free tools is fraught with dangers. The two biggest dangers are 1) the possibility that the free tool will be here today and gone tomorrow (think topsy.com) and 2) that they tend to be limiting. It can also be frustrating when using free tools because each free tool only provides so much.
So the chance to use real, industry software in my class this year for these activities is a huge leap up.
The Set Up
After the awesome training that Carol Ann Vance provided our students last Thursday, my students were given the following homework: Watch the training videos on the Meltwater platform (see image below) and to create a new dashboard for a social media search of interest to them.
Now that the students have played with Meltwater a little, I then provide them with a more structured activity using the software.
After a lecture on the importance of social listening along with some tips, the plan is to get the students using Meltwater for an in-class activity.
The in-class activity asks students to do some basic social listening for a brand. I choose Burt’s Bees because its a brand many students are familiar with that meets a specific niche: environmentally-conscious health and beauty products. Many people love Burt’s Bees, health & beauty blogs and YouTube channels are a big thing and Burt’s Bees is sometimes featured in videos by influencers in this space, and Burt’s Bees makes a variety of products. I also choose Burt’s Bees because some people have complained about allergic reactions to their products and because I know that they have received some backlash when they were bought out by Clorox several years back( the company was seen by some as selling out to their antithesis, a company that creates products using harsher, less environmentally-conscious chemicals). Of course, you could do this exercise with any brand.
I’m hoping that the students will uncover a diversity of sentiments about the company by doing this activity. And often times, the students aren’t aware of the negative feelings people have towards the company until they do this exercise. So it’s eye opening for the students to see how much they can learn with some basic social listening.
The activity takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. During the activity, I go around the room and help students use the software and make sure everyone has a grip on it. Afterwards, we discuss what the students found and look for themes.
You can access the activity through the following Google Doc. Feel free to make a copy and save it to your own Google Drive account.
The activity is not too complicated and fairly easy for the students to pick up. But it is a great way of getting students’ feet wet. Using analytics software can feel intimidating at first. So this is a nice, comfortable experience for the students.
The students are now prepared for the social media audit assignment. In that assignment, the students use Meltwater and free tools to conduct a social media audit of their client as well as 2 of their client’s competitors. Dr. Gallicano has some great examples of social media audits completed by students on her blog here. You can see a few of them cited in my social media audit assignment below. The students compare and contrast the client to the competitors and look for recommendations to the client on how they can improve their social media. The client in my social media class is our department’s social media, but you could apply this to any industry. (Read more about how I set up our department’s social media as the class client). The assignment is a group assignment with some time given to students work in class.
The assignment is the first major assignment students do in my class and is the foundation for creating the strategic briefs the students create after that.
As many of you know, this past summer was an especially exciting and busy one for me with the birth of my daughter!
Since becoming a dad, I’ve learned a ton about time management and still have a ton more to learn. I know it is going to be a bit more of a challenge to keep up with this blog in the semester ahead. But I am going to work hard to keep the posts coming. I have a lot of ideas for posts that I didn’t get to last semester, including discussing Ketchum’s Mindfire program, a personal branding assignment based on Karen Freberg’s book “A Roadmap to Teaching Social Media,” an exercise I did about Katy Perry and influencers, and the new message map activity my campaigns students did last year.
The big change that I am very excited about this year is that we’ll be adding Meltwater to my class. If you’re not familiar, Meltwater is a media intelligence software platform. While the software offers media relations tools, we’ll be focusing on its social media listening capabilities.
Meltwater has recently launched a university program providing educators and their students free access to their software in PR, social media and marketing programs. I’m excited and thankful that my students at Shepherd University will be among the first universities to be participating in this program. Programs like these are important for our students to gain hands-on experience with leading industry tools.
I had a tour of Meltwater this past summer and immediately had several ideas on how it could be very valuable to my classes. But, with so much going on, I’m going to start this semester with using it only in my social media class.
Inside the Meltwater software, one can find a slew of training videos to quickly learn how to use the software. I personally found it pretty easy to pick up as much of it is self-explanatory.
Participation in the Meltwater university program provides access to training videos, an assignments portal and in-class training via video lecture.
Carol Ann (Funkhouser) Vance, director of university relations for Meltwater, will be Skyping in with my class on Thursday to give us an intro to the software and provide training to students.
In the next post I will discuss how we’ll use Meltwater in my social media class.
Before I provide the syllabus to my social media class, I’d like to mention a few more quick notes about the syllabus. I am very happy with the book choices from last year. I will be sticking with them. Students will be reading:
Also, we will be continuing to participate in the Hootsuite university program, which is now part of Hootsuite Academy.
I’ll be offering extra credit to my students who choose to complete a Facebook Blueprint assignment I created. In short, this assignment asks students to complete several but not all of the Facebook Blueprint lectures. I do not ask students to complete all of the lectures or to complete the certification as it is rather expensive. With paid being an important part of the social media mix, it is important for us to offer our students more experience.
I offered Facebook Blueprint as an assignment in my writing across platforms class last semester. But I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to go in another direction. So, I want to provide students an incentive still to get this education.
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.
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.
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:
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)?
What is the client’s Twitter engagement by month? (again, you choose the appropriate engagement metrics)
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 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.
We’ll be using that same spreadsheet, though a different section of it, in this blog post. You can access it here.
In this post, we’ll discuss Microsoft Social Engagement and how I integrate it into the the social media class so students can engage in social listening.
About Microsoft Social Engagement
Microsoft Social Engagement, sometimes also called Microsoft Social Listening, is part of the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance program via the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software package. In short, Microsoft Social Engagement is one of the pieces of software bundled into the full CRM. It appears the Microsoft Academic Alliance program has recently gone through some changes since when I signed up last spring. The website itself is quite different. However, I’m not personally familiar with the nature of any changes to the program. The language on the website aimed at educators reads: “Demonstrate thought leadership and differentiate your institution by integrating Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP solutions into your curriculum. DynAA helps you innovate and remain relevant when working with prospective students, current students, and potential employers interested in hiring new graduates. Your free DynAA membership provides access to software, support, resources, and community-building opportunities that will prepare your students for exciting careers. ”
Through the Microsoft Academic Alliance program, I have been very fortunate to get my students access to the Microsoft Social Engagement software.
So what is Microsoft Social Engagement? In short, it 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.
You do this by programming different ‘analysis focuses.’ That is, I can have 1 that searches one or a set of topics, keywords, social media accounts – say, my brand – and I can have another analysis focus that focuses on my competitors accounts, keywords, etc. From what I can tell, you can have as many as you want so long as you don’t go over your monthly quota of social data units.
For example, in the social media class we follow our social media accounts and mentions of them, and specific keywords surrounding our department’s brand, such as our hashtag.
The software enables you to quickly visualize several things such as key phrases, sentiment, social platforms or accounts that posts are coming from and their sentiment, posts across time, sentiment across time, geo-location, and geo-location across time. Below is a quick look at the main hub you see when logging into Social Engagement. In it, you can see sentiment in the top left. You can see the sentiment for each platform below that. In the center, you see the volume of posts across time for the keywords we are tracking. In the top right you can see the phrases being used related to those keywords. And in the bottom right, you can see the proportion of the posts that are being analyzed in this instance from each platform.
There are 4 main sections of the software: Overview (the page shown above), conversations, sentiment, location and sources. They are pretty self explanatory.
When you click on a pie chart or graph or keyword, it is interactive. What I mean by that is, it creates a filter in the app.
So, if I click a specific keyword in the phrases word cloud, I am filtering for only those posts that used that keyword.
For example, in the below GIF I am in the Conversations section of the software. I see all of the phrases surrounding our department’s social media accounts and blogs in the last month. That is, every post that mentioned 1 of our social accounts, our hashtag or our blog (Note: This is what I’ve selected for this analysis focus). I then click on the #shepcomm hashtag which filters for only those posts that contain that hashtag. So, I can see the other phrases that are in posts containing #shepcomm. You’ll see that the blog source gets filtered out because the 1 blog post does not contain the hashtag. Next, I click Twitter. Thus, only posts containing the hashtag and Twitter are being shown. Lastly, I click on the neutral (gray) sentiment and we filter down to the 1 Twitter post that has neutral sentiment containing the #shepcomm hashtag. While not shown in the below GIF, in order to see what the 1 post was, I could click on the “posts” tab in the right-hand side of my screen to see the original Twitter post.
For the sake of keeping this post length manageable, I will stop there. Suffice it to say, I am just touching the tip of the iceberg on how you can use this software. I will go into 5 key ways that we use the software in my class below which will further demonstrate its utility. And, you will get instructions on how to use the software for those 4 ways in the lab guide I provide my students which I will link to below.
Before doing that, a few notes: The reality is, there is a lot more than can be done with Social Engagement by linking it to other software within the Dynamics CRM. For example, as I understand it, it can be linked with other software for social media customer relations management. But I have not gone down that path yet.
One limitation of the software is that you have to program in what you want it to track ahead of time. Then, it begins tracking. For example, 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. If I know I’m going to want to track a hashtag or social media account, I have to program it and then I’ll get the data going forward from the time I programmed it. A second limitation is that it is not real time meaning that while you are looking at the software you don’t see the data changing if new Tweets are coming in.
How I integrated Microsoft Social Engagement into the social media class
Social Engagement is used to work on the “social listening” tab of that spreadsheet. In short, the other tabs in the spreadsheet are about tracking our own performance. The social listening tab is about, well, social listening – seeing what is being said about our brand. The spreadsheet asks the students to answer 5 questions each week. You can see them below. A hint is provided to students on where to look to find this answer by mousing over each question.
To help students learn how to answer each of these questions, I developed a lab guide (about lab guides). The lab guide teaches students how to use the software.
You will find that reading through it can teach you a bit more on how the software works and how it can be used to answer the above 5 questions.
In summary, these posts have provided an overview of how I taught social media metrics and listening my fall 2016 social media class. In my research class this spring we will be diving deeper into Microsoft Social Engagement and a few other tools for learning about social data. I am always looking to improve. I’m also looking to find new, cost-effective software solutions to expand social media measurement learning opportunities. If you have any suggestions, leads, or want to chat or collaborate, please Tweet me.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It helps a lot.
In the social media education community, there has been a lot of discussion about teaching social media metrics and analytics to students. This has been a challenge and frustration for myself and many others. Access to industry tools is cost prohibitive for many universities, making it difficult for us as educators to prepare our students for this aspect of their careers.
I’ve worked hard over the last few years to try and enhance how I’m teaching these concepts. And I’m not where I want to be. But I know there are many fellow educators also on this journey with me. So, I’d like to share how I teach students to track social media metrics as part of a semester long assignment and a few modifications I have recently made to enhance that aspect of my teaching.
I’ve split this topic into two blog posts for length purposes. In both of these posts, we’ll focus on my social media class (2016 syllabus; and all articles about this class). In this post, we’ll talk about the spreadsheet for tracking metrics. In the follow up post, we’ll discuss Microsoft Social Engagement and how I integrate it into the metrics assignment portion of the class.
My aim in my social media class is to introduce metrics to students both in lecture & discuss (which I’ve been doing for some years) as well as by use of software. Then, when students get into the Communication Research class (2015 syllabus; articles about this class), they will get more in-depth learning about analytics. I’ve increased/improved my focus on this area in that class for next spring. And my long term hope is to really build that part of the class out. During the upcoming spring semester, I will write a blog post about what we will be doing with analytics. And, at that time, I will share all of my assignments and handouts.
Okay, back to my social media class. In past years we’ve used Twitter Analytics – which has been the best, free tool. Unfortunately, other platforms have been limited in their analytics. We’ve used a slew of free tools that have been here today, gone tomorrow.
This year, we still faced the challenges of relying on Twitter Analytics and whatever free tools we could find. But I also added a brief introduction to Microsoft Social Engagement (which will be discussed in the next post in this series).
But first, let’s discuss how I teach students to track performance metrics in my social media class.
In lecture, I teach students about the activity, engagement and performance metrics discussed in Kim’s book, Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing. I also emphasize the importance of choosing metrics that are tied to goals. (You’ll see a tab in the spreadsheet discussed below, where students are to determine their objectives and what metrics would be important to those objectives).
Student teams begin with the planning tab, then they establish their metrics goals to use the spreadsheet to establish benchmarks and KPIs for their platform and track metrics over the semester. They then move over to reporting tab to track weekly metrics.
Tip. You can see tips by mousing over the small triangles in the upper right corner of some cells, as shown below. I’ve created these to help students when working on their spreadsheets in groups.
In the image below, you can see the ‘reporting’ tab of this spreadsheet. We start tracking in week 9 of the semester, but you can modify this as you like. After each week, you’ll see the percentage change. Of course, you can also modify what you are tracking. I throw in a number of potential metrics to track for different platforms. But, students can delete all the rows they don’t need and modify the individual metrics for that platform as needed. The metrics identified in the spreadsheet are just a guide.
I’ve also divided the spreadsheet up into different platforms so each team can pick their platform (as shown in image below) for tracking the success of their posts. The idea here, is that by tracking these posts across time, students can begin to analyze these metrics for trends (though, I don’t have any ways to quickly analyze and visualize this data at this time). This could help them learn when the best time to post is. However, you could also add variables about the post that can help them identify which is the type of content that is most successful. Other spreadsheets I’ve seen track variables such as whether an image was used, what hashtags are used, if links are used, etc. So, again, you can modify the optimization section as you see fit. I discuss other variables to track, but focus on the ones in this spreadsheet so as to not overwhelm students. I’ve found if I ask students to track too many things, nothing gets tracked as they get overwhelmed. So choose what you want them to track, and stick with it.
I’ve relied on Kim’s metrics categories for metrics students can track. Also, please know the metrics I have identified isn’t perfect and modification of what I’ve identified may be needed – some of my initial metrics may not work, or changes have occurred.
Integrating The Metrics Into the Semester-Long Assignment
As noted above, across the entire semester of my social media class, students are strategizing, building and executing social media for my class. As a part of that, they present their content to the class for approval at intervals throughout the semester. In the latter half of the semester, the students present their current metrics to the class alongside the content they are proposing for the next content time period. At the end of the semester, we discuss their metrics, whether they met their KPIs and during what week they did, and what they learned from them.
While the above enables us to track interaction with our social content and extract some insights, it doesn’t account for listening to competitors, following trends, etc. It also doesn’t take deeper analytics and the extraction of insights into consideration. We don’t do anything to plot or discern specific insights – I am saving that for the Communication Research class this spring. Said another way, the assignment and use of this spreadsheet in my social media class, as I executed it in Fall 2016, was really more about tracking metrics, following change and teaching students to see the impact (outcome) of their efforts on social media, while connecting those back to objectives and KPIs.
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or suggestions or resources you’d like to share about teaching metrics to students, please share them with me and the readers via a comment in the post or Tweet me. This is an important journey for all of us as we work to enhance hands-on metrics learning for our students.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It helps a lot.
A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.