Category Archives: Teaching Social Media

The Power of the Micro Screencast: How Educators Can create GIFs to Save Time and Enhance Learning

Everyone loves GIFs. As I’m sure you  know, you can now easily search Twitter for GIPHY.com Gifs to share. They seem to be everywhere.

But how can GIFs enhance your job as a professor and help your students learn more all while saving you time?

By creating micro screencast GIFs using Recordit or a similar desktop app.

These micro screencasts are perfect for demonstrating brief tasks (I’ve found 10 seconds or less is ideal). And they can be pasted just about anywhere an image can. No embed code. No video player required.

Recordit is free and works for Mac and Windows.

Example of a micro screencast (click image to see high res):

recordit-app-slack

Here are 3 quick ways you can create these micro screencast GIFs to enhance your teaching:

  1. Lab Guides with GIFS

I’ve written in the past about how I like to create lab guides in Google Docs for my students. I titled that post: “Are Your Classroom Handouts Stuck In the Last Century?

If  you missed that post, here’s a quick run down:

I began creating Lab Guides which are Instructional Handout with Multimedia (IHMs). I tend to create IHMs when  teaching students how to use a piece of software or complete a task online in instances when the steps are clearly defined and need to be followed in a specific order. They contain instructional material, embedded images, icons, links. Examples include: How to use Moviemaker, Blogger, Netlytic, etc.

In the past, these have contained lots of screen grabs demonstrating a process.  Not anymore.

Enter Recordit.

The newer lab guides I’ve been creating contain lots of GIFS of steps in a process, cutting down on need for lots of explanation and multiple still images.

For example, here’s a lab guide I created to get my students started with the basics of Netlytic.com – the free, web-based social network analysis site. The lab guide combines GIFs created in Recordit and screen captures created with Skitch (I’ll talk more about Netlytic in a post I plan to write next semester).

technology

Using Recordit is easy. You choose the part of the screen you want to record, then record the video. As soon as you’re done, you get a URL to the video or GIF online. Which leads me to…

2. Answer a student question/email with a GIF

Because Recordit automaticaly generates a URL, you can quickly share the video or GIF via email, over social media, you name it.

I often get student emails asking me for clarity on how to do something for a class assignment. Or, there are those emails from students who can’t find where something is on the course webpage.

It is far more time efficient to make a quick video or GIF and email them back the link to it than to type a lengthy description that feels like a technical manual that the receiver may not be able to follow through every step.

Time saved! Yes!

fist pump club breakfast breakfast club

3. Enhance your presentation slides with GIFs

No matter how hard we try to make a presentation that pops, we can find ourselves limited by Powerpoint. And soon, the audience is… well…

today presentation af powerpoint

Want to show how something on screen works to your audience?

In the past, I’ve often relied on screen grabs. But some things are better conveyed through dynamic visuals.

Creating a GIF is great for showing a brief process on screen.

For example, I’m using Recordit to show simple steps one can take in the messaging app Slack in my upcoming presentation on Slack for class teams the PRSA Educator’s Academy Super Saturday in Indianapolis this October.  I’ll be on a panel with two of my favorite social media professors, Karen Freberg and Ai Zhang. Hope to see you there!

The clips are 3-5 second loops showing how certain commands work in Slack (see example of micro screencast above and below).

Example micro-screencast (click image to see high res)

slack-for-teaching-screencast

How do you embed GIFs into Powerpoint?

Well, you can’t cut and paste the image from the web like you can a still image. Instead, create it or download it from the web and save the GIF to your computer. In Powerpoint on Mac, go to Powerpoint, click insert->photo->photo from file. It’s that easy. 🙂

I hope these quick tips help you see how GIFs can do more than create a laugh or a sense of nostalgia. They can be quick and easy teaching tools.

-Cheers!

Matt

 

What’s Changing? A look at my Social Media Class for Fall 2016

And we’re back…

Summer flew by as it always seems to. It was such a pleasure to see all the talented and motivated familiar faces and make new connections at AEJMC. I got to see many innovative educators whom I admire and whose work I follow. I had an amazing time starting my role serving as the Director of ICBO One Global Digital Strategy for the partner organizations of the International Congress of Behavioral Optometry and traveling to Australia as part of that project.

While summer was truly an opportunity for growth and new experiences, the semester has begun here at Shepherd University. That means, back to blogging!

With that said, it is time for my annual post about “What’s changing” in my classes this semester (you can see past posts here). Today we’ll focus on a few tweaks to my Comm 322 Social Media Class (prior posts about this class. Prior syllabi).

This class is one of the most fun but also one of the most challenging as things keep changing. And, I’m always looking for small tweaks to improve how I run my class as well as the content and the assignments themselves. Here are a few highlights on changes I’m making to my Comm 322 Social Media class this semester.

social media campaigns kim

  • New Textbook! I’m a big fan of Carolyn Mae Kim at Biola University and have had the pleasure of working with her on prior projects. So when I found out she was writing a social media textbook (titled Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing), I knew it was something my students needed to read. Even though it just came out this summer, I made sure our university was able to get it in time for the semester. I had the pleasure of an early look at the book, and it is excellent. I’ve decided to replace Brito’s book. I liked his book quite a bit, but students seemed to struggle with it a bit. I believe Kim’s book will be a better fit into the class and thus more accessible. Our second book in the class will be the updated version of an old favorite, Likeable Social Media. Later this semester, I’ll do a book review of Kim’s Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing on this blog.
  • Slack For Teams – You’ve probably heard of Slack the app and web tool that’s aiming to replace email for teams. I’ve written a bit on this blog about teamwork and how much I rely on it in my classes. With that said, I began using Slack last semester with a group of students I’ve been working with informally outside of class. I found it a great tool for keeping everyone in the loop, sharing files and links, etc. So this semester, I’m going to continue using it with that team but also bring Slack into my Social Media class for team communication. Because the class is broken into different teams for different social platforms, in group and between group collaboration is important.  I know students may be a little reticent to use a new tool, when often they text or use Facebook Messenger to communicate with one another. I have a few ways in which I’m going to require use of Slack for class assignments. It should be an interesting experiment and testing it in this and another class will make for a great experiment in enhancing classroom teamwork. Look for a full blog post later this semester. I’ll also be presenting on Slack in Indianapolis during Super Saturday later this semester.
  • More with Metrics – I spent a lot of effort last year working on upping my metrics game. While I believe I’ve still got a ways to go, I’m planning to bring in professional social media listening tools into the social media class. We have access to Microsoft Social Listening now here at Shepherd. And may possibly have access to other professional tools.
  • Evolving But Keeping The Core of the Main Project – Due to the repeated success I’ve had with the semester-long project in this class (from student feedback, from my own evaluation and feedback from others), I’m not going to change anything structurally to it. However, with the ongoing evolution of social media I’m hoping for some fresh ideas from students on how to use tools like Instagram stories. With enough push from the students, I might even consider starting a Snapchat for our department. Though I’m not a Snapchat person myself, I was super inspired by Ai Zhang’s presentation on Snapchat at AEJMC (read about Dr. Zhang’s work on Snapchat).  If you’d like to see posts about that project, you can see an overview here and a reflection here.

A copy of the syllabus is below. It can also be found via the menu on this blog.

Altogether, it is going to be an exciting semester here! And I’m excited to be back in the classroom. I’ve got plenty of new things I’m doing to become a better educator and continue to improve my classes. I plan to blog about them throughout the semester. So stay tuned!

Hope that your semester is off to a great start!

-Cheers
Matt

 

What Happens When You Put Your Students In Charge of Your Department’s Social Media? (My Fall 2015 Social Media Class Project In Review)

The new semester has started here at Shepherd University. There is a lot I have planned and am looking forward to. But first, I want to look back at my Comm 322 Social Media class from last fall, Fall 2015.

As you know, I’ve been teaching a social media class for many years. I was constantly tweaking the assignments. In Fall 2014, I took a new approach. The class was going to be put in charge of strategizing and creating content for our department’s social media (Twitter, Instagram, Blog). The way it works is, there are a series of assignments throughout the semester that all build towards  (You can learn more about the project and my rationale for it here. And you can learn about the first strategy assignment that goes along with that, here).

The project was a huge success and hit with the students. Students resoundingly responded that they learned a lot, loved the hands-on opportunities, and encouraged me to continue on with it in the future. Here’s a look at how the first year went! I decided to stick with the project this past fall, when I taught the course again.

Several professors have since contacted me asking about the project. So, I thought I’d review how things went in Fall 2015:

 

Original Content – This past semester, I really put an emphasis on creating original content. The year before, the Twitter team in particular, relied on curating content, such as memes and news article. While curating is a powerful and important skill, I wanted more. This year, students delivered 10 fold. You’ll see that in all of the below, but let’s focus on the Twitter team first.

The social media class assignment follows a theme. The theme for 2015 was that the Communication Department is “Shepherd University’s Best Kept Secret.” The reason is that our department is located in a part of the building that students don’t normally pass through. When students wander into our department they see our new TV studio and Mac labs, and say “Wow, I didn’t even know this was here!”

To address this, the Twitter team presented an idea to the class to produce a series of narrative episodes telling the story of a student who is being introduced to the communication department for the first time. They wanted it to be fun, silly, and a story – something students might actually relate to and watch (as an aside, I’ve got a blog post coming out soon about the importance of story in making ideas stick. Stay tuned!). They felt too many people try to show something with boring photos or videos. Ex: “This is our TV studio. It has x number of cameras, etc.” While universities feel good that they make these types of videos, students find them boring and tune out. On social media, people want to be entertained while they learn. So the students came up with the #CommCrusaders,  a series of 30-second Twitter videos (30 seconds is the max length) that were published throughout the semester about this student learning about our department. The videos were supported by teaser photos. Here’s the first episode:

In each video, the #CommCrusaders (a group of 3 students) introduce the new student to the computer lab, our TV studio, our classes, our classrooms, etc. For example, during the Halloween season a series of videos introduces the new student to each of our curriculum concentrations via a fairy visiting the new student in her dreams. In short, through the course of the semester the #CommCrusaders acculturate the student to our department, its culture, and what it has to offer.

For example, here’s a video they produced helping the new student prepare for finals week:

At the end of the semester, the student changes her major to Communication. The videos were a bit goofy at times. But, the class and I believed in the idea that the students presented and I wanted to encourage students to take risks and go for it – that’s what a university classroom is, a laboratory for experimentation. Plus, social media must “be a little weird” and take calculated risk to stand out. The videos certainly brought personality to the Twitter account, which had been lacking in the past.  I’m extremely proud of the planning, production, hard work, and execution of the students in the #CommCrusaders Twitter team. They were absolutely dedicated to the project and showed true imagination in problem solving.

Aligning Content With Strategy – The Instagram team wanted to change the look and feel of our Instagram account. In building their strategy and conducting a social media audit of other communication departments at similar universities, the students saw a gap. Our department is small and our space is small. But, communication students’ lives at Shepherd extends beyond the classroom. The Instagram team wanted to show the life of a Shepherd Comm student and the opportunities and experiences. The students brought more color and more life to the posts. Not only that, they developed a plan for a virtual tour around campus, called “A Day in the Life” to take fans to many places on and off campus that relate to the life of a Comm students. This tour ran throughout the semester. It consisted of a map teasing fans about what was to come, then a video post walking to that location, and then an interview with a key figure at that location.

Shepherd_University_Comm_Dept___sucomm__•_Instagram_photos_and_videos

Oh, and they had a fun video too.

 

Metrics – Metrics were up for our blog, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Students were required to report their stats throughout the semester. They used Twitter analytics, Sumall.com (which changed to a paid model halfway through the semester) and WordPress blog stats.

SUComm-Halloween-contest

A major boost in followers and likes came for the Instagram team during their Halloween pumpkin carving contest. The students approached me and said they wanted to run a contest to promote the account. Persons were invited to carve a pumpkin and tag SUComm to enter. To promote the week-long contest, word was put out to via residents halls, comm classes, and the students were able to secure a promotional post on the university-wide Instagram account. The account picked up about a dozen followers from this fun activity, all of which were in our target audience: Shepherd students both inside and outside the department. Finalists were chosen, then a winner, and the winner received a goodie bag. She had her photo taken with our class. All of this was, of course, posted to our Instagram account.

Content Quality – The quality of the content has also continued to go up. In 2014, the Instagram team had some limiting audio issues with their interview videos. The production value was higher in 2015. All content, including the #CommCrusader videos were shot on smart phones and edited on a laptop.

Providing Value to the Audience Rather Than Simply Promoting – The blog team had a tough assignment. Students aren’t big readers of blog posts. It is fun to create multimedia. But, text?! The blog team, I think, was a bit envious of the other teams  (more on that below). Yet, they did a great job. One thing I really liked was their idea for #TechThursday, to provide tips for using software that is used in classes in our department. The blog team started off a bit too salesy and seemed to struggle a little with the idea of content marketing. But, their #TechThursday posts helped the team see how they can add value to the audience as opposed to hitting them over the head with the hard sell.

Areas For Improvement – One area of weakness, was that the teams did not collaborate as well as they did in 2014. For example, in 2014, the teams worked well with each other to create content that was cross-platform such that if an Instagram video was being created about a professor, there was a corresponding blog post, and Tweets that added additional information not available on the other platforms. This year, there was only 1 instance of different platforms working together. 2015 students got stuck in platform silos.

Another area that I need to think about is the blog. Twitter and Instagram are fun social media that the students engage with often. Driving people, particularly students, to a blog post is more difficult. So, I felt that the blog team got the short end of the stick in a way. I’ve stuck with the blog because blog writing is an important skill. And, also because I don’t want to start creating social media accounts on every possible social platform and then be stuck trying to run them or let them turn into ghost properties. It is simply a lot to manage. But, I need to think next year about whether to stick with the blog or try SnapChat, Vine, or a different social platform.

The 2015 students attacked this project. Each team took on extra work beyond what was required of them and produced extra work. The Instagram team planned and executed the Halloween contest and created extra content during the holidays not because it was required by me; they came to me with these ideas. The Twitter team created several more videos than what was required in the total amount of content they needed to produce. I believe this is a sign of a successful assignment. The students took their jobs as representatives of our department seriously. They integrated what they were learning in class into practice, and were held accountable to their metrics goals.

I’m so proud of all of the students in my Fall 2015 social media class. I’m excited to see what they will come up in other classes of mine in the future and the amazing things they will accomplish in their careers! I expect big things out of them!

I am also looking forward to continuing to build on this project and improve it.

If you have any questions about the project and how it all works, check out the blog posts linked above, or you can browse my 2014 syllabi that contains this project and all past posts about my social media class. You can always Tweet me if you have questions.

Hope your Spring 2016 is off to a great start!

-Cheers

Matt

 

 

 

Social Media Book Review: Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck

Finding great social media books to use as texts in a social media class can be a challenge. The space is constantly changing and there is so much we need to teach our students.

Personally, I’m always looking. That’s why this summer I read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuck. Here are 2 areas where the book excels.

jab jab jab right hook vaynerchuck

1) Emphasis on the “jab”

The jab in this case is your social content that does not aim to sell or promote a product. It is the content that builds the relationship with the audience. The basic premise of this book is that in order to hit your customer with a “right hook” to knock them down (i.e., get them to buy), you have to set them up with a lot of little jabs. It is these jabs – pieces of content that are native to the platform and speaks to the interests of your followers – that get them to pay attention to you. Gary’s argument, then, is that the reason most people get social media wrong is because they try to advertise on social media. Since everyone hates being advertised to, people don’t pay attention. In other words, most people try to take old approaches from other mediums and apply them to social media.

If, on the other hand, organizations provided value to their followers – via jabs – then their followers wouldn’t mind a little sales or promotional message – right hook – every once in a while.

This is an important lesson we are all seeking to teach our students. I’ve often spoken about things like the “80 20” rule. The boxing analogy makes it tangible for the reader – and I think students will easily relate to this.

So the question becomes, how do you create great jabs that customers are happy to take on the chin? It is this question that the book seeks to address. Vaynerchuck addresses this question with chapters on various social media channels with primary focus on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

2) Mini “Case Study” Examples

At the end of each chapter is a long list of specific social media posts from various companies, big and small.  Gary deconstructs each social media posting, which is published in full color so you can see it how it would be on the screen. He explains the pros and cons of the post for that social platform. Also, he provides specific insights on how to improve the post. These detailed examples are great for anyone learning how to create better content. The advice is actionable and supporting reasoning is provided. I learned some great pointers from these sections of the book that I had not considered before. And I believe it has helped me create stronger content for myself. And, I’ve incorporated a few of his points into my lecture.

These examples along make the book worth a read. They have a great potential to help students learn how to make better content. In other social media books I’ve read or browsed, I have found a dearth of specific, clear, helpful examples to support what the author is seeking to teach. This is where Gary really adds value to the reader. He takes the time to get into specifics on post after post so that the reader isn’t left with just sweeping claims of what to do.

Most students understand how to make social content – since they create it and are around it all of the time. But my experience is that it can be very difficult to teach students how to make better content. I love this book for this reason!

The Verdict: Would I Use This Book In My Social Media Class?

In short, Yes. However, I didn’t adopt the book this semester. The biggest reason is that the due date for submitting our fall readings was during spring semester. I’ve always hated that policy though I understand the need for that much lead time. But, it tends to stifle my ability to find something new that I love and add it (When I’ve tried to throw a book on the syllabus as a required reading that wasn’t available in the bookstore in the past, students have not been too happy). So I added this book as a recommended read on my syllabus.

Of note, Gary has a “I’m not going to sugar coat it for you” style that is a part of his brand.  I mention this because it may not appeal to all readers. But, I can see a lot of students finding this style appealing as opposed to the more staid writing styles that prevail in most texts that make their way into the classroom.

I would not use this book as a standalone. It doesn’t offer a lot in the areas of analytics, for example. It is a book on how to create content – as the title suggests. So, I would suggest coupling it with other books and readings. In short, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a useful addition for its emphasis on the hows of creating great content and why the advice provided is effective. It is a worthwhile read for both students, professors, and practitioners.

Books I currently use in my Social Media class:

  1. Likeable Social Media by Kerpen – this is a book I have used for several semesters and love. (there is an update version that I have not yet had time to read – the one linked here – that students have told me they really are enjoying).
  2. Your Brand, The Next Media Company by Brito  – this book is a little more challenging of a read for some students. But it is a great book and my second time using it.

What books do you use for your social media class? I’d love to know!

Social Media Documentary Recommendation: Generation Like

When I was in college, I remember watching “Merchants of Cool,” a PBS Frontline documentary chronicling the strategies marketers use to appeal to the elusive teenage demographic.

The documentary had a lasting impression on me. In it, Douglas Rushkoff explores the fascinating attempts by marketers to learn what is cool from teen trendsetters in order to replicate it and sell it back to them through brands like Nike.

In fact, I use snippets of Merchants of Cool in a lecture in my PR class to explore audience research, influence and opinion leaders (as well as to talk about authenticity and co-optation).

Merchants of Cool aired in 2001. To be honest, it is humorous to go back and watch it now, seeing as in 2001 I was in the general age range of the very people the video was profiling. In my defense, I did not like all of the music and fashion shown in the video – truth be told, I was never into Limp Bizkit. 🙂

How much things changed in a little over a decade. As you can imagine, when I was in college there was no social media and there certainly were no smart phones. Time spent on the Internet among young people was a fraction of what it is today.

What’s fascinating, is to compare that film to the February 2014 Frontline documentary “Generation Like.” This documentary, also by Rushkoff, explores teen culture today and its relationship with the world of marketing and promotion. This documentary is all about the relationship teens have with social media, and thus marketers have with teens via social media.

Rushkoff explores how little teens often know about how businesses are using social media to build relationships with them. From TV celebrities to would-be and established YouTube stars on through to marketing the Hunger Games movies, the documentary offers a fascinating look at what drives young people to use social media – both from the perspective of self-empowerment to building relationships with brands and celebs.

I seldom use class time to show clips longer than 5 or 10 minutes. But I found Generation Like to offer such a fascinating look at many sides of social media, culture, and business, that I showed Generation Like in my Social Media class last semester and did so again this semester. Students last semester thought the documentary offered such a great look into several concepts we covered in class, they suggested I show it earlier in the semester this year as a sort of primer. So I did. 🙂

The documentary offers an opportunity for a great discussion for any social media class. We had a wonderful debate on the implications of social media for society after watching it. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend it. While it is a little over a year old, it is still very applicable.

Enjoy!

-Cheers!

Matt

Why We Must Consider Social Media Certification Programs as Part of Social Media Education Curriculum

I just got back from an amazing #AEJMC15 conference in San Francisco.

There, my colleagues and I had the pleasure of presenting our study, “Hootsuite University: Equipping Academics and Future PR Professionals for Social Media Success,” as the top paper in teaching pedagogy in the Public Relations Division. I had the pleasure of working with some truly awesome social media professors!

hootsuiteuniversityresearchstudyThis was such a rewarding experience because this is such an important area of research. We expect our students to excel in a workplace that is evolving alongside lightning-fast changes to our media environment. But for them to succeed, it is vital that both educators and professionals in the social media space continue to explore what an education in social media entails.

There are big challenges ahead for all of us in the social media space. And there are lots of questions.

My colleagues and I have explored social media education certification programs as one avenue for helping students get the training they need to excel as professional communicators in a social media world. And this is an area that shows a great deal of potential that warrants further exploration and discussion. But many people aren’t familiar with social media certification programs and not enough is known about how to effectively use them.

  1. How can these programs benefit social media educators?
  2. To what extent do social media certification programs help students prepare for careers as communication professionals?
  3. How do employers perceive social media certification programs? Are they valuable? Why?

Educators, students, and business professionals have a vested interest in exploring the potential benefits of social media education certification programs and how these programs can be best utilized.

Hootsuite University is a social media certification program aimed at preparing professionals for expertise in the Hootsuite social media dashboard software. It also enables individuals to demonstrate proficiency in professional social media use.

SXSWedu Panel

To continue the conversation on how social media certification may benefit social media education, my colleagues (Emily Kinsky, Karen Freberg, and Carolyn Mae Kim) and I have put together a panel proposal for 2016 SXSWedu titled: “Incorporating Social Media Certification In Class.” Panels are accepted based on popular vote.

The panel will explore Hootsuite University and how professors can work with students to sharpen digital skills in today’s rapidly changing media environment. We aim to provide insights from our research as well as share key skills, tips, and takeaways from our own experiences for enhancing social media savvy among employees and students.

There’s no doubting that social media education is a vital area of skill and understanding for today and tomorrow’s communication professionals. And social media certification programs may help fill that role.

Presenting this panel at SXSWedu, such an important venue for the intersection of technology and education, would allow us to reach a wider audience, sharing best practices for using social media certification programs like Hootsuite in the classroom to enhance social media education.

To help us accomplish this mission, please support us by voting for our panel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on or experiences with social media certification programs, or how we can continue to grow and adapt as a field to ensure students today are being prepared to excel in the social space.

Thank you so much for all of the support I’ve gotten as I work in this space. It means a great deal to me. And thank you for voting for our panel and for sharing this article!

Post originally published on LinkedIn.

Why PitchEngine is Great For Teaching the Social Media News Release

pitchenginelogo

In my Writing Across Platforms class, students write a news release for the social web. We have used PitchEngine to help students learn the web features that can bolster a news release.

So let’s talk about PitchEngine, why it is awesome, and why I love it for this assignment.

What is PitchEngine?

PitchEngine is a service for creating, hosting, and getting the word out about your organization’s news. It is an effective, visually appealing, and easy to use storytelling tool for reaching media – traditional and new – as well as brand fans. I say storytelling because, while a news release is one way PitchEngine can be used, it certainly isn’t the only way. Think of it as a platform for sharing your brand’s story.

In other words, news releases aren’t simply pushed out like the old days – but they are hosted on branded space. This was an innovation that PitchEngine helped introduce. PitchEngine helped bring about the social media news release and so it is fitting that students learn the social media release using their service. PitchEngine CEO/Founder Jason Kintzler has been a leading voice for technology and change in the PR industry.

PitchEngine includes custom layouts, multimedia utilities, and analytics features.

Brands have their own page where all of their pitches are aggregated, such as the A&M Entertainment brand page. Media can follow these pages to get updates when a new pitch is posted.

You can see a host of creative PitchEngine pitches on Pinterest.

How have I used it in this assignment?

When I give out the assignment, I discuss several important features about web writing – whether it be a news release format or a blog post.

  • We talk about SEO, inbound links, and the role of search and sharing in helping people find your content.
  • As part of that, we spend a good amount of time searching keywords on Google Keyword Estimator and Google Trends – things I’ve written before about here, and here.
  • And we talk a little about readability and writing for the web – something I come back to later in the semester with more detail.

After students write their initial news release draft with an emphasis on web writing, students put their pitches into PitchEngine. This is a great experience for getting to get a sense of how writing functions in the web world.

Here are two of the several elements of web pitches I emphasize.

Visuals

PitchEngine emphasizes the visual element of the pitch. A look over their website shows that they take style seriously. This is no accident. They have easy-to-use, one-click templates for pitch layout. Here’s a great pitch from Keen that harnessing photos to show off their cool new shoes.

In corresponding with Kintzler, he emphasized the value of shooting and composing great photos and visuals for pitch effectiveness. You can see the emphasis on visuals in a PitchEngine pitch, such as this.

I try to impress this upon my students – requiring them to identify key visuals to bolster their pitches. After creating their pitches, they choose a template style that they find most appropriate to their pitch. Note: None of my student’s posts are public because that would mean they were… public, and since we write about real brands with mock situations that would cause a problem. So I won’t share them. But, take my word for it, they look great!

Tweetables

As I note below, PitchEngine has changed over the last few years. They used to have a feature where you typed in ‘quick facts’ that readers can click and Tweet. That appears to have been replaced with a new, also awesome feature – Tweetables.

Tweetables are parts of written text that make for good Tweets. That is, it is a section of a sentence that a reader can click on and Tweet. So, you want it to emphasize a key fact, stat, or point in your pitch that users would find interesting. It should align with your message strategies. I wrote about this concept a while back when I noticed Pew using this same feature to facilitate easy sharing of content from web articles to Twitter.

I noticed that several students struggled with the Tweetable concept this semester. I think I didn’t explain it very well this semester, or show effective examples.

Here’s an example of a Tweetable from a student release (company name redacted). Simply click the link, and Tweet!

PitchEngine-Tweetable

More On PitchEngine

The folks at PitchEngine, including Jason, have been so generous and kind in all of my communications with them. They have generously allowed our students to use their tool for the 3 semesters over the past few years that I have taught this class. In that time period, PitchEngine has changed their features and pricing model. But they’ve always been happy to let our students used advanced, paid features – such as templates – for learning purposes; that includes now, that PitchEngine no longer offers free accounts. A big thanks to PitchEngine!

I would love for PitchEngine to build a university program that can help students learn a bit more about the features, suggested strategies for maximizing pitch effectiveness on the platform, analytics, and ‘under the hood’ how it works, of PitchEngine. I think this would make for a great opportunity for more universities and for our students to get the very most out of the tool.

More Details About the Assignment

As I’ve mentioned previously, here is my original social news release assignment (I’ve since modified it to reflect recent changes to PitchEngine).

Dr. Gallicano and Dr. Sweetser have a great guideline for teaching the social media release (Note: PitchEngine is mentioned). I’ve adapted parts of their recommendations to improve my assignment.

Has your class used PitchEngine? If so, how? What recommendations do you have for integrating it into assignments?

Have you check out their, fairly new TinyPitch website? I need to find more time to explore this cool, new tool.

Hope you are enjoying spring break! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Matt

top graphic: PitchEngine Logo is property of PitchEngine

Teaching Social Media Metrics: A Professor’s Frustration

Crumpled Frustration

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to improve teaching social media metrics and monitoring. This is something that I have never quite been satisfied with in my classes. I think a big reason for this is because we don’t have access to a lot of real-world metrics for students to learn on. I’ve tried to overcome this limitation in a few ways. But none of them have been completely satisfactory. Here’s what I’ve tried:

  • I’ve pulled down stats from webpages or Facebook pages for events I’ve developed or helped run. But all have been fairly small scale.
  • Last academic year, I implemented a blog assignment in my social media class and one of the main goals was for students to learn how to use Google Analytics. However, to do so, we used Tumblr because that enabled us to install GA for free. Students didn’t like Tumblr. This year, we moved to WordPress for our department blog. The free version doesn’t support GA and the WordPress stats are limiting.
  • This past fall, students created the content for our social media – blog, Twitter, Instagram. So, again, there’s a hands-on possibility to teach metrics and track our results. I’ve used Twitter ad analytics for my Twitter team to learn analytics in my social media class. Those are robust and great! And we use the free version of SumaAll.com for Instagram and Twitter (though redundant for Twitter ad analytics), but those stats are limited. To track the analytics of our department social media, I use a version of a spreadsheet I modified from Professor Jeremy Floyd for students to track their analytics. In my Communication Research class, I teach students how to conduct a sentiment analysis of Tweets by hand.

But I haven’t found something that really makes me feel like I can teach students analytics in an engaging way.

No matter how I present it, I have found that students tend to fear metrics. This morning I started thinking that what we need is a module-based, hands-on teaching system.

Ideally, this would have to partner with a social media analytics company. The company would provide real-world data (they may have to mask identifying information). In a perfect world, students would have access to the company’s software and would be able to play with the data in a safe environment (where they couldn’t take any action on the data, such as send a Tweet, but could interact and create reports). And there would be a series of modules that students use to learn analytics. At the end of it, students would be put into a simulation environment where a problem is presented to the class and students would work in groups during class time to solve the scenario.

I’d love to do this. But I’m not yet sure how to get started. More than that, I think it is a project that has utility at multiple universities. If you are interested in exploring this idea with me, please contact me. I’d love to chat. I believe in the power of conversation.

I think this could be a cross-university effort of professors where we all could create and use the modules. I believe we could approach a metrics software company as a team and have a greater likelihood of success. What do you think about this idea?

Contact me @mjkushin!

– Cheers!

Matt

photo: Creative Commons Aaron Jacobs

Reflections on how My Strategic Campaigns class helped #StartCT

This past semester was the inaugural offering of Comm 470 Strategic Campaigns in the Department of Communication here at Shepherd. And with that, I’d like to offer a brief reflection on the experience. It was a great learning and growing experience for both me and the students!

We were extremely fortunate to have worked with Discover Downtown Charles Town, an awesome cause that seeks to promote and help revitalize a wonderful small town near our campus: Charles Town, W.Va. We got to meet and work with Van Applegate and Patrick Blood, two of the awesome people who helped turn this cause into a recognized not-for-profit during the semester (and have gotten a good bit of positive coverage for it along the way).

I’ve taught courses before that have worked with clients in the past, like our Social Media and Social Movements class that did some great work for the American Conservation Film Festival a few years ago. But this semester was special for me because it represented the first time students were taking the seminal course in the Strategic Communication concentration I officially added to the curriculum in Fall 2013. So it gave me an opportunity to see what the students had learned and how they had matured over the two and one-half years of taking my classes. In a sense, it was the first ‘graduating class’ of the concentration (though not entirely as a few of the students have not yet taken all of the classes).

It is always a different animal when your class is working for a client for an entire semester, especially when the client is participating not just with the goal of helping students learn but with the hope of implementing some of the ideas and work that comes out of the class! The high stakes and knowing that if they produce high-quality, professional materials that meets the needs and goals of the organization, it could be more than just an assignment – it could be implemented by the client! -, are a great experience and motivator for the students. And I’m proud of how well the students came through!

I was impressed by the students’ ideas, creativity, and execution. Both teams dug in and did some great background research and produced strong proposals based on the goals the client and I established before the semester. After their proposals, they followed through and created the materials based on their strategies and tactics for DDCT to implement. I pushed both groups because I knew what they were capable of and they both probably they found me a bit demanding and overbearing at times. 🙂

Our campaign goals were:

  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.

A major emphasis was to find ways to bolster the success DDCT is already having through their Charles Town Now (#StartCT) social media campaign and augment or provide a number of things they were in need of. One part of this included bridging their highly visible social media presence online with the analog world, where what they are doing is a lot less obvious to the person walking the street of downtown Charles Town.

In short, the teams proposal and thus final implementation materials included:

Team A:

  • Monthly email newsletter offering an additional avenue to stay in touch with residents, visitors, and shop owners (with added benefit of reaching the demographic that doesn’t use social media).
  • Monthly calendar of events in Charles Town to be distributed with email & downloadable as a photo to smart phone
  • Proposed new blog for DDCT including sample posts – purpose of which is to tell the unique story of the people of Charles Town and what makes living, working, and owning businesses in Charles Town so unique and special.
  • DDCT branded window-signage for businesses downtown to promote their social media and promote awareness of DDCT.
  • Letterhead

Team B:

  • Proposed new blog for DDCT including sample posts – with the same purpose in mind as above.
  • Media Kit
  • Letterhead
  • Boilerplate
  • Proposal on how to better make use of Instagram, a social channel identified as an underutilized opportunity for DDCT
  • Tip sheet for local businesses on how to use social media for their business
  • Sticker designs for businesses and for residents to promote awareness of and demonstrate support for DDCT and #StartCT

Both teams also produced a targeted media list of legacy and new media outlets using the CisionPoint software, but those were only turned into me as an assignment and were not distributed to DDCT per the CisionPoint education program terms.

I hope I’m not forgetting anything. 🙂

The students got some great feedback and kudos for their ideas and their work. I’m proud to say that some of the materials the students created from their campaigns are already being used by DDCT. And I know the students are proud as well!

I want to thank Van and Patrick from DDCT for volunteering to work with our class, taking the time out of their busy schedules to do so, and for the amazing learning opportunity they provided our students!

Congrats to all of the students who participated in Strategic Campaigns this semester! Great job!

I am looking forward to continuing to grow and enhance the concentration and the classes. And I feel a great sense of pride in what our students have already accomplished in the brief time I’ve been offering these classes!

I hope everyone is enjoying the winter break and staying warm!

-Cheers

Matt

Note: I’ve written a bit more about our client and the course project here.

And a copy of the Strategic Campaigns syllabus and an overview for Fall 2014 are available here.

My Fall 2014 Social Media Class Project In Review

shepherdcommunication-socialmedia
Typo! What happens when I Tweet from my phone while in a rush. 😛

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