This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.
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 post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.
Teaching Facebook Audience Insights in the Social Media Class
Lately, I’ve been writing about the importance for students to learn more about paid social media as part of the media mix.
In the below post, I’m going to share a new in class activity I did this semester in my COMM 322 Social Media class [see all posts about the class | see past class syllabi] to help students further explore paid social media.
One thing I struggle with in my social media class is finding a way to bring this into the class in a manner that helps students gain hands-on experience. In the past, I did an assignment where students identified a target audience and mocked up a Facebook ad in the Facebook Creative Hub. The purpose of the ad was to promote themselves in some way.
This year, I took a slight turn with the assignment. I backed away from the creation of the ad and placed more emphasis on what we can learn about Facebook users by exploring audience data and how that might inform ad planning.
Specifically, I wanted my students to understand what they could learn with Facebook Audience Insights data. I thought it would be very insightful to have them peel back the curtain and see what a business can see with Facebook Insights. While it would be best to have access to the Facebook page of an organization, this is not necessary to explore Facebook data. Instead, any person with a Facebook account can explore user data through the Facebook Creative Hub by accessing the Insights tools.
About Facebook Creative Hub and Facebook Audience Insights
If you haven’t played around with the creative hub before, it is a series of tools that help advertisers research and plan ads for Facebook and Instagram. You can create ad mockups to share with others so that they can see what a potential Facebook or Instagram post would look like on the native platform. You can manage ads for clients that you manage. You can create Facebook ads and run campaigns. You can research and learn about Facebook users. You can do several other tasks to track behavior between Facebook, events, websites, and apps.
In my class, I wanted to focus on the tool within the creative hub that lets you do audience research on Facebook users. This part of the tool is called Facebook Audience Insights. You can read more about it here and watch a brief overview of the Facebook Audience Insights tool. Now, it is a little confusing because Facebook also has an audience insights webpage called Facebook IQ that publishes brief reports based on Facebook data. They have a section about insights into Facebook audiences.
So, think of Audience Insights as the tool you can use to gain insights about Facebook users. Think of Facebook IQ as a resource for reports from Facebook about their user data.
Accessing the Facebook Audience Insights tool is a bit of an in-direct path. The link they promote in several webpages does not work for me and has not been working for the past month. It is: https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience_insights
However, you can get into the Audience Insights tool via logging into the Creative Hub. Here’s how:
Once you’re in the Audience Insights tool, you can conduct research on people who like your pages (that is, pages that you manage via the Facebook account you are logged in with). Or, you can search data about all Facebook users.
In this video, which I made for my students, I play around with searching for data on Audience Insights. As you can see, you can search by demographic information, interests, affiliations, and the like.
The Facebook Audience Insights Class Activity
I wanted my students to try and deconstruct what data might be helpful to an advertiser planning to create a Facebook ad. The rationale was for students to be thinking about how the Facebook audience data could inform decision-making. So I had students work in teams and pick an existing Facebook ad from the inspiration gallery that Facebook provides. You can find the gallery here: https://www.facebook.com/ads/creativehub/gallery/.
For example, a team of student could pick the Audi Facebook video ad.
I then told the students to search a little bit about the ad campaign to see if they could find any information about it. For example, through some quick Googling I was able to find that the BMW 4in4 ad campaign was done by the FCB Inferno agency.
I then had the students go into Facebook Audience Insights. There, they researched a bit about the type of people who like the brand for the ad they chose. Now, there are a number of ways one could approach researching to create an ad on Facebook for a brand. But, what I wanted to do was have students try to learn 1) what they can do with Facebook Audience Insights and the kind of knowledge they can glean, and to learn 2) a bit about the type of user that already likes a brand with the rationale being that there may be some interesting insights here that could inform the creation of an ad based on people who are already interested in that brand. You could, of course, do a twist on this. For example, one of our groups was interested in an M&M ad and decided to search ‘chocolate’ as an interest to cast a wider net for the type of person that might like their product.
To search an interest, go to the ‘interests’ parameter on the left and type a topic. In the below image, I’ve searched “Audi,” If you return to the video I created, I show you how conducting this search will filter your results for Facebook users who have an interest in that topic. You can see demographic information, other interests, other pages liked, etc.
I asked students to put together a brief, impromptu presentation for the below questions.
I asked students to provide a breakdown of key takeaways of their audience across demographics, page likes, location and activity. Here, students were sharing screen grabs of their findings with the class.
Then, I asked students:
Given what you know, if you were creating a new Facebook Ad targeting this audience (explain briefly for each below):
What age range would you target?
What gender(s) would you target?
Which is the primary country and city you would target?
What is a bit of information from the page likes, interests, etc. that might help you in targeting or planning your ad?
In addressing the sections above, I asked students to consider these questions (see credits at the bottom of this post):
What would you do with this information?
What are the main points we should be aware of?
What ideas can we get from this data?
How It Went:
The students expressed interest in this and said it was cool to be able to explore Facebook or Instagram ads and think about who they were trying to target. They said it was also cool that they got to dig into Facebook Audience Insights as none of them had ever dug into this data before. One student, who owns his own small business, was very interested in looking at how he could use the data to help his business grow. He and I talked a bit about ways that he could use this data to do more research about his potential audience as well as ideas for how he can better use Facebook to advertise.
I think an added bonus was that this activity got students thinking about how their own data is used to target them on sites like Facebook. In peeling back the curtain, they could begin to see how the things we do on social media are used to target us.
I was particularly interested in a presentation that one group gave about Häagen-Dazs UK. They found that more women than men tended to like the brand on Facebook. The same was true for other ice cream brands. They noted that the Häagen-Dazs ad targeted women for a Wimbledon campaign. However, when they researched the brand’s other ads, they noticed that romance was a major theme, including a US campaign with Bradley Cooper. How would they use this information? They argued that they would create a campaign aimed at getting men to buy ice cream as a romantic gesture, targeting the men in one set of ads. They would also target the women with a different message to emphasize the brand as a desirable romantic gesture.
Things I’d Like to Expand Upon:
Altogether, I think this was an eye-opening activity and a hands on learning opportunity for the students. I think there is more that I could do with this next year. My students have little to no prior knowledge about paid social media before taking my classes. I feel there is more that I want to be doing in this space.
This activity took the entire class to complete, with 20 minutes that the end of class for each team to get up and deliver their findings.
In the future, I’d like to bring in Facebook IQ into the activity. I’m looking for a way to have students do some research on the reports in the Facebook IQ website. Then, I would like to eventually expand this out so that students are using the knowledge they gained to mock up their own ads. I would also like to get students thinking about searching for the brand itself as an interest, but possibly comparing a brand with its competitor’s audience.
How are you using Facebook Audience Insights in your classes? Or, more broadly, how are you getting your students thinking about paid social?
Note that, according to my admittedly somewhat messy notes of ideas and inspirations for class projects , the above 3 questions are inspired from and direct quotations of questions on an assignment that Kathleen Stansberry shared with me. Dr. Stansberry is a leading professor teaching social networking and data analytics in the field of communication. I love how these questions force the students to think about data and decided to incorporate them when creating this assignment.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.
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.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, if you click a link and make a purchase, I will make a commission. Please read my disclosure for details.
Cell Phone Addiction
“Cell phone addiction” is a strong term that may or may not be appropriate to describe our current obsessions with our phones. But, now that I have your attention, I think it is important to bring into the classroom a discussion of the wider, perhaps unseen and perhaps deleterious, implications of cell phone culture in today’s society.
While I am not an expert in many of these areas of concern (such as mental health, physical health, what constitutes cell phone addiction, etc.), I do think these broader questions are things we cannot ignore as social media educators. We are in a unique position to bring attention to the broader relationship between social media and life in today’s society.
With that in mind, I am doing a brief 2-part series on ways I have sought to bring the topic of social media concerns into my teaching.
In the first post, we’ll talk about an activity. In a future post, I will talk about smartphone distraction in the classroom.
Okay, let’s get into it!
Cell Phone Addiction Lesson Plan
I want to share a quick activity I did last semester with my social media class. The activity brought forward a great deal of discussion in the class. It was great to have students sharing the challenges and concerns that they have with their phones and social media. I was surprised and inspired by the candid nature in which students took on this topic. It was one of the best discussions I felt we had all semester.
Here’s how it worked:
First, I threw up this statement on the board and asked students if they agreed or disagreed and why:
“You’re only as good as your next post.”
Then, we discussed this statement:
“Your phone is like your life. You either control it, or it controls you.”
Cell Phone Addiction Infographic: Next, as a class, we took a look at some of the reported benefits and drawbacks of social media While there are a number of sources for such info, here is one infographic that is easy to show in class.
Pre-Test: Next, I had students do a little ‘pre-test.’ The questions are below
Do you think you’re addicted to your smartphone and/or social media?
What are the 3 primary benefits you get out of using your smart phone?
What are the 3 ways in which your smartphone has a negative effect on you?
Video Prompts: After students completed this, I gave them the following prompt that led to a discussion after the videos. Note, I will share the videos mentioned in the prompt below:
What are the most compelling argument(s) or stats presented in these videos?
What do you disagree with?
How much control do you think you have over your smartphone use?
Cell Phone Habit (or addiction) ‘Experiment:’– But, before I showed the videos, I also set up a little ‘experiment.’ I asked the students to do the following:
Pick up your phone. Look at the last few posts you made, and check the stats. Write down the emotions you feel.
I asked them to share some of these emotions. Answers include: excitement, anxiety, boredom, etc. I then told the student:
Turn your smartphone off and put it in your bag. Log off the computer (we were in the computer lab). Get out a scrap paper.
We’re going to watch 3 videos.
Every time you find yourself wanting to check your phone/ reaching for it:
Stop. Make a check on the paper. Write down the emotion you feel.
So, the students were both analyzing the videos (the video prompts above) and paying attention to their habit of wanting to reach for their phones.
After each video, we stopped and went around the room and had students share how many checks they had on their paper, and how they felt about how things were going. After all 3 videos played, we discussed the merits of each video, how the students felt, etc.
The videos were hard to choose. There are so many great Ted Talks and other videos discussing some of the pitfalls of social media. Here are 3 videos I settled on. I chose these because each touches on a different argument related to smartphones and social media.
Note, there is an engrossing TED talk by Tristan Harris that I also recommend showing. I show part of it in my Communication & New Media course, however. So I did not want to repeat it in my social media class. Tristan Harris is mentioned in the New York Times article above, and his foundation created the “This Panda is Dancing” video.
After this, I asked students to look back at their pre-test results and their prediction of how much control they felt they had over their cell phone use. In other words, how aware are people of how much they use their phone? Were they surprised at the frequency with which they found themselves wanting to reach for their phone during the videos?
As we began wrapping up, I asked the students to jot down:
What is 1 thing you could do between now and next class to curb your smartphone use, as it relates to the negative effects you identified
Between now and next class, I want you to try and do that 1 thing.
How likely do you think you’ll succeed at that one thing? (Scale of 1 to 7 from Not at all – very likely)
Then, I gave the students some tools and tips to try and help them.
I encouraged students to download a free phone usage tracking app. Here are a few:
For the following class, I asked them to provide the stats on their usage. Specifically, I was interested to know: how much time they used their phone each day, the number of times they checked their phone each day, and the top 2-3 apps they used.
This exercise was a thought-provoking activity for my students and for me. I don’t expect that it is going to have long-term effects on cell phone use behavior by my students. But, I think it brought the issue in front of them and I am hopeful that it nudged them to be a little more mindful of just how engrossing our phones are.
Our discussion really brought out the struggle we all have between our hopes that we had a little more control and our love for the convenience and experiences our phones give us.
I left the students to wonder about whether they used their devices intentionally and were thus in control, or whether they allowed their devices to dictate the terms.
For the experiment, I went along with the students by monitoring my phone usage. I was appalled at how many times I go to use my phone. Seeing the statistic pop up when I first went to use the phone, helped me curb my usage some. I thought I only used my phone 45 minutes to an hour a day. Turns out, I was quite wrong.
Each year, I try to have a few goals and a theme. One thing I’ve been working on, is trying to be more mindful of how I spend time. I’ve never been one to waste too much time, or so I thought. I’ve learned there are many ways in which distractions are ‘scheduled into our lives,’ as Harris puts it.
I think many of us struggle with control over our time. Yet, time is all we have in life.
“… we must reflect that, when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or by default. We are at risk, without quite fully realizing it, of living lives that are less our own than we imagine.”
I think he’s profoundly right. I printed this quote and put it above my desk to help me remain mindful of how I’m spending my attention.
Recommended Cell Phone Addiction and Related Readings
Fortunately, there are a lot of very bright people thinking about the issue of smartphone addiction and/or the outsized role technology is playing in our lives today. If you’d like some additional content related to the above blog post, I recommend forming a reading group at your school and exploring the below:
Personal branding is something I’ve struggled to successfully bring into my classes. When I first started teaching social media at Shepherd University, I had a personal branding project. In short, students developed a personal branding plan. Then, throughout the semester, the students worked on executing the plan. For example, one student started a video gaming blog focused on retro RPGs. At the end of the semester, students presented their outputs and their results in brief presentations.
I loved the idea. But, I found that students didn’t take too well to it. Most students didn’t put the time and concentration into the project that I had hoped. A number of students didn’t do much of what they planned to do such that at the end of the semester they didn’t have too many pieces of content – whether that was video posts or blogs – to show for it. I wanted to know why the project didn’t succeed as I had hoped. So I asked. Several students expressed some skepticism as to the value of what I was trying to get them to do. And, some simply didn’t want to have an online presence.
That was in the fall of 2012. After that experience, I pulled back quite a bit on online personal branding. And I’m sad to say that, perhaps out of fear of it not going well again, I stopped requiring my students to do online personal branding. I didn’t so much as require students to participate in a Twitter chat – though I certainly encouraged it as extra curricular activity.
In all honesty, when I reflect on my teaching over the last 5 plus years here at Shepherd, I think that not emphasizing personal branding in my classes is the one thing I wish I did better.
Personal Branding Exercise for Students
After reading Dr. Freberg’s book, I got the bug again about teaching students personal branding. I decided to start small with a project in my Public Relations Principles class. I first gave this assignment last spring as a final project in the class instead of the paper I used to have them write.
As I noted above, this project is an adaptation of the assignment Dr. Freberg puts forth in her book. I modified it down. The purpose of this project was for students to strategize how they would build their personal brands online.
The assignment is broken down into a few parts.
First, I provide students with Dr. Freberg’s checklist for personal branding. I encourage students to work through the list.
Next, I require students to identify a job or internship that interests them and answer some questions about how they relate to the position.
Then, I have students map out their personal brand. Lastly, students must create a LinkedIn or About.me profile branding themselves.
Because I gave this assignment late in the year, I did not ask students to build out a plan for building their personal brand nor did I ask them to have executed one. Rather, I asked them to start taking little steps towards executing a personal brand and provide me evidence that they are moving in that direction.
I’d like to grow this into something more where the students need to go out and truly prepare a detailed strategy and execute it for weeks or a few months – similar to what I was originally doing in my social media class. I’m not sure where I’d fit this in as my social media class is pretty packed right now. But, I’m going to think about it further this summer, read Schaefer’s new book, and see what I can come up with.
If you’ve got tips or examples of how you’ve gotten your students to find success in personal branding, I’d love to hear them. Tweet me @mjkushin or comment on this blog.
Personal Branding Exercise Worksheet
You can see the personal branding assignment example below.
Next Steps: More Activities and Resources for Teaching Personal Branding
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.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.
Today is the first day of the fall 2017 semester.
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.
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.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.
Thinking About How We Teach Social Media Metrics and Analytics
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).
Teaching Students to Track Social Media Metrics
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 Teaching Social Media 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.
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