Category Archives: Tech Trends and Analysis

My Analysis on Social Media and Technological Trends

Considering assigning your students the HubSpot Academy certification?

Long-time readers of this blog know that I use the Hootsuite University certification program in my social media class.

Having students complete industry certifications are a great way to get students gaining hands-on experience with industry tools. Also, they extend the classroom and free up more time in class because many of the certification programs are self directed. That means, students complete them on their own time via following video demonstrations or lectures and completed a certification test or quiz outside of the classroom.

Certifications are also cool because they offer students resume-building credibility.  Having done research with other scholars on perceptions of the Hootsuite certification among potential employers, I know that employers appreciate such certifications.

So what other certifications are there available that can help our students prepare for the digital workplace?

This question came up in a recent discussion on the Social Media professors community group on Facebook.  Many online learning tools or certifications were mentioned including Twitter Flight School (this is new to me, I’m going to have to check it out!), Google Adwords, and Google Analytics (I did this a few years back but alas, it has expired). I’m bringing in a few Facebook Blueprint courses into my writing class this semester. Though a full certification is beyond the scope of what we’re doing.

But one that caught my eye was HubSpot Academy (Thanks to Tyler Thomas and Ai Zhang for recommending this!).

The Hubspot Academy offers several free online certifications that generally span a few hours and require passing an online exam to earn certification.

Currently, the courses that are free and which I believe may be interested to social media students include:

  1. Inbound Certification
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Content Marketing

See the full list of Hubspot certification courses.

Thus far, I have completed the inbound certification which was 12 video lectures across 4.5 hours and an exam that took about 45 minutes to complete.

The inbound marketing course provides a broad overview of subjects from SEO to creating content to solve customer needs, to building lead pages to the basics of email marketing, and beyond. The purpose of the course is to introduce the student to the inbound marketing method. While inbound marketing isn’t directly tied to what I teach, many of the concepts are salient.

For example, I was able to augment my discussion of SEO in my writing class with content from the Hubspot course. I was able to introduce students to the buyer’s journey as a consideration when crafting topic ideas and doing keyword research.  It was a greater refresher for many of the concepts we already discuss around keywords.

HubSpot Buyer's Journey

(Buyer’s journey image above is from HubSpot cited above)

With all of that said, I had thought it was best to start with the inbound certification before proceeding to the other courses. Though, I’m not sure if that was necessary.  Now, I wish I had jumped ahead to content marketing or email. It was my initial intention to assign students the inbound certification as an extra credit opportunity in my writing class.  However, I’ve decided not to. The reason for that is that the last few hours of the program are more focused on dealing with leads and sales. This information was great for me to learn about for a variety of reasons. But it was not particularly relevant for the purpose of my class. Given the level of commitment to earn the inbound certification, I don’t think it is a prudent use of students’ time in my writing class when there are many other things they can be learning.

Still, I’m glad that I completed this course. It gave me a great insight into the inbound marketing strategies that are used on us every day by online marketers. And having that knowledge, I believe, will make me a smarter and more critical consumer of online content. It has already helped me in crafting my own content. My hope is that the email marketing and content marketing certifications cover some of this useful content. If not, I may encourage students to enroll and at least complete the first 6 or so courses.

I’m hoping to find some time to complete the email marketing and content marketing certifications. I want to go through the certifications myself before possibly assigning them to students. My thinking is that the email marketing might fit in my Writing Across Platforms course. The content marketing may fit in that class or the social media class.

There’s only so much time in the semester, as one contributor stated in the Facebook discussion. With assignment creep a growing struggle for many of us as educators, it is a challenge to decide what to assign to students and what not to. With so many options and opportunities out there, I think we should be careful not to throw stuff at students in a horse race mentality.

From what I’ve heard, several professors are offering either extra credit or encouraging students to do some extra education outside of the classroom through such self-directed programs like HubSpot or Google academy.  I may take this tact with future certification opportunities.

While altogether, I didn’t get as much value out of this course as I had hoped from the standpoint of being able to offer new training to my students, I would encourage any social media professor to complete the course if time is available. If you teach more on the PR side than the marketing side, as I do, it is very helpful to get a deeper look into the marketing and sales side. It is very important for us to have that perspective. Most importantly, if writing for the web, SEO and keyword research are new for you or are areas you’d like to get a greater understanding of, definitely take this course.

-Cheers!

Matt

Where is the missing Google Cardboard Photo Sharing App?

Everyone seems to be talking about VR these days.

For Christmas, my brother gave me a Google Cardboard. It took no time for me to see why VR is all the rage and is set to take off in 2016.

Simply put: Google Cardboard = Amazing.

one-cardboard

While the Cardboard isn’t perfect – I can’t wear it too long without getting a bit of a headache and the picture is blurry – the experience is amazing. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t found anywhere to share Google Cardboard photos. The camera itself doesn’t offer a photo sharing social network. And I haven’t found any despite a few hours of searching. The best possibility seems to be Google Street View. But that experience is a bit impersonal, aimed at locations rather than the intersection of people and locations.

As a hiker, I love the idea of being able to bring the experience of Maryland Heights to others. I’m expecting that a social network for exploring the world in VR is right around the corner. And I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to offer a more intimate photo sharing experience than what’s available via Instagram and other 2D apps. The ability to feel that you are a part of the world someone else has captured is to step into their experiences, their memories, their world.

Right now, there seems to be a few panorama photo sharing networks, like SphereShare.net but it lacks VR.  And YouTube has some amazing VR videos. Seene lets you use Cardboard to see 3D images, but they are the result of an effect and not a fully immersive, 360 experience. Flickr has a VR app coming for Oculus (If a social VR photo app does exist and I’m just not finding it, let me know!) And vTime is supposedly going to be the first VR social network, where people can build virtual realities and travel those created by others.

In the meantime, for fun, I thought I’d share a VR photo I took using Google Cardboard Camera during a hike to Maryland Heights, the famous overlook at the Harpers Ferry National Park near where I teach.

Download the photo here.

If you want to view the photo in VR, you’ll need the Google Cardboard app on IOS or Android. Follow the simple instructions here to download it for viewing in your Google Cardboard Camera app.

About the photo:

The photo was taken atop Maryland Heights in January, 2016. Across from you is historic Harpers Ferry, WV. Maryland heights is a famous hike in Maryland that is part of the Harpers Ferry National Park. The river between you and Harpers Ferry below is the Potomac River. The river to the south (to the left of Harpers Ferry) is the Shenandoah River. Virginia is on the other side of the Shenandoah River. So, in this photo you can see three states. This is the confluence of the two rivers and the river continues as the Potomac, the same river that Washington, D.C. is on many miles downstream.  Enjoy!

What are your thoughts and predictions for VR in 2016 and the years ahead? How will VR marry with social networking?

Clearly, we are on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to VR.

-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!

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.

Web Round Up: Social Media Education Videos, Google News Labs, and Link Building

Summer is a great time for finding new resources to share with students in the classroom. And with that in mind, I want to share a few readings and resources you may find useful to use this fall in your classes, or just may want to stay on top of.

Social Media Education Videos – Online @UCF has a series of awesome social media videos called “The New Social” that appear to be produced by UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning. These brief videos cover a range of topics and you may find them very helpful to incorporate into class lecture or to assign students to watch at home. Here is Dr. Melissa Dodd’s list of “The New Social” videos on Vimeo.

New Google Labs Could Help Content Marketers from PR Daily – This is something to keep your eye on! Google just launched Google News Lab, a collaborative tool for working with journalists. The tool appears to enable journalists, and content creators more broadly, to harness Google’s data and resources in content. I’ll be interested to see how it is used in the months ahead. The PR Daily article offers some ideas for how content creators could harness the tool. I’m also excited to see if and how journalism professors explore this resource. p.s. Love the clips in the video of what looks like the Newseam in DC.

A PR Pro’s guide to link building from PR Daily – Link building is something I discuss in both my Writing Across Platforms and Social Media classes. The idea makes sense to students but this article provides an explanation of how to go about gaining links from authoritative sites . p.s. In explaining link building to my classes, I like to use the analogy of a student’s reputation in school. If lots of people are talking about you (linking to you), there must be something important and noteworthy about you (credibility). If the really cool people (authoritative websites) are talking (linking) about you, you must be really cool (higher credibility; authority). But if you associate with troublemakers (spammy websites) and they’re talking about you (linking), you’ll lose some of that ever-important credibility (with Google).  Kind of silly, but it helps the students easily understand the importance of inbound links.

Hope your summer is going great!

– Cheers!

Matt

Why I Love the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program

hootsuitehigheredprogram

Recently I had the opportunity to write a guest blog post on the Hootsuite blog about harnessing the social media mindset our Millennial students bring into the college class today. That post was published yesterday!

Here are two great things I love about Hootsuite and their higher ed program.

1) Dedication to Social Media Education and Professors: Thanks so much to the awesome people at Hootsuite for inviting me to write this post and for all the great support they’ve given social media educators. I know of no other company like Hootsuite that has done so much to support social media education in higher education. And I am very proud to have had the opportunity to write a post for such a great brand. Hootsuite is a leader in helping give students free access to professional social media tools, and has shown a true dedication to supporting social media educators with the Hootsuite University Higher Education program – a free program available to university educators and their students.

They continue to take steps that have demonstrated their dedication, including a free webinar this Thursday (August 21st) with tips from professors teaching social media. They also presented at AEJMC 2014. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend because I had to present elsewhere. But the word is that it was a great presentation to a packed room.

To learn social media, students need hands on experience with the tools they’ll be using in the field. Unfortunately, the high cost of many of these tools makes them inaccessible in many classrooms unless there is substantial funding. And in today’s educational environment, that is hard to come by. I truly wish more companies in the social media space would follow Hootsuite’s lead and provide access, training, and support to social media professors and our students. I’ve attended numerous conference sessions where I’ve heard these sentiments being expressed among new media educators.

2) Benefits of the Hootsuite Program – I began using Hootsuite University in my social media class last fall and loved it. Prior to that, my social media students were using Hootsuite for in class assignments but I wasn’t yet aware of Hootsuite University program.

I’ll be using Hootsuite University again this year because it is truly an essential tool for the social media classroom. I say that because it offers not only access to a paid version of the Hootsuite dashboard – Hootsuite Pro – with advanced features that students can learn from hands on, but also a rich library of educational videos that really help students learn the professional use of social media. As I mentioned in my blog post on Hootsuite’s blog, while students today are digital natives they do greatly benefit from our help when it comes to moving from personal to professional use of social media.

Hootsuite University also includes a number of video case studies professors can use in the classroom.

Here are 3 Great Benefits of the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program, a previous post I wrote about this great resource.

One thing I don’t mention in that post is that Hootsuite also provides material for professors via suggested curriculum:

How I use Hootsuite University:

I like to use the Hootsuite University videos as supplements to class lecture, activities, and assignments. All of my students are required to complete the certification exam, which includes with it a series of courses to be completed before taking the exam. They also must complete a few of the other course that I assign from Hootsuite University program as well as one course of their choosing.  In the classroom, we use Hootsuite dashboard and the things students learn via the educational videos to complete in class activities and assignments. In this way, I bring what they’re learning in HU into the class – these are skills they must learn in HU and apply in class to succeed. I wrote about one such activity in the blog post on Hootsuite’s blog where students search brands using the Hootsuite dashboard.

Last semester I also used a few video case studies in class and plan to use a few more this semester.

If you’re not familiar with Hootsuite, they are the creators of an awesome social media dashboard that I’ve been using for years. The dashboard integrates Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other services and enables you to spread your lists into columns for easy viewing. It also offers some powerful tools like scheduling posts, auto scheduling, and Klout search.

If you have anymore questions about my thoughts or experiences with Hootsuite, drop a comment or contact me via Twitter.

Cheers!

Note: Hootsuite and the Hootsuite logo are copyright Hootsuite Media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending
Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

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

What do you think?

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

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

 

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