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.
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 book is unlike any other book in the social media space that I know of presently. It is not a book that you assign to your students to learn about social media. It is a one-stop guide for professors with just about everything you would need to know to build a social media class from the ground up. And it is awesome.
Freberg covers key considerations that I’ll break down into 2 parts. The first part of the book deals primarily with publicity and public interaction surrounding your class, and the second half of the book focuses on assignments and rubrics that you can use in the class.
In the first part of the book, Dr. Freberg reminds us: “First, build self-confidence and project that you KNOW what you are doing. If you walk into the class with any self-doubts, the students will be able to read that in a hearbeat” (p. 11).
I like how Dr. Freberg gets the reader thinking of the important but often overlooked consideration of branding your class. After all, if you’re teaching a social media class, your students may be engaging with the public online. She touches on tips for building a hashtag for your classes (something I’ve honestly not done a good job of remaining consistent at) to foster interaction between yourself, your students, and thought leaders. Even if you have your social media class built and feel you don’t need any additional tips or assignments to enhance it, the book is valuable for the wider lessons in here for personal branding for professors. That is, in branding your class, you are branding yourself as a professor. And doing so can open many opportunities for you (e.g., networking opportunities, requests to speak, etc) as well your students (e.g., guest lecturers). There are also great time management tips that will help any professor dealing with the flood of information and the rapid pace of change that social media professors deal with on a day to bay basis. This section of the book then goes on to discuss social media etiquette for students and tips for inviting and working with guest lecturers.
In the latter half of the book, Dr. Freberg provides an in depth look at several valuable assignments that you can incorporate into your social media class. This includes an online reputation assignment, a social media strategy assignment, and more. A sample social media class syllabus is provided as well. The assignments include detailed explanations, instructions and rubrics.
There is much in this book that I found useful and am in the process of putting into practice. For example, I adopted the assignment and tips on personal branding from this book for my public relations principles class. I want to get my students thinking about personal branding early on, and this book and a panel I attended last fall at the PRSA Educators Academy Super Saturday inspired me to take the leap.
Altogether, a big congratulations and thanks to Dr. Freberg for creating this helpful resource.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It means a lot.
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.
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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.
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. Further, my book, Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love, (learn more about the book | buy on Amazon) offers an all-encompassing plan for executing the semester-long project in a social media class.
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!
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.
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