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.
In the social media education community, there has been a lot of discussion about teaching social media metrics and analytics to students. This has been a challenge and frustration for myself and many others. Access to industry tools is cost prohibitive for many universities, making it difficult for us as educators to prepare our students for this aspect of their careers.
I’ve worked hard over the last few years to try and enhance how I’m teaching these concepts. And I’m not where I want to be. But I know there are many fellow educators also on this journey with me. So, I’d like to share how I teach students to track social media metrics as part of a semester long assignment and a few modifications I have recently made to enhance that aspect of my teaching.
I’ve split this topic into two blog posts for length purposes. In both of these posts, we’ll focus on my social media class (2016 syllabus; and all articles about this class). In this post, we’ll talk about the spreadsheet for tracking metrics. In the follow up post, we’ll discuss Microsoft Social Engagement and how I integrate it into the metrics assignment portion of the class.
My aim in my social media class is to introduce metrics to students both in lecture & discuss (which I’ve been doing for some years) as well as by use of software. Then, when students get into the Communication Research class (2015 syllabus; articles about this class), they will get more in-depth learning about analytics. I’ve increased/improved my focus on this area in that class for next spring. And my long term hope is to really build that part of the class out. During the upcoming spring semester, I will write a blog post about what we will be doing with analytics. And, at that time, I will share all of my assignments and handouts.
Okay, back to my social media class. In past years we’ve used Twitter Analytics – which has been the best, free tool. Unfortunately, other platforms have been limited in their analytics. We’ve used a slew of free tools that have been here today, gone tomorrow.
This year, we still faced the challenges of relying on Twitter Analytics and whatever free tools we could find. But I also added a brief introduction to Microsoft Social Engagement (which will be discussed in the next post in this series).
But first, let’s discuss how I teach students to track performance metrics in my social media class.
In lecture, I teach students about the activity, engagement and performance metrics discussed in Kim’s book, Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing. I also emphasize the importance of choosing metrics that are tied to goals. (You’ll see a tab in the spreadsheet discussed below, where students are to determine their objectives and what metrics would be important to those objectives).
Student teams begin with the planning tab, then they establish their metrics goals to use the spreadsheet to establish benchmarks and KPIs for their platform and track metrics over the semester. They then move over to reporting tab to track weekly metrics.
Tip. You can see tips by mousing over the small triangles in the upper right corner of some cells, as shown below. I’ve created these to help students when working on their spreadsheets in groups.
In the image below, you can see the ‘reporting’ tab of this spreadsheet. We start tracking in week 9 of the semester, but you can modify this as you like. After each week, you’ll see the percentage change. Of course, you can also modify what you are tracking. I throw in a number of potential metrics to track for different platforms. But, students can delete all the rows they don’t need and modify the individual metrics for that platform as needed. The metrics identified in the spreadsheet are just a guide.
I’ve also divided the spreadsheet up into different platforms so each team can pick their platform (as shown in image below) for tracking the success of their posts. The idea here, is that by tracking these posts across time, students can begin to analyze these metrics for trends (though, I don’t have any ways to quickly analyze and visualize this data at this time). This could help them learn when the best time to post is. However, you could also add variables about the post that can help them identify which is the type of content that is most successful. Other spreadsheets I’ve seen track variables such as whether an image was used, what hashtags are used, if links are used, etc. So, again, you can modify the optimization section as you see fit. I discuss other variables to track, but focus on the ones in this spreadsheet so as to not overwhelm students. I’ve found if I ask students to track too many things, nothing gets tracked as they get overwhelmed. So choose what you want them to track, and stick with it.
I’ve relied on Kim’s metrics categories for metrics students can track. Also, please know the metrics I have identified isn’t perfect and modification of what I’ve identified may be needed – some of my initial metrics may not work, or changes have occurred.
Integrating The Metrics Into the Semester-Long Assignment
As noted above, across the entire semester of my social media class, students are strategizing, building and executing social media for my class. As a part of that, they present their content to the class for approval at intervals throughout the semester. In the latter half of the semester, the students present their current metrics to the class alongside the content they are proposing for the next content time period. At the end of the semester, we discuss their metrics, whether they met their KPIs and during what week they did, and what they learned from them.
While the above enables us to track interaction with our social content and extract some insights, it doesn’t account for listening to competitors, following trends, etc. It also doesn’t take deeper analytics and the extraction of insights into consideration. We don’t do anything to plot or discern specific insights – I am saving that for the Communication Research class this spring. Said another way, the assignment and use of this spreadsheet in my social media class, as I executed it in Fall 2016, was really more about tracking metrics, following change and teaching students to see the impact (outcome) of their efforts on social media, while connecting those back to objectives and KPIs.
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or suggestions or resources you’d like to share about teaching metrics to students, please share them with me and the readers via a comment in the post or Tweet me. This is an important journey for all of us as we work to enhance hands-on metrics learning for our students.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it. It helps a lot.
#AEJMC15 is just around the corner! This year I am truly thrilled to be traveling to San Francisco to co-present a study about social media education in the college classroom.
Our study, titled “Hootsuite University: Equipping Academics and Future PR Professionals for Social Media Success”, investigated perceptions among students, faculty, and professionals of the social media certification higher education program, Hootsuite University, as part of a college social media course (I’ve written a bit about my own use of Hootsuite University in my social media class in the past).
The paper will be presented at the Top Teaching Papers session @ 9:15am, Sunday August 9 in Salon 15 (Conference program).
On this project, I had the pleasure of working with some truly awesome social media professors (Emily Kinsky, Karen Freberg, Carolyn Mae Kim, and William Ward). If you do not follow these folks, I strongly recommend it. They are great educators and inspiring resources for social media education.
Come see our presentation to learn more about our study and our findings. Tweet at me @mjkushin and please come say hello in person. I always love to meet friends and colleagues from the web.
Also, this year I’m excited to have been recruited to join the Public Relations Division Social Media Team. I’ve always loved the social media sharing the PRD does and their yearly coverage of the AEJMC conference leads the field. I’m looking forward to meeting the fellow team members and helping plan some great content for the upcoming year.
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.
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.
In my Writing Across Platforms class, students write a news release for the social web. We have used PitchEngine to help students learn the web features that can bolster a news release.
So let’s talk about PitchEngine, why it is awesome, and why I love it for this assignment.
What is PitchEngine?
PitchEngine is a service for creating, hosting, and getting the word out about your organization’s news. It is an effective, visually appealing, and easy to use storytelling tool for reaching media – traditional and new – as well as brand fans. I say storytelling because, while a news release is one way PitchEngine can be used, it certainly isn’t the only way. Think of it as a platform for sharing your brand’s story.
In other words, news releases aren’t simply pushed out like the old days – but they are hosted on branded space. This was an innovation that PitchEngine helped introduce. PitchEngine helped bring about the social media news release and so it is fitting that students learn the social media release using their service. PitchEngine CEO/Founder Jason Kintzler has been a leading voice for technology and change in the PR industry.
PitchEngine includes custom layouts, multimedia utilities, and analytics features.
Brands have their own page where all of their pitches are aggregated, such as the A&M Entertainment brand page. Media can follow these pages to get updates when a new pitch is posted.
You can see a host of creative PitchEngine pitches on Pinterest.
How have I used it in this assignment?
When I give out the assignment, I discuss several important features about web writing – whether it be a news release format or a blog post.
We talk about SEO, inbound links, and the role of search and sharing in helping people find your content.
As part of that, we spend a good amount of time searching keywords on Google Keyword Estimator and Google Trends – things I’ve written before about here, and here.
And we talk a little about readability and writing for the web – something I come back to later in the semester with more detail.
After students write their initial news release draft with an emphasis on web writing, students put their pitches into PitchEngine. This is a great experience for getting to get a sense of how writing functions in the web world.
Here are two of the several elements of web pitches I emphasize.
PitchEngine emphasizes the visual element of the pitch. A look over their website shows that they take style seriously. This is no accident. They have easy-to-use, one-click templates for pitch layout. Here’s a great pitch from Keen that harnessing photos to show off their cool new shoes.
In corresponding with Kintzler, he emphasized the value of shooting and composing great photos and visuals for pitch effectiveness. You can see the emphasis on visuals in a PitchEngine pitch, such as this.
I try to impress this upon my students – requiring them to identify key visuals to bolster their pitches. After creating their pitches, they choose a template style that they find most appropriate to their pitch. Note: None of my student’s posts are public because that would mean they were… public, and since we write about real brands with mock situations that would cause a problem. So I won’t share them. But, take my word for it, they look great!
As I note below, PitchEngine has changed over the last few years. They used to have a feature where you typed in ‘quick facts’ that readers can click and Tweet. That appears to have been replaced with a new, also awesome feature – Tweetables.
Tweetables are parts of written text that make for good Tweets. That is, it is a section of a sentence that a reader can click on and Tweet. So, you want it to emphasize a key fact, stat, or point in your pitch that users would find interesting. It should align with your message strategies. I wrote about this concept a while back when I noticed Pew using this same feature to facilitate easy sharing of content from web articles to Twitter.
I noticed that several students struggled with the Tweetable concept this semester. I think I didn’t explain it very well this semester, or show effective examples.
Here’s an example of a Tweetable from a student release (company name redacted). Simply click the link, and Tweet!
More On PitchEngine
The folks at PitchEngine, including Jason, have been so generous and kind in all of my communications with them. They have generously allowed our students to use their tool for the 3 semesters over the past few years that I have taught this class. In that time period, PitchEngine has changed their features and pricing model. But they’ve always been happy to let our students used advanced, paid features – such as templates – for learning purposes; that includes now, that PitchEngine no longer offers free accounts. A big thanks to PitchEngine!
I would love for PitchEngine to build a university program that can help students learn a bit more about the features, suggested strategies for maximizing pitch effectiveness on the platform, analytics, and ‘under the hood’ how it works, of PitchEngine. I think this would make for a great opportunity for more universities and for our students to get the very most out of the tool.
If he were alive today, would Ernest Hemingway be great at writing Tweets?
I like to think that he would. After all, he is attributed with writing the famous 6-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” (though his authorship of the story is speculation).
We’ve all been assigned one or more Ernest Hemingway novels in school. It is there we were introduced to his minimalistic style of writing, known as the ‘iceberg theory’ of writing. The iceberg theory, or theory of omission, can be summed up with the following quote (which I share with my students) from Death in the Afternoon:
“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of the iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”
Hemingway, there’s an app for that:
My Writing Across Platforms class (syllabus) teaches students to write news releases, for social media, content marketing blogging, and white papers. As stated in my Spring 2015 overview of the course, it is my goal to help my students focus on writing concise, specific, clear, powerful text across their assignments.
Enter, the HemingwayApp. This free online tool helps “make your writing bold and clear” (There is a paid desktop version, too). The app is easy to use.
Type or paste your text into the website and click “edit.”
The app highlights the following:
Wordy or convoluted writing.
Unnecessarily complex terms
A readability score is assigned based on the above. The app assigns a readability score (thanks Hemingway app!)
The app is great. You can see the improvements to your score based on changes you’ve made, allowing for quick feedback and improvement throughout the writing and editing process.
How I’m using The App and emphasizing concise communication:
In my writing class, I talk on the first day about the power and importance of each word. I use a blind date or another situation where first impressions count. I have students write the first 2 sentences they’d say in the situation, providing a specific goal they want to achieve – e.g., make a positive first impression to set the tone for the date. This fun exercise gets them thinking about goal-driven writing and what all they need to communicate – overt and subtle – with only a handful of words.
We then discuss how this applies to other forms of writing – from news releases to Tweets – where first impressions mean everything and failure to grab attention means failure, every word counts.
I have students write 3-4 sentences about where they’d go if they had a car full of gas, but no money.
Then, I provide a quote that we discuss including writing tips to achieve this:
The quote (from the Elements of Style – a great read) is: “If your every sentence admits a doubt, your writing will lack authority.”
Tips, derived largely from Elements of Style, include:
Active Voice – subject performs action.
Rewrite/reorganize whenever possible to convey the message with fewer words.
“ought to” = “should”; “It would be good if you” or “I was wondering” = “Will you”
Clarify the vague .
Replace adjectives with precise verbs.
Specific examples should replace vague or unspecific nouns.
Replace vague pronouns.
Remove NEGATIVE writing – when they say ‘not’ put it into the positive.
Example: “Not good.” replace with “bad”; “not present” replace with “absent”
Students switch their writing with a partner. Their goal is to use the writing tips I provide to remove any unnecessary word and strengthen sentences. We talk about how much they were able to cut from their partner’s writing. (Note: Sometimes they cut too much – which ties to the Hemingway quote below, and can be discussed with the quote).
In a follow-up class, I introduce the Iceberg theory and we chat a little about Hemingway’s style, as most students have read his work. I provide the quote above, and point out the below part of the quote I omitted when I first introduced the quote above, and we discuss this critical point and the trouble of knowing what to omit, from the exercise above:
“The writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.”
After this, I have students implement the Hemingway App in their writing exercises in class. I provide strict word limits, such as for a news release exercise we did in class last Tuesday.
So far, we’ve just started using the app. And already I see students tinkering to strengthen their writing. It is my sense that the app will be a great help as they move along, so long as they commit to using it.
I plan to continue to remind them of the goal for concise, clear, powerful writing with new angles or tips during writing exercises throughout the semester.
I plan to continue to use the app for my own writing, too. I tell my students that becoming a great writer is a lifelong journey we all must be on.
Have you used the Hemingway app to teach writing? How have you found it? What tips do you have?
So what’s my favorite Hemingway novel? If you’ve read my bio, you know I prefer Fitzgerald (a great book on their friendship turned sour is Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald). But I loved the autobiographical A Moveable Feast – perhaps because there is a section on his adventures with Fitzgerald! 😛
What’s your favorite Hemingway story?
photo of Hemingway in public domain; screen grab of Hemingway app
A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.