The 2020-2021 academic year is drawing to a close for many of us. Thought you may not have felt like it at times, you have done an incredible job this past school year.
In my final announcement to my students, I thanked them for showing up. I told them that I hoped that, if nothing else, this school year helped them see how resilient they truly are. I share these words because the same goes for all the educators out there. Thank you for the sacrifices you made. Thank you for showing up.
During this long, strange academic year we have had to adapt to a new world. Many of us have learned to grow our skills in new vectors while shrinking the scope of our pre-pandemic plans. Throughout this journey through anxious times, we have dealt with uncertainty and tragedy.
As educators, we have a talent for self-laceration. Perhaps it is the fact that academic work often involves less oversight that we find ourselves playing the dual roles of motivator and motivated. As such, we may have struggled this year with thoughts like: “I should have done more of (fill in the blank),” or “my productivity this year has been a fraction of what it was last year.” Those kinds of thoughts just create more stress when pandemic-related obligations or restrictions get in the way of getting things done. Let those thoughts go.
My summer plans are, in many respects, probably not much different from yours. That is, I plan to play a lot of catch up. But, in doing so, I’m going to challenge myself to be mindful of the (often self-imposed) pressure of finishing all that went unfinished, or in many cases, unstarted, this past academic year. Can we put that pressure aside, at least for a little while, and work on our to do list while practicing self care?
Lately, I’ve been reminding myself a lot of something someone said to me once: “Stop trying to be perfect and start being human.”
You deserve a break. You deserve rest. It has been a hard year. And that is okay. It is okay to be exhausted. It is okay to be human. You do not need anyone’s permission.
It is important to decompress. It is important to take time for yourself and for your loved ones. What you have been able to get done during a global pandemic is and was enough. Full stop.
So I plan to spend a lot of time this summer doing simple things to focus on the whole of me. This pandemic has taught me, for example, that I like to make homemade almond milk and oat milk (tweet at me for the recipes. Both are super simple to make). This summer, I plan to learn how to make vegan homemade ice cream (just bought an ice cream maker!!!), bond with my child in nature, and sit on my deck and listen to the morning birds. This pandemic has taught me the value of many things I was too in a rush to do or to notice.
But wait… who am I to tell you that you deserve a break? Let’s be real. I’m a person with a section on his blog titled “Be more Productive.” The irony of me in 2021 writing this blog post is not lost on me. Like many of you, I’ve developed into a compulsive worker.
One school of thought is that it is risky to take time to yourself in an ever-changing world. I think that the pandemic has taught us that we need to push back against that mantra and realize that we risk losing who we truly are if we do not carve out a space for the whole self. During this pandemic, many academics have shared stories of or concerns about burnout in academia. A candle that has burned out cannot light a path for others. The same is true for academics. With that in mind, it is imperative that we do take time for ourselves. If taking time for yourself feels selfish, then do it for me. Allow me to be the selfish one here and say that I want the best version of you out there impacting lives, advancing knowledge, changing the course of humanity.
At the start of fall 2020 academic year as we entered the uncertainty of the COVID classroom era, I wrote “We are in a time of revaluation. We are in a time where our compassion and humanity are our greatest assets.”
I hope we do not lose sight of our compassion and humanity as we move forward. This summer, I hope to keep my eye on compassion and humanity in my own life and in the lives of others. I hope you will remain cognizant of your own humanity and approach yourself with compassion as you slide into summer in 2021.
Disruption engenders change. In what direction do you want to change moving forward?
From one educator to another, I sincerely thank you for everything you have done and continue to do.
Tweet at me your plans to take some ‘me time’ this summer. This is a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It is important that we have more conversations about self-care, burnout, and the role they play in fulfilling, meaningful work in academia. Let’s talk.
Have a wonderful summer! I look forward to connecting in the fall!
Use Stukent Mimic Social to Teach Paid Social Media with this Assignment
In the first post in this two-part series, I introduced the Stukent Mimic Social simulator, which is a classroom simulator for teaching paid social media. In that post, I covered what the simulator is, the learning objectives I had for it, and how the simulator works.
In this post, I discuss how I integrated the Mimic Social simulator into my class. I also provide an overview of the assignment that accompanied the simulator. A copy of the assignment is provided as well.
Setting Up the Mimic Social Simulator: Considerations
Before we discuss how I integrated Mimic Social into my class and the assignment itself, I should preface with a few notes. When professors set up the Mimic Social simulator for their students, they choose the number of rounds they want their students to complete. Options range from 2 rounds to 24. I opted for 16 rounds given the time we had to commit to the assignment and my sense of how many repetitions would be necessary for students to begin to build mastery.
Professors can also decide to delay the opening of rounds such that students have to wait until certain preset dates to access each round (see image below). This prevents students from rushing ahead. I did not choose this option.
How I Teach Paid Social Media with the Stukent Mimic Social Simulator
I assigned the Stukent Mimic Social simulator as the final assignment in my fall 2020 social media class. Since the assignment was going to bring together many things the students had learned over the course of the semester (see my learning goals for the simulator in my first post), much of the semester served as a preparation for this final task. Assigning Mimic Social as the final assignment was like sending students out into the (simulated) real world after doing my very best to train them throughout the semester.
I taught this class online, with all but the two lectures noted below, done synchronously on Zoom.
In a third lecture, I went over the assignment and provided a lecture to 1) get students up to speed on what Stukent is and how it works, and 2) to connect the Stukent assignment to things students had learned in class – such as audience targeting and the marketing funnel – and to things they had learned through the Facebook Essentials Guide – such as split testing ads. After the third lecture, students began the simulator, using most of the class time to do the simulator. I prepared brief per-recorded lectures for them to watch before working on the simulator and made myself available for chat or video call to any student who might have questions. I liked this approach because students could work at their own pace from home while turning to me with any questions they may have.
In a brief fourth lecture, I covered how influencer marketing works in Mimic Social, which begins in the simulator in round 7. This lecture was also per-recorded and students were to watch it before working on Stukent for that day.
The Mimic Social Simulator Assignment
As I noted above, the Mimic Social simulator was the final assignment in my class. But I assigned it in two parts and students began working with the simulator during week 11 of a fifteen-week semester. The first part simply asked students to complete rounds 1 through 6 before the end of week 13 of the semester. For the analysis rounds 2 and 4, students were to answer the questions provided. For round 6, students were to answer all of the questions in the question section except for the last question that asked “What types of content did you use for this round? Why?” Instead of that question, I had students describe how they planned to use what they learned so far to complete the rest of the simulator. Part 1 served as a check in to so that I knew students were engaging with the materials during the same time that I was talking about the topic during the semester. But my major motivation for having this deadline was to head off any issues before finals week. If students were having troubles getting signed up for our class on Stukent, were having technical troubles or were having trouble understanding Stukent and how to succeed at it, I could address these issues during the semester and not at the last minute during finals week. After students were given 2 class periods to work on the simulator with the hopes of completing all of part 1, my class shifted to focusing on other topics.
Part 2 of the assignment was due during finals week. This gave students time between the end of week 13 and finals week to schedule the simulator into their schedules rather than rushing to complete it during finals. Part two asked students to complete rounds 7 through 16. Students did not need to answer the questions section of the analysis rounds. Rather, students were tasked with creating a report to the chief marketing officer of Buhi. As you’ll recall in the first post in this series, the simulator begins with a welcome message from the CMO, which includes a list of goals the student is to achieve by the end of the simulator. Students had the option of writing this as a report or of creating a presentation that they recorded and turned into me. Whichever option they chose, students were tasked with addressing the below questions in their final report and providing visual evidence (screen captures) from their analytics to support their claims:
What goals did Buhi give you?
Provide a general overview of the target market for Buhi.
What audience(s) – of the ones available to you – did you choose to target and why?
What audiences did you have the most success with? Why do you think that is? (hint: In both Post Analytics and Post history you can filter by audience name).
For Social Content:
Looking over Post Analytics: What social media platforms worked best for you in terms of awareness, engagements, and revenue? Show evidence.
What dates/times worked best for each platform? How often?
What types of posts (e.g., articles, people indoor with products, image no product, memes) on your top 3 platforms worked best in generating awareness, engagement, revenue?
Looking through your post history: What were your tops posts for: awareness, engagement, revenue?
What types of influencers did you have the most success with? What social media platforms performed best with your influencers in terms of awareness, engagements, and revenue?
What types of influencer strategies (e.g., brand ambassador, takeovers, etc.) worked best? Why do you think that is?
Looking over your early performance (the first few weeks), your middle performance, and your final performance (the last few weeks), in what ways did you improve? In what ways, if any, did you not improve?
What were your final results in terms of total awareness, engagement, and revenue?
How well did you meet each of the goals Buhi gave you? (see the goals Buhi gave you below)
What was your ranking in the class (see course ranking)?
Takeaways & Reflection:
What did you learn from this experience?
What were your areas of strengths? What areas would you like to improve upon?
Imagine you were leaving this company and going to train the next person to fulfill your position. What advice would you give that person?
At the end of the simulation, each student was ranked by revenue along with the following metrics: budget spent, customer satisfaction, total posts, total promoted posts, total impressions, total engagements, total clicks, and total conversions (see image below). There are also exportable reports for: a summary of all data, post details, and influencer summaries. This data will let you dive even further into your students’ efforts.
Students were graded based on two factors (see the assignment for details). The first, which accounted for 90% of a students’ grade, was based on the final report. This included clarity of communication, how thoroughly the questions for the final report were addressed, how successful the student was in achieving Buhi’s goals, and a thoughtful reflection on their performance and what they learned. The last 10% of their grade came from their course ranking. That is, how well the student did in terms of revenue generated when compared to their peers. The person who ranked #1 earned 10% extra credit on their grade, the #2 ranking student earned 5% extra credit, the #3 ranking person earned full credit and each person thereafter received 2% off their grade on down to 0% of the 10% possible. I used a similar ranking system when I taught the Mimic Intro simulator. While it comes with some drawbacks, as some students may complain that they have no control over how their peers perform, it also seems to light a fire under students and gets them motivated to complete. I remind students that in business they will be competing with others for customers, donors, and the like.
Student feedback on the simulator was overall very positive.
Several students cited that it was their favorite project of the semester when we discussed what we learned in the class on the last day of classes. I got the sense that the simulator helped several students build push themselves out of their comfort zone and when they found success, it built their confidence. I messaged with Anna Keys, one of my students, about the simulator. She told me: “The Stukent Mimic Simulator provided me with tools that transferred seamlessly into real life social media advertising. I was able to learn about the process of targeting ads to specific ‘personas,’ which was something I struggled with prior to completing the simulation. I was also able to gain a much deeper understanding of the way in which money should be allocated during a campaign. I really appreciated that I received feedback after each round so that I could adjust my work to be the best it could be.”
In closing, I am pleased with how the Mimic Social simulator went. It helped bolster several key learning goals and provided students with hands-on experience with paid social media and influencer marketing that I could not otherwise provide them in class. The fact that students were able to do the simulator from home during an online class made for an easy integration of the simulator into what was a challenging fall 2020 semester due to the pandemic. Here’s to hoping we will be back in person for fall 2021. Either way, I plan on doing this assignment again this fall.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to read the first post in this series on the Stukent Blog!
If you’ve taught the Stukent Mimic Social in your class, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to drop a comment below.
Be well, Matt
Notes and Disclosure: This blog post discusses how I used this software in my classroom to provide descriptive information for educators about my experience. This post is not an endorsement of Stukent, their products or any other software. While I was originally planning to write about my experience with Stukent on my blog, I did not get around to doing so before I was approached by Stukent with a request to write this blog post series. I was approached by Stukent with the request after the semester where I used the Mimic Social simulator and the above assignment in my class. I was not offered any incentive or compensation to write these posts. The university I work for did not receive any encouragement, incentives, compensation or discount whatsoever for my discussion of Stukent.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, if you click a link and make a purchase, I will make a commission. Please read my disclosure for details.
Podcasts on Instagram? Yes! Here’s How to Post Audio on Instagram Using Headliner.app
As fellow podcast lovers know, we live in a golden age of audio. But what if you want to post audio on a visual platform like Instagram or Twitter? You’ll need visuals, of course. That’s what Headliner.app does – it makes ‘audiograms’ so they can be published on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and more. In the below, I explain how to use the Headliner.app to create a podcast to post on social media sites like Instagram TV (IGTV). I provide a lab guide with step-by-step instructions for creating an audiogram that can be shared with your students. I also provide links to the audiograms my students made in my social media class [download social media class syllabus | All posts about this class].
Why Post Audio to Instagram?
In my case, it was a problem and a solution born from the pandemic.
In fall 2019, I challenged the students in my social media class to experiment with Instagram TV (IGTV). I wanted my students doing more with video. So the students started a show called ShepShow. It was a mix of humorous person-on-the-street interviews, more serious interviews with alum, and testimonials about student life. In fall 2020 amid COVID, the idea of students walking campus with a microphone just wasn’t going to work. So, I decided to turn season 2 of ShepShow into an audio-only program; a mini podcast that would be recorded over Zoom while students were safely apart.
This presented a problem: How to get an audio-only show on a visual platform like Instagram?
What is Headliner.app and Why Should I Use it to Get a Podcast on IGTV?
At first, I thought that we would create the audio and then turn it into a video using Adobe Rush or some other editing tool. Then, I did what any educator would do: I got on Google, searched around, and found Headliner. I signed up for a free account and was able to create my first audiogram on Headliner in just a few minutes.
An audiogram is essentially audio wrapped in a still image, with the image aspect ratio optimized for posting on social media. A waveform – a real-time visual representation of the audio – can be placed over the image. As you can imagine, Headliner.app is particularly great for taking a podcast and posting it on YouTube, as many podcasters do to leverage YouTube’s massive audience and monetization features. But Headliner’s s array of features, including audio transcription, make it a versatile tool for posting audio on any social network (See a list of Headliner.app features).
Teaching Students to Create an IGTV Podcast using Headliner’s Audiograms
During this past semester (Fall 2020), I put one student group in charge of ShepShow, our IGTV show. While IGTV is also its own app, it is also part of Instagram. Thus, our ShepShow episodes are uploaded and accessible through the department’s @ShepComm Instagram page.
Here are the steps my students used to create audiograms and post them to Instagram. The same could be done for other social networks.
Record over Zoom – Get everyone who will be participating in the audio together on a Zoom call. See Zoom’s audio recording guide for how to record the call. If you prefer, you can even choose a setting to record separate audio files for each person who speaks for editing purposes. When everyone’s ready, record the call.
Edit the Audio – Once the audio file is recorded on Zoom (or multiple audio files if you recorded one for each person who speaks), it is downloaded to the computer of the person who set up the recording. The file can then be edited in audio editing software such as Audacity or Adobe Audition. Once complete, the audio can be exported (e.g., as an MP3) so it can be uploaded into Headliner.
IGTV Thumbnail – The visual aspect of the audiogram is a still image, or thumbnail. It is what people will see when they load the IGTV episode to listen to it. This visual will need to be created before creating the audiogram.
Create a Headliner Account – Head over to Headliner. A free account is all you will need for this project.
Create the Audiogram using Headliner – Discussed in detail below.
Write the Episode Title and Description – Every episode on IGTV needs a title and description. Use those social media writing skills, keeping in mind best practices such as search, tagging accounts and hashtags.
Using Headliner.app is pretty straightforward as the app offers step-by-step instructions for creating audiograms. However, there are a number of different options available. We want to make sure that the correct options are chosen so that our audiogram works with IGTV. Most importantly, the IGTV video dimension requirements must be followed (see IGTV video requirements). Not to worry, in the below-linked lab guide, I have provided instructions showing which video dimension to pick for IGTV. Click the link below for the step-by-step instructions I share with my students. These isntructions teach students how to create an IGTV-ready audiogram in Headliner.
Making season 2 of ShepShow a mini-podcast rather than a video season brought down the stress levels for the students and I during a very stressful semester. Most importantly, it was the right move from a health and standpoint. The students completed this project socially distanced from the safety of home. Here are a few final thoughts before you jump in:
Audio might not be quite as engaging as video. We live in a visual world and Instagram is a very visual platform. So metrics numbers may be down. Captivating thumbnails and optimized titles and descriptions can help.
Audiograms can be easily created for other social platforms, so the audio can be shared on YouTube and other platforms, too.
Already have a podcast? Audiograms are a great way to get snippets of your show onto platfroms for your audience to snack on.
Keep in mind the audio length requirements for IGTV. The video must be shorter than 10 minutes for regular Instagram users.
IGTV thumbnails continued to be a bit of an issue this season. Some came out great in the channel preview, while others didn’t, despite the team using the same Canva template for each. I need to find a solution to this.
When recording on Zoom, I suggest, whenever possible, using better quality microphones and ensuring that all members are using fast Internet connections to avoid any audio issues in recording. This was not always available to our students, given the pandemic, and a few minor issues came up in our finished episodes.
Once the audiogram is created, be sure to listen to the complete episode all the way through before publishing it. If step 3 in the lab guide is not followed correctly, then the full audio might be cut off.
I hope you found this post an interesting twist on a social media assignment. If you try this project, please share your social media audiograms in the comments below!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, if you click a link and make a purchase, I will make a commission. Please read my disclosure for details.
Teaching Social Media Analytics Skills with Keyhole Hashtag Analytics Software
This is the second post in a two-part series about using Keyhole hashtag analytics software to teach social media analytics to university students. In this post, we will explore social media metrics on Twitter and Instagram, social media account optimization, and social listening. I include a metrics tracking spreadsheet that my students use and instructions for completing the tasks assigned in the spreadsheet.
Teaching Social Media Analytics Skills: Monitoring Metrics, Posting Schedule Optimization, and Social media Listening
In the second half of the semester, students in my COMM 322 Social Media class [all posts related to my social media class] learn to track metrics relevant to their class client, our department’s social media. This is part of a semester-long project where my class takes on a class client; a topic discussed in greater detail in my book Teach Social Media and, to a lesser extent, in this blog post.
This year, we are focusing on Twitter, Instagram and IGTV (through the Instagram app).
There are 3 areas of focus that students are learning:
Teach Social Media Analytics Part 1: Social Media Account Metrics
To start, students set up their benchmarks and KPIs in the metrics goals tab for the account they are assigned to track. Each team in class is assigned a different social media account that they are in charge of. Each group devises their own KPIs. Benchmarks can be taken from the current data by looking at the previous week’s content, or by averaging the weekly metrics from a previous set of time, such as the previous 4 weeks.
Once set up, they begin tracking in the reporting tab of the metrics spreadsheet. There, you will see several preset metrics – the same metrics that were in the metrics goals tab. For Twitter and Instagram, these are based on the data available at the top the main dashboard page for social media account analytics in the Keyhole software (see the side-by-side images below for Twitter and Instagram). As you can see, we are having way more success with Instagram engagement than Twitter for our audience.
Teach Social Media Analytics Part 2: Social Media Account Optimization
Perhaps the coolest thing about Keyhole, in my opinion, is the data it provides that can be used to help optimize your social media posts to increase the likelihood of their success in terms of reach and engagement.
In Keyhole, under social media account analytics, users can click on the optimization tab. There, a user will see the best time to post, the optimal post length, the top hashtags by engagement, the optimal number of hashtags and the average engagements by day.
Having students sort through this data can help them make choices on when they want to publish future content and how they can optimize it for length and hashtags. See the example of our department Instagram page below.
Students track this data every week in the appropriate optimization tracking tab in the metrics spreadsheet.
Teach Social Media Analytics Part 3: Social Media Listening
Lastly, students use Keyhole to conduct social media listening. I have my students monitor the conversation around our communication department. We set up a social listening & campaign tracking search to do this, entering keywords (e.g., search terms or hashtags) relevant to our brand. Of course, I could also expand the listening to the wider Shepherd University community in a separate social listening & campaign tracking search. I could also have them track competitors, which they do in the social media audit assignment discussed in the first post in this series.
For our current purposes, the students are just focused on the conversation around our department.
When you look at the lab guide, you will note instructions towards the top of the lab guide under “getting started” about how to set up a new social listening & campaign tracker. My original intention was to have each team set up their own tracker, but I decided instead to create one tracker in class with input from students to save time. Thus, as I noted above, I already created the tracker we use in this assignment and thus this my students skip this step.
To help you see some of the data that can be tracked with a social listening & campaign tracking search in Keyhole, I am providing a public social listening tracker that I created of some of the data that Keyhole provides for a search our class set up. (Note: This link may not work in the future if the tracker is deleted. But I am sharing it for temporary use).
Taken together, this social media metrics spreadsheet assignment gives students hands-on experience learning to read and interpret social media analytics data using industry software.
In this post and the previous post in this series, I have shared how I have incorporated the Keyhole hashtag tracking software in my social media class across 3 different tasks: 1) The social media analytics class activity – which introduces students to social media metrics, 2) the social media audit – where students incorporate what they are learning to evaluate our client and a competitor using the Keyhole software, and 3) the social media metrics spreadsheet assignment – where students track social media metrics, learn about post optimization by analyzing account metrics, and engage in social media listening.
I have taught these skills using different software over the last few years. Every social media analytics software package comes with different features. Although this blog post discusses topics that have covered on this blog in the past, I hope that this update provides a fresh look at how these skills can be taught with a different social media analytics product. One major update to the the social media metrics spreadsheet assignment is the improved opportunity to teach optimization versus what I was able to do with other software in the past. I am hopeful that it will translate to better learning outcomes for students.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this post.
If you have used Keyhole before and have tips, activities, or assignments, please share them in the comments below.
Notes and Disclosure: This blog post discusses how I am using this software in my classroom to provide descriptive information for educators about my experience. This post is not an endorsement nor a criticism of Keyhole or any other software. I have not received any encouragement, incentives, compensation or discounts whatsoever for my discussion of Keyhole.co in this blog post. The university I work for did not receive any encouragement, incentives, compensation or discount whatsoever for my discussion of Keyhole.co.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.
The Social Media Analytics Class Activity: Why?
Having a social media analytics class activity is vital to teaching our students social media analytics, including account analytics and social listening. But, as educators, getting our hands on social media analytics software in the classroom is an increasing challenge.
This post and the one that will follow it will discuss the new social media software I am using, Keyhole.co. It discusses how to use Keyhole.co hashtag analytics software to teach analytics and social listening skills (note: The name is a bit misleading. Keyhole does much more than hashtag analytics). In the first post in this series, I offer a beginner’s social media activity for using Keyhole along with step-by-step instructions for doing so.I also offer a social media audit assignment that is designed to be used with the Keyhole software.
In the second post, I offer a spreadsheet that students can use to track metrics from Keyhole.co related to social media account metrics on Twitter and Instagram, identify social media account optimization opportunities, and engage in social listening. I also provide instruction for how to complete these tasks.
Choosing Social Media Analytics Software: What to Consider
Over the last few years, several social media analytics companies generously offered university classrooms free access to their software. However, with the closure of the Meltwater university program and the discontinuation of Microsoft Social Engagement, those options have become limited. Professors have had to search for affordable solutions during a time of economic uncertainty in academia.
So I posed a question to the always-awesome Social Media Professors Community Facebook Group this past summer seeking suggestions of paid social media analytics software. A few tools were suggested (thank you so much for the input!) all with distinct advantages and limitations. I set up interviews and software demos with several companies to learn about their features and costs.
Taking into consideration many factors including the needs of my classes, the features of the software, and pricing, we decided to go with Keyhole.co. However, I encourage you to do your research, set up software demos or try free trials, and find what works best for you and your students.
While each company in the social media analytics space prices differently, some common variables that impact pricing are:
It is a strange and challenging semester for us and our students. Many of us are teaching online synchronously through platforms like Zoom. While adjusting our content and delivery approaches are challenges in and of themselves, there are other important considerations for building a positive and effective learning environment. For me, classroom culture and establishing rapport with and between my students are important considerations. A welcoming classroom culture can make all the difference in our students’ learning and in our sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with the classes we teach.
Building rapport with our students and developing a classroom culture are skills that we learn throughout our years in the classroom. But how do you build rapport and culture in a Zoom classroom?
I know many people are coming up with fun, creative ways to brighten up their students’ day and make classes feel more human. In this post, I will share a quick and easy activity I introduced this semester with my Zoom classes to help overcome this challenge: the Zoom Background Challenge.
A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.
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