I had the privileged of writing the ancillary materials for this textbook, including a syllabus, and discussion questions and activities and assignments for each chapter. You can get your hands on those materials from Sage when adopting the textbook. So rather than sharing specific assignments, below I share three ways that I’ve used this textbook to update my class.
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Teach Social Media now on Kindle Unlimited
Welcome back! We have arrived at the spring 2022 semester.
To kick off the semester, I am excited to announce that my book, Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love, is now available on Kindle Unlimited. This means that if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read the entire Kindle book at no additional cost beyond the price of Kindle Unlimited membership. The book remains available for purchase in paperback and on Kindle. I hope that this enables more people to get access to the book so that they can take advantage of its contents in preparing their social media class.
Professor Kim is someone I have long-admired. She is a leader in public relations education and the work she has done in helping build the PR program at Biola University is an inspiration. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from her as well as work with her on a few projects and I know her to be a person of exceptional character. Lastly, I had the opportunity to make a small contributions to this book in a leadership spotlight (more on that below). So, again, fair warning: the review you will find below is biased.
Below, you will find 2 syllabi from courses I have discussed previously on this blog. You will also find a brand new syllabus for a class that I have never shared on this blog before: COMM 203 Communication & New Media. This is a course that is commonly called Introduction to Mass Communication or similarly titled at other universities.
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!
A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.
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