Teaching (and Using) Social Media
for Business and Professional Success
This poster provides an overview of the tools and techniques I
use to teach a special topics course titled Social Media Practices
for undergraduate students at Samford University.The poster
presents the course content in an applied context, using a
hypothetical small business client, similar to the type of client
student teams advise as part of the final project of the semester.
The course takes a strategic planning and content marketing
approach to using social networks and websites for business
and professional success. In addition to exploring established
and emerging social networks, we cover social media metrics,
search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, podcasting, and basic
web analytics.This poster will benefit faculty who teach similar
courses and/or who are interested in using websites and social
networks more effectively for professional success.
Sheree Martin,J.D., LL.M., Ph.D.
Journalism & Mass Communication Department
& Lawn Care
Hypothetical Small Business Client
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is an approach that focuses on creating informative and useful free content to share
with current and potential customers.
This content is designed to answer questions related to the organization’s products, services or industry.
The content helps to build awareness and trust, while showing how the product or service will meet a
The content is published regularly on the organization’s website and distributed through various social
channels, while simultaneously listening to and conversing with customers on this channels.
Social Media Practices is designed to
demonstrate how the social internet
is different from the one-to-many
approach to communication. It’s
about relationships, trust and sharing.
It’s about the customer, not the
We begin the semester with a look
at best practices in content and social
media marketing using case studies
In the first month of the semester,
students have the opportunity to
design and run a simple social media
campaign to promote a campus or
nonprofit event. They quickly learn
how difficult it is to gain friends,
fans and followers, and get some
exposure to Facebook analytics and
In the second month, students
design a podcast show for niche of
their choosing and create a sample
episode, which we upload and publish
We also cover editorial calendars,
blogging, search engine optimization
techniques, basics of Google analytics,
key metrics for website traffic and
how to use Google Trends to search
for keywords to use as part of an
Throughout the semester we
explore social platforms and related
I have a series of in-class activities
where students explore and use free
tools to gather data about social
sharing to allow an organization to
monitor the reach of social media
sharing and conversations about the
In the last month, students work in
teams to develop a comprehensive
content marketing and social media
strategic plan for a real client.
Example of the content marketing & social media plan students create in Social Media Practices
Plan Content: P-O-S-T Approach
Technologies & Tactics
(Li & Bernoff, 2011)
Key Performance Indicators
(Metrics) (Blancard, 2011; Paine, 2011)
The website is the cornerstone of the content
marketing plan. Ideally, the site is built on a easy-to-
update content management system like WordPress.
Content is generally published
on the company’s website
and blog and then distributed
through various social
channels. Social sharing plugins
should be used.
Some content, like slide decks for presentations,
might be published first on SlideShare and then
repurposed into a blog post with the SlideShare
player embedded into the post.
Videos would be published first on aYouTube or
Vimeo channel and also embedded into a blog post.
Video is currently dominating
as the key form of media for
generating the highest levels of
user-engagement and reach.
Video could be especially valuable for a small
business like Green Grow Landscaping & Lawn Care.
3-4 minute videos could be created to demonstrate
good lawn care practices, to answer customer
questions about how to care for various plants, and
the environmental effects of lawn care products.
These videos would be published on the GGLLC
YouTube Channel with invitations for viewers to ask
questions in the comments.
The channel will include a link back to the GGLLC
website, as well as a brief summary with relevant
keywords identified by Google Trends keyword
research.A text transcript or short story based
on the video should be used as the basis for a blog
post, where the video can also be embedded on the
Vimeo is an alternative resource for video hosting,
but due toYouTube’s importance and value in search
results, we recommendYouTube for this client.
Teams create an 3-4 month editorial calendar for
each client, including sample content for a one-
Editorial calendars are developed by looking at
important dates and seasonal business activities.,
such as promotional opportunities.
Blanchard, O. (2011). Social Media ROI. Boston:
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston:
Harvard Business Review Press.
Paine, K. D. (2011). Measure What Matters.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
An audio podcast will allow GGLLC to reach clients
and potential customers while they are on-the-go.
New apps and audio streaming services
make it easy to distribute podcasts to an
audience who can now listen via their smart
phone or even through Stitcher radio, which is now
available on some new models of Ford and GM
Podcasts, sometimes called online talk radio, are
seeing a resurgence of popularity, now that smart
phones make it easy to listen just about anywhere,
even without an iPod or other mp3 player.
Ideally, the podcast episodes would be 15-25 minutes
and created on a regular schedule, such as weekly or
Content could be a longer form of the videos
created forYouTube or even go beyond the
immediate scope of GGLLC’s business to talk about
the ecological benefits of natural landscapes and
The email list is one of the most important assets
that will emerge from a successful content marketing
GGLLC should include email opt-in forms on the
website and provide incentives to subscribe to a
One incentive might be a free video of a webinar on
lawn care available only to subscribers.
Email list managers like MailChimp,
Aweber, ConstantContact and
others make it easy to create and distribute
email newsletters or a series of emails designed
to promote a campaign for new customers.The
services also provide a range of useful analytics to
help you track how subscribers are using or engaging
with your email content.
A Google+ Business Page verified for
local search can be extremely helpful
in achieving high placement in Google
At a minimum, GGLLC should update
its Business page regularly by sharing content posted
to the website. Ideally, GGLLC will encourage satisfied
clients to write reviews.
Social search is a fast-developing trend. An active
presence on Google+ can improve search results,
There are pros and cons to using tools like Bufferapp
or HootSuite to schedule social updates in advance.
Facebook penalizes status updates from third-party
services.Twitter does not.
The choice of social networks depends on the
objectives and the audience.
Facebook and Twitter continue to be the most
popular social networks.
Facebook appears to have peaked in
popularity among users 30 and younger.
Facebook would likely continue to be a good
platform to reach an older demographic, although
it may be necessary to use promoted posts (paid)
targeted to the Facebook users in the Green Grow
Landscaping market area. Unless Facebook fans
are actively engaging with status updates shared by
GGLLC, those status updates may not appear in
Twitter is useful for businesses
that are social in nature. Twitter
should never be used to simply
broadcast tweets about Green Grow
Landscaping.Twitter is about conversation and
building relationships.Whether or not Twitter would
be particularly useful for GGLLC depends first on
whether GGLLC clients are using Twitter. More
importantly, If GGLLC does not have the ability to
engage with Twitter followers it would probably be
wise to focus social efforts elsewhere.
Pinterest is another popular
social network. Green Grow
Landscaping could create boards
that feature landscaping projects by GGLLC, as well
as inspirational boards featuring landscape design
ideas, tips for caring for lawns and plants.These
might be useful in generating new prospects for
clients. Images of GGLLC’s own work should link
back to the company’s website. Since it’s possible to
pin videos and podcast episode blog posts, Pinterest
would be another way to share the videos and audio
content created for other purposes.
Instagram is another popular social
network and could provide a means
to share photos of landscaping
projects as these projects progress
from start to finish. Behind-the-
scenes looks are a popular business
tactic on Instagram. Instagram photos also provide
another source visuals that can be shared across
other social platforms.
The target audience for Green Grow Landscaping &
Lawn Care consists of middle-to upper-middle class
homeowners in the greater Birmingham metro area.
To build long-term relationships with existing clients
and promote brand awareness and gain trust of
potential new clients.
To provide valuable information and resources to
clients that will allow the company to retain at least
80% of existing clients.
To provide valuable information and resources to
potential clients that will allow the company to
grow its revenue by 20% during the first half of 2013
through expanded service contracts and new clients.
KPI & Metrics
The primary KPI and metrics for this client will be the
increase in website traffic and the increase in number
of email opt-ins via the website and other opt-in
points, such as embedded links in videos.
We can also measure click-thrus in emails and
status updates based on link referral sources and
conversions for discounts offered on the website.The
use of custom links for social channels can be used in
conjunction with Google Analytics to design campaigns
and measure conversion rates. Engagement rates (e.g.,
“Likes”) can be informative, but raw numbers need