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Teaching Social Media


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Poster describing my approach to teaching social media, which is based on content marketing with a focus on strategic planning tied to business objectives.

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Teaching Social Media

  1. 1. Teaching (and Using) Social Media for Business and Professional Success Abstract 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. Assistant Professor Journalism & Mass Communication Department Samford University Email: Green Grow Landscaping & 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 customer’s needs. 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. Course Structure 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 brand. We begin the semester with a look at best practices in content and social media marketing using case studies and mini-reports. 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 Twitter metrics. In the second month, students design a podcast show for niche of their choosing and create a sample episode, which we upload and publish online. 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 SEO strategy. Throughout the semester we explore social platforms and related technologies. 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 brand. 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 People Objectives Strategies Technologies & Tactics (Li & Bernoff, 2011) + Key Performance Indicators (Metrics) (Blancard, 2011; Paine, 2011) Website 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. YouTube Channel 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 GGLLC website. Vimeo is an alternative resource for video hosting, but due toYouTube’s importance and value in search results, we recommendYouTube for this client. Editorial Calendars Teams create an 3-4 month editorial calendar for each client, including sample content for a one- week period. Editorial calendars are developed by looking at important dates and seasonal business activities., such as promotional opportunities. References Blanchard, O. (2011). Social Media ROI. Boston: Pearson Education Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press. Paine, K. D. (2011). Measure What Matters. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Audio Podcast 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 vehicles. 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 biweekly. 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 native flowers. Email List The email list is one of the most important assets that will emerge from a successful content marketing plan. GGLLC should include email opt-in forms on the website and provide incentives to subscribe to a newsletter. 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. Google+ A Google+ Business Page verified for local search can be extremely helpful in achieving high placement in Google search results. 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, Scheduling Updates 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. Social Networks 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 newsfeeds. 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. Google Analytics Facebook Insights People The target audience for Green Grow Landscaping & Lawn Care consists of middle-to upper-middle class homeowners in the greater Birmingham metro area. Objectives 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 context.