Happy to talk with Don Power from Sprout Social about my experiences integrating social communications (specifically Twitter) in to the curriculum of my college marketing class. It’s been a great tool for encouraging students to see social from a different light, and training them on the intricacies of communicating with customers in the social space.
I recently taught a Marketing Strategies class at my alma mater, Georgian College, for their Snow Resort Operations program. I was tasked with injecting more life in to the curriculum and making sure that students got as much exposure to the current state of marketing as possible. Hence, a great deal of time was spent discussing the applications and, more importantly, the implications of social communications for business. It was at this time that an idea was formulated to bring social media in to the classroom. Not just in discussion or in a slideshow, but in real-time and with student participation.
I made it clear at the beginning of the course that usage of social communications during class would not only be accepted, but actively encouraged. I wanted them to feel comfortable with the fact that if they hear something that resonates with them: Share it. Post it to your wall, Tweet it, whatever. There are a few reasons I encourage them to do this:
1 – It reinforces their learning: If they feel the desire to share something, it’s far more likely that they’ll remember it.
2 – It’s permamently archived: Once you put something out there, it’s there forever.
3 – It’s easily searchable: Whether they need to find the info again to study from, or a friend/classmate wants to use it as a reference, it’s easily findable.
4 – It helps them start to build up their personal brand: By sharing the stuff that they agree with, disagree with, or have an opinion about, they begin to showcase what their business personality is. The more they share, the easier and more clear it is for others to know what you’re all about.
The second step I took to incorporate “social” in to the class material was to co-ordinate a special event with @samfiorella and the team at @senseimarketing who manage the #bizforum weekly Twitter chat. I proposed a ‘special edition’ of the #bizforum chat that would occur during class hours and would focus on topics relevant to Social Media usage in the tourism/recreation industry.
This concept of conducting a live Twitter chat during class with some of the top business minds in Social Media provided several benefits for everyone involved:
a) The students got to see what Twitter (and all types of Social Communications for business) was REALLY capable of, and it broke through the typical stereotypes associated with it
b) They got to interact with some of the most vibrant business professionals on the specific topic they were studying at that time
c) The Twitter participants got to discuss a topic that had not been previously discussed in any #bizforum chat
d) #bizforum and the team at @senseimarketing built up some great goodwill with the students, the college, and the Twitter community
Here’s a screencap of the Hashtracking report gathered at the conclusion of the in-class #bizforum Twitter chat:
Overall, the inclusion of a live Twitter chat in to the class curriculum was a tremendous success. It gave the class a newfound appreciation for just how powerful these new communications tools can be. It gave them an opportunity to directly communicate with and learn from dozens of experienced business professionals. It gave them real-time feedback on what’s happening in the Tourism industry TODAY – not just when the text book was written.
Social Media in the classroom doesn’t have to be the distraction that it is currently perceived to be. It can be an amazing enhancement to the learning environment, PROVIDED the instructor and institution chooses to use it as such. Of course, HOW you use social in the classroom is entirely dependent on a series of factors such as the nature of the topic, the students’ comfort level with social communications, and of course the existing school policies.
That being said, it is crucial that educators come to terms with the fact that social communications are not going away. Learning effective ways to engage in these channels early in the education process of the next generation of business professionals will be a major advantage once they enter the post-college world. I’d encourage all educators to consider the potential benefits of incorporating social communications in to the classroom in whatever capacity makes sense for their institution.
#bizforum regularly occurs every Wednesday evening at 8pm EST
This post originally written for http://crowdshifter.com
I recently had an opportunity to speak to a group of up-and-coming marketing interns at the local college who are going through the same course of study that I completed ‘back in the day’. As I sat on the discussion panel with two other marketing-program alumni, talking about what is expected of interns during their work terms and offering advice and tips to help them get the most from their experiences, it struck me that one thing that must be mentioned to this group was LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is a crucial tool that allows professionals to network, share ideas, learn, and build their reputation as well as seek out career opportunities of all types.
So, when my next turn to speak came around, I brought up the topic of LinkedIn, and asked for a show of hands for any who knew what it was. Out of a group of 25 or 30 students, only two hands rose in the air. TWO. That’s less than 10% of the group that were aware of the biggest professional social network in existence. I was simply astounded.
Suffice to say, I promptly unleashed a large batch of reasons why they should get their LinkedIn profile up and running as soon as they got back home. The benefits for students to get themselves setup on LinkedIn are just as numerous as the benefits for any professional out in the world today. Here’s a few of the key ones that I feel students can start to realize almost immediately:
1 – Always keep your experience and references complete and up-to-date.
Your LinkedIn profile is like a resume on steroids. It is constantly evolving, and allows you to incorporate much more information than what is feasible in hard-copy form, such as things like Twitter accounts and links to blogs. While we’re not quite at a point where you can strictly direct people to your online profile, I can easily see resumes created in Word or Acrobat to go the way of the dinosaur in the near future. After all, why shuffle around files or attachments when a simple web link can accomplish the same thing, and much more? But in the meantime, maintaining a LinkedIn profile allows you to easily pull out applicable experience and information for the job you’re looking for, and put together a targeted application in virtually no time.
2 – Engage in discussions and learn more from industry professionals.
Want a job at Nike? How about Coke? Or one of the major agencies? Find their reps profiles on LinkedIn and see what groups they belong to. Join those groups and start asking questions and participating in discussions. Hearing about the latest trends and industry effects allows you to take the core concepts and ideas that are in the curriculum and textbooks and apply them to the current state of things in the real world. The business battlefield is now changing faster than ever, and talking to the soldiers who are out fighting in the trenches right now will be crucial in developing an effective career strategy.
3 – Build up your network.
Though they may only be fellow students right now, they’ll all be professionals in your field someday, so making meaningful connections with the superstars in your class can have major benefits in the long run. Also, any teachers or professors that you have a good relationship with can be a great source of referrals and references for you. Connecting with them on a professional level is a huge plus. In addition, if you go to any seminars, shows, or events where prominent businesspeople are present, make sure to connect with them if you can. Let them know that you’re a rising star, and that they should be paying attention to you. Lastly, don’t forget to connect with any professionals you meet or work with at any internships or work placements. If you do a good job with them and keep in touch, they can be excellent contacts to be called on in the future.
4 – Learn proper modern business communications early.
You can’t act the same way in business as you do at the college bar on Friday night. The sooner students learn this, the better off they’ll be by not posting incriminating or embarrassing things that can deep-six their careers before they even begin. The professionals you’ll find on LinkedIn networks have no time for joking around or unprofessional behaviour, so it’s a great way to get conditioned for how to communicate in a business environment. Respect everyone’s opinion. Proper spelling and grammar are important. Don’t let texting become your default communication style. How you talk to your buds on Facebook doesn’t jive very well with the Fortune 500.
5 – Begin forging your personal brand.
Every individual is their own brand, and LinkedIn is an excellent tool for letting the world know who you are, and what you’re all about. Your specialties will come to light through your experiences, and you will probably find that it will help you discover where your real aptitudes are, and assist you in enhancing them. Your ever-expanding LinkedIn presence helps develop your reputation as a professional in your field, and eventually as an expert. The earlier you start, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. LinkedIn’s benefits also stretch in to your overall web presence, and the job postings on LinkedIn are proving to be far more valuable than those on traditional job posting sites. It allows you to connect directly with individuals at certain organizations that are of interest to you. Finding that ‘dream job’ may still be hard, but with LinkedIn you have a greater number of paths available to you that you can use to find your way to your career utopia.
When you first start out, you’ll want to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, and follows the best-practices used by successful LinkedIn users. Here’s a few quick tips to help you get your profile setup in a good way:
Use a professional looking picture. No beach pics, bar pics, party pics, baby pics, or anything else other than you looking like you are a smart, savvy, intelligent person. First impressions are huge.
Make your headline about YOU, not your current job. Anyone can look at your profile and see where you work and what your title is. Your headline should talk about what YOU, as a professional, are all about.
Shorten your public profile URL to http://linkedin.com/in/yournamehere. Here’s a link to the instructions on how to do this. Having a custom URL makes it easier to share your link, and is also a piece of your personal brand.
Personalize your network requests. When you ask someone to connect with you, make sure to include a personalized message with your request. Professionals find it extremely frustrating to get a generic LinkedIn request that tells nothing of how you might actually know the person. Let them know who you are, how they know you, and why you are connecting.
I hope that these tips are found to be helpful. I sure wish that I had a tool like LinkedIn back when i was going through college. Even though I’ve since connected with a great deal of people I would have back then anyway, I can’t help but wonder where life would have taken me if I’d had this amazing tool at my disposal. Just one of those ‘what if’ things that I’ll always be curious about, I suppose.