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