Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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April 22, 2014

At the finish line for the semester: Best tips for professors to create an engaging social media campaign style class

It is that time of the semester where finals are beginning here at the University of Louisville. While I do not give a final exam for my social media class, I do have final client presentations for their social media campaign proposals.

I have had this discussion with several of my PR professor colleagues any they have asked me why I have the students to actual campaigns instead of exams? My response is – what am I going to do? Give them an exam with questions like – what is a tweet? How about the components of Instagram? Of course not.

I’ve always believed that it is essential to give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom and give them hands on experiences. This is what makes campaign style classes really different compared to other types of classes. Lots of papers, and one project that basically began the first week of the semester.

I am extremely proud of the students and what they have done this semester in #Freberg14. In many ways, this class here at UofL shows me how you truly can see a difference among the students from the start of the semester to the end. The first day of class started with me telling the class this simple point: “This will be the hardest class you will have this semester – and possibly in college.”

So, how do you prepare the students to be part of a project working with a client on a social media campaign proposal? Here are some of my tips I’ve learned while teaching this class at UofL:

  • Set deadlines and expectations early on: Make sure your students know the impact of this project and significance of this not only for the class, but for after they graduate and enter the workplace. Connecting the dots here is crucial.
  • Highlight the benefits: Show how this proposal could be used in their portfolio and share examples of students who have used this as a document to showcase their work for internships and job interviews. Also, discussing how to upload this document to their online portfolio, website, and even sites like LinkedIn are also important to note here as well.
  • Put on your coach hat with your students: I’ve been very fortunate to have a great coach in my Dad in track – and I remember how he would encourage me, push me, and give me to tools and resources I needed to be all I could be in track. I felt that was my role in my social media class. Yes, I did tell my students that they may not like what I am telling them when comes to their drafts, but I am here to help them become better. I push them to work harder and smarter with their documents to see what they can do to make them even stronger. At the end – it’s the work of the students and they are the ones that get the rewards of their hard work, and for me – that’s why I love teaching.
  • Be an “honorary” team member: This is what I tell all of my groups – I am part of their group and am always available to brainstorm ideas and offer my point of view on things. This allows the creativity to spark within each group and they feel comfortable with their ideas and feel that they are not completely alone in the process.
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Social media can be fun, but it is extremely hard especially when you are coming up with creative strategies as well as trying to keep up with the trends all emerging right now.

Tomorrow are our client presentations – where it will not only be the clients and the students in attendance, but also a couple of professionals working in Louisville.

Best of luck to all of the students tomorrow – I know you will do great in your presentations! Will let you all know how they go tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,
Karen

 

April 13, 2014

Understanding the strategies and trends involving selfies for brands & professors

I have had this discussion in most of the classes I have taught this semester on the phenomenon we all know as “selfies.” Selfies have been of course incorporated into various events, conferences, and even recently the March Madness tournament. It was exciting to see UofL featured as one of the universities that did a trendy campaign using social media and selfies for the tournament.

However, one of the things we have to consider here when it comes to this trend is to see how this is both applied and can be explored further. We have seen many discussions on this and what selfies represent and risks associated with them. I do believe it is key to understand both the opportunities and risks associated with every trend, new platform, and issue happening in society. Another trend we are also seeing is who can top the best selfie – which was a discussion and topic of conversation on Hootsuite’s blog the other day as well.

Selfies are even in campaigns – look at this campaign that features Messi and Kobe for Turkish Airlines. This is one of the things we as social media and PR professionals have to look at and see being implemented not only in social circles, but also for businesses as well. I shared this with my classes and we talked about how brands are trying to engage and interact with audiences using initiatives such as this to be current and relatable.

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There are apps out there now that are dedicated just to selfies, including one that has garnered a lot of news and discussion (along with investment) called Shots. Compared to other apps, one of the changes and features that is integrated into this particular app addresses the issue of preventing cyber bullying, which is another key challenge and risk we are seeing not just with selfies, but all social media platforms as well.

However, I think there are some elements to it that we can note as being notable changes and strategies being implemented by both individuals as well as brands and campaigns proactively. So, how can we use selfies strategically – even for professors? Here are a few ways:

  • Showcasing the importance of time and place for selfies: Of course, there are times and places for taking selfies – and it is always good to make sure to get permission first or let someone know that a selfie is part of a branded and sponsored move like what happened with the Samsung and President Obama selfie case.
  • Sharing an experience: Whether it is at a conference, meeting guest speakers, or even showing your school spirit – there are many reasons why you may want to take a selfie to share with your respective communities and even classes.
  • Encourage engagement with students outside of the classroom: One way you can go about in using selfies to build a sense of community with your students is to lead by example and say – I’m cheering for the team in the upcoming game or here’s my picture with my coffee as we prepare for finals. It’s about sharing the experience while making it interactive and visual. Also, it may be good to showcase the experience with other students. One of my good friends and fellow colleagues, Ralph Merkel, shared a selfie on the football field at the spring game with fellow students who invited him to be honored as a mentor at the Red and Black banquet. These are the type of selfies professors can share with others so they can feel like they are part of the experience as well.
  • Making announcements: We have seen selfies being used to document points of view, showcase experiences with others, and even endorsements and major announcements like Star Wars did with the launch of their Instagram account. When I found out that I got my pair of Google Glasses, of course I had to take a selfie to share this news with everyone! :)

Will this be effective later this year or a year from now? Who knows – we will have to wait and see what comes up next. But first.. let me take a selfie. :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,
Karen

March 16, 2014

Myths and Best Practices for Professors who teach Social Media

I have been teaching social media courses for about two years now, but I have always considered myself to be a student of the field even after I got my PhD. This is a field that continues to evolve and change over time, so you have to be present and up to date when it comes to emerging technologies and tools to use both in practice and in research.

I am going to be part of a great higher ed panel session in a few weeks at the upcoming UT Social Media Week in Knoxville. It is going to be great to be back in Knoxville and present again at the University of Tennessee.

When I was thinking about the various points I wanted to note and share during this panel session, one topic seemed to come up over and over again for me, and that was involving myths pertaining to social media. I’m not talking about myths specifically when it comes to social media, but focusing on what it means for professors who use social media in their classrooms.

 

Are there certain rules or expectations for professors to have when they engage and interact with their students in the classroom? What are the best practices to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment? These questions resulted in my topic I wanted to cover in my session at the upcoming UT Social Media Week.

I would love to hear from fellow professors on what are some myths they have faced while teaching social media at their respective universities, but I wanted to share with you a few myths that I have run into since I have started teaching in this area:

  • There is only one way to teach social media: There are many ways to teach social media. There’s no right way to go about it in my opinion. Social media is part of so many different disciplines so there is no universal way to teach the course. Psychology teaches it one way as well as Marketing and PR. We have to adapt and tailor the course to fit the foundation we have in our profession to apply it strategically and effectively for our students.
  • You can use the same syllabus and materials from last semester for class: If you wanted to be viewed as not credible in the field, then do this. Teaching a social media class does not only have to be updated every semester, but you have to give yourself at least a few weeks during the semester to go over what is relevant and happening at that exact moment for your class. I have a few days dedicated in my course syllabus for new emerging trends – which gives you some flexibility for what you need to add and discuss for your class and share with your students.
  • No one wants to see what you are doing in the classroom as a professor on social media: Excuse me? I actually heard this at one conference and had to take a deep breath. All I have to say is that those who are in agencies, businesses, and other aspects of the workplace who would most definitely want to see what is going on in social media classes. I have shared my hashtag for my social media class with others so they can see what we are doing so 1) they know what conversations we are having online, 2) what topics and assignments we are covering, and 3) reading about what the students are writing about on their blogs and potentially strike up a conversation about possible opportunities in terms of internship and jobs.
  • There are no opportunities for sharing content with others on social media for professors: This is the beauty part of what social media is – it’s social! It’s all about networking, sharing, and reaching out to others to talk about what you are doing in the classroom. Spending the time to do this not only for yourself as a professor, but think about the opportunities and doors that will open for your students if you do this. Wow! I can name several cases where I have done this that has benefited my students in terms of having features, internships, and even job opportunities offered to them. Social media is a wonderful and powerful networking tool to formulate these wonderful professional relationships.
  • You have to have certain assignments for a social media class: Who made up this rule? I have been told over the years that all social media classes need to have a blog or podcast component. While these are important – are they required? Maybe, but maybe not. It really all depends on how you are going to use and apply these platforms in your class. Will students just write blog posts for the sake of writing blog posts? Or will you give them an opportunity to apply what they are learning and create their own online persona in the areas they are passionate in along with social media?

In summary, my goal for my presentation is to showcase some of these myths but offer some best practices along the way that I have learned through teaching a social media class for a couple of years with others. It’s about sharing these points of information and knowledge to not only help fellow professors, but also rising young professors and students who are interested in the field. We all need to know what are the expectations of a social media professor today.

I will make sure to post my full PowerPoint deck after the conference for you all to review. I would be interested as well to see what other myths and best practices you all have when it comes to teaching social media for professors.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,
Karen

March 7, 2014

University of Louisville’s “Happy” Video

One of the great things I think is great about being at the University of Louisville is the fact that we have a great group of professors, students, and staff at the university when it comes to social media. It’s been like this for years and this is lead by Jeff Rushton, who is the Director of Digital Media here at UofL. We have regular meetings and share items, ideas, and trends with each other when it comes to social media on a FB group page.

Well, you just never know when your idea may be implemented, which is one of the things that has happened! As many of my students and friends know, I am a huge fan of the franchise “Despicable Me.” In fact, I have used them to create my grading scale in my social media class.

My grading scale for my social media class at UofL

One of the popular songs from the movie was Pharrell’s “Happy” song, and it translated into this music video:

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Of course, we saw a lot of various versions of videos of this from other universities, businesses, and individuals to recreate the happiness that is displayed in the song. With this in mind, the UofL social media group came together, brainstormed some ideas, and went about in creating a fun and happy video showcasing the university with its students, staff, student-athletes, faculty, and even our university president, Dr. Ramsey. Here’s the video of UofL’s version of “Happy:”

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More background on the brainstorming process can be found here on the UofL Blog. It was a fun project to brainstorm on (and no, I did not appear in the video to be dancing :)). It’s a great way to showcase the university and the people behind the UofL logo in a way that showcases positive feelings and happiness all around. You can’t help but dance to it!

Again, major props to the leadership and direction of Jeff for this great video showcasing UofL and all of the hard work, dedication, and team work the group did to make this come alive. Go Cards!

Hope you all are having a “Happy” Friday!

Best Wishes,
Karen

February 16, 2014

How to integrate Ted Rubin’s #RonR concept for professors & into social media classes

It is interesting to see how social media overall has become such a huge global phenomenon across industries and professions. We can see it even in the research and look at how it has truly evolved over the years – it’s truly amazing to see how fast this is changing. This is one  of the many reasons why I really like teaching and working in the field. There is always something new happening each and every day, which does have its challenges but benefits at the same time.

In many ways, like most areas nowadays, it is a business. One clear example was a report I saw where athletes at the Sochi Olympics are turning over their accounts to their sponsors so they are able to produce, create, and engage with their followers with content relevant to their personal brands. Calendars, content management systems, schedules, and promoted content are all part of the equation nowadays not only for businesses, but for individuals and their personal brands as well.

I would have to say that this was not surprising, but yet it still was to me when I read this. Is this the way social media is going as a tool and form of communication? Is it all coming down to scheduled updates, promoted content, and pushing of information to What does this say when we look at social media as a community? I think of course there is a time and place for promoted content, but where is the authenticity that can emerge from conversations and dialogues within these relationships with people?

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Personally, I absolutely believe that it all comes down to relationships when it comes to social media. I have been inspired to see what Ted Rubin has said regarding this issue and I think it rings true for sure. He was the professional who coined the term “Return on Relationships” or otherwise known as #RonR. It is about listening and focusing not on what you are doing, but what you can do for others at the same time. We seem to forget this not only in businesses, but also in teaching and research as well. I think Ted is really doing a great job in communicating this idea for marketers and professionals in the business, and I think there is a HUGE opportunity for professors to take notice of this mindset, especially for their classes.

Why do I say this? Well, I have seen some amazing professors who have lead this way with their classes on social media and are always actively listening and engaging their students by following this principle of RonR as Ted describes it. So, the question is, how can #RonR work  for professors as well? There are certain things we can look at ourselves that can help us establish our social media practices to help our brands and research as well. Here are a few ideas I have here on how professors can do this and what I’ve tried to do with my social media class at UofL:

  • Listening to students: I tell my students that I am not a mind reader, but it is key to see what they are talking about and what questions they have for me as the professor. That’s why I am actively engaged on using Twitter and other forms of social media to see what they are sharing using the #Freberg14 hashtag. Each student has different goals and expectations and interests – and my role is to see how I can engage them with the content as well as share additional resources for them. Again, it’s all about engaging them to create a dynamic learning experience.
  • It’s about THEM: One of the things that really made me think about what Ted was saying is this point. Students are actively learning about the discipline – whether you are looking at PR or social media – and it is our role as professors to focus on helping them better understand the material both in and outside the classroom. Also, think about what you can do to help them out as well to achieve their goals. Look at your connections on social media to see if you can make a virtual introduction to an agency professional or business owner in the area of interest a student has. These network connections can help create longstanding relationships that benefit the student after the class and possibly result in an internship or future job.
  • Being active to see how you can help students out: I have been approached by students over the years on a variety of topics from internships or job opportunities, or even resources to expand their knowledge in the area. We have to make sure we are there for students on social media not only when they are in our classes, but afterwords as well. I am still in contact with students in  my first classes a few years ago in both my traditional and online classes. Teaching is not for the short-term at all – you can still learn and grow as an individual even after class is done.
  • Ongoing conversations create communities: I think Ted’s point on ongoing conversations is right on task here. I do talk a lot about social media among my students, but they share other areas and topics with me over social media. Particularly, students have shared images and updates with me that pertain to coffee, which I think is fab! (If you don’t know already, I LOVE coffee!) But I do the same with them as well. I have some students who are active sports fans, so I share content relevant to their interests. I have others that are fans of bourbon and local Louisville shops – same thing. It’s all about sustainable engagement. It’s not only about sharing great content, but creating great content to share with your students as well. That’s where a blog can be extremely helpful here for your classes. Here’s another great video of Ted speaking on the importance of content creation.
  • Don’t try to fit the cookie cutter mold when it comes to social media engagement with students: I think this was one point that sparked for me when I heard this talk with Ted Rubin – even though he was referring to marketing and brands, I still think this is relevant for professors to note here when it comes to social media as well. You have to adapt your practices and engagement with your audiences based on each individual. The conversations you have are not always going to be the same. Your social media interactions have to be personalized and tailored.
  • To be successful on social media, you have to be “social”:  This is so important! I do see some professors incorporate social media to just broadcast content and share links with students, without personalized interactions with the class. That’s not the purpose here when it comes to incorporating social media into the classroom. As Ted says, you not only have to build a community, but you have to be part and spark conversations. Experiment, test, and try out ideas in your classes – you will be able to see what works and what needs to be adapted.

In summary, I am very thankful for professionals like Ted Rubin who have been generous in sharing his expertise and insights not only for businesses, but also with professionals and professors who are teaching and researching with students to help them be prepared for the workplace. Thanks Ted and keep up the great work! :)

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,
Karen

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