Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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November 7, 2014

Engagement + information + relationship management = effective combination for a social media professor in the classroom

Juntae Delune just posted a really good quote from Gary Vaynerchuk about Twitter, which states “I’m not using Twitter to consume information, I’m using it to consume engagement.” What exactly does it mean to be engaged on social media?

Jason Falls had a good quote about what engagement stands for overall on social media for professionals – but why shouldn’t this be included in the classroom as well?

As professors, what we need to do is instead of just passing along information and relevant articles to our students on social media, we have to consider how to inspire them to be engaged.

How do we go about in doing this exactly?

  • First, you have to be there for the conversation [Engagement]: Take on a role as a lead discussant for the class online and be prepared for some ice breakers. For me, I have shared various items like articles and such, but I follow up with saying – what do you all think about this?
  • Apply and personalize ideas for classroom content from practitioners and brands [Information]: As professors, we have several brands we are a part of. We are part of our respective universities, departments, profession – as well as managing our own professional brand and our class brand. There are many ways to brainstorm ideas for how to create visual, personalized, and memorable content for our classes for social media. We see this done for brands and our students create ideas for how to do this for their campaigns class – so why can’t we do it for our classes and our professional brand as professors? The answer is – of course we can!
  • Being open and available for the conversations that emerge [Return On Relationships]: This is the thing when it comes to social media – you are not only engaging in conversations with your students on social media for your classes, but you are allowing a window and virtual seat open for others to join and be part of the conversation. Practitioners, fellow colleagues, and other students even can see what you are sharing.
  • Walk the walk, tweet the tweet: In order for getting engagement from your students – you as the professor have to set the standard. Be part of the class, do the same activities, and show students the potential and amazing opportunities that can arise from being active on social media. The conversations, networking connections, and updates are all public for them to see and be an eye witness to. Once they are able to see what you are able to do, students may be more likely to follow your lead. You first have to show them the way on how to do this with fellow social media professionals, brands, and agencies. Take on the role as a coach and mentor in this area rather than just passing along information.

In summary, there are a lot of benefits for being an engaged part of the social media community as a professor. There is a combination for everything to work out – you do have to be engaged not only with providing relevant content for class, but be there as well. Answer questions, have conversations that showcase your personality, and be open to comment on items your students share. The mixture of all of these updates is what creates a dynamic, energetic, and vibrate learning environment that will last not only in the class, but also create a community that can be sustained even after the students graduate from your university.

You never know who may be observing your conversations online with your fellow students. All of the conversations I’ve had with students have been professional and related to class, and I had one of my Twitter friends and fellow social media colleagues comment on this last night.

Russell is the director of digital media for the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department, and he shared this with his followers based on a conversation I had with one of my #FrebergGrads graduate crisis students. This comment really made my evening – it was very humbling to hear this from a well respected professional like Russell about my teaching and how I am using social media as a professor. Thanks so much, Russell!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

April 3, 2014

Presenting at UT Social Media Week

I had the chance to go back to one of my former schools, the University of Tennessee, this week for the UT Social Media Week. This event has been going on for several years at UT (after I graduated back in 2011), but it is a great overall event to engage students, faculty, and professionals together to talk about a range of social media topics and experiences from different industries.

I was invited to be part of the higher ed and social media panel session. Along with Carolyn (Tennessee) and Nick (West Virginia University), we discussed how social media is incorporated into the classroom. While Carolyn and Nick focused on how they have used social media in their research as well as in their respective classes, I decided to take a little bit of a different approach to this presentation.

My presentation actually was based on something I have experienced over the years as someone that studies, teaches, and consults in social media. People have asked me a range of questions over the years as well as point out some things that I consider to be “myths.”

What I liked about doing this presentation was the fact that the points I made in my presentation would have been elements and tips I would have liked to have heard myself when I was a doctoral student or a newly minted PhD. There are so many opportunities to share resources, brainstorm ideas, and connect with both professors and students online – that’s the beauty and power of social media. In my presentation, I was able to share what I was doing at UofL in my social media classes with my students and how I have had the chance to help others, brainstorm on some cool campaigns, and make a difference in student’s lives at UofL.

Another factor I realized in this presentation was the fact that I was both energized and passionate about this subject. I realized this when I was preparing the notes and realized – wow! This is WHY I am doing what I am doing. I have never considered social media research, teaching, or practice “work” – it is something that interests me and makes me be a student always. So, as you can see, this is what sparked my presentation for the UT Social Media Week, and you can see my slidedeck here if you are interested.

Major thanks to Courtney Childers and her 490ADV Social Media class for hosting such a great event focusing on social media. It was an honor to be part of this event – thank you. :) Really had a wonderful time and was very good to see everyone and spend some time at good ole Rocky Top again! :) Keep up the great work!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

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,

January 22, 2014

The art of positive teaching: Lessons to become a mentor for students through social media

I would say that teaching – especially in college – is one of the most rewarding experiences and professions anyone can have. I am not necessarily talking about

I personally view teaching like coaching, and I feel I had a chance to be mentored by two of my role models in life: Mom and Dad. Dad was my coach when I was a thrower and really taught me how to work hard, be dedicated, and taught me how to train and be the best I could be in track and field. It has also been great to brainstorm ideas and talk about marketing and PR (Dad worked for companies in Marketing like Nestle and Mars to name a few – yes, all foodie companies!) His work ethic and positive coaching really has influenced me both on and off of the throwing field.

Dad and I at a USC Meet (Coach Dad)


Mom has been a great mentor for me in academics and being one of the main mentors I have had in academics and research. Her guidance, dedication and work ethic with research and teaching is inspirational – I learned a lot also through the process about writing and being confident in the classroom and talking about research. I would not be the person I am today without both of these wonderful people. :) Shout out to Mom and Dad!! :)

Dr. Freberg 1.0 (aka Mom) and I (Dr. Freberg 2.0) with Google Glass!

Anyway, back to teaching – I view my role as a professor is to provide students not only with the opportunity to learn about the field I am in, but grow from the experience. Enhancing their skills, mentor them, and engage them on their own turf essentially (ex. social media) where you can guide them to opportunities to enhance and empower their skills in the field.

How do you translate coaching to become an effective teacher? Here are some steps I found to be useful in my experience teaching:

  • Share resources: Whether it is about blogging to writing about certain topics, you can be viewed as a person where students can go to to ask questions about where to start finding resources on a particular topic, especially if it is a specialization within the field.
  • Connecting students for networking opportunities: This is HUGE. You need to be active in the professional field so you can connect students with leaders in the field. Engage and reach out to them via Twitter and share their blog posts with the class. Invite them via Skype or in person to come to class.
  • Lead by example: If you want students to do the work, you want to show them that you are doing it along with them. I have done this with my social media class – I am blogging, researching and coming up with ideas for social media campaigns, and networking along with them. Showing them it can be done is good for them to see – you don’t want to feel like they are doing just “busy work.” Dad worked out with me when I was competing in track and Mom is writing research articles and teaching along with me.
  • Becoming a leader AND participant in the classroom: Yes, you are a professor and are responsible for the material presented. However, you want to be approachable and receptive from learning from the class as well. I’m excited when I get to learn about a new app or tool my students found and want to share with the class. I think that’s fabulous! With this mindset, it creates a dynamic and energetic learning environment for everyone.
  • The art of positive teaching: Consider feedback to be constructive of course – this is still the same – but when students have exciting news – let them know you are proud of them! My Dad wrote a great article back in 2000 about the art of positive coaching, and I think this has so many good messages and points here that it can definitely be translated into teaching as well. I have seen so many cases where students have reached out to me and said they have gotten a job, internship, and wonderful opportunity where they have shared it with me on Twitter or other social media sites. I have developed the hashtag #proudprof for that reason and this is what I share on Twitter and Instagram. Taking the time to give a shout out (or S/o) to a student makes a world of a difference. Like positive coaching, positive teaching is also very effective.

In essence, I feel very honored and privilege to be part of a great profession that is so rewarding. It is exciting and inspiring for me to see the future professionals grow, learn, and see that light bulb go off when it all connects with them. Great classes are made up of great students, and I have been very fortunate to have some amazing students in my classes both this semester and previous semesters. :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

November 24, 2013

Stay fabulous, #Freberg13!: Reflections on UofL Social Media Class

Semesters come and go pretty fast. Even as a professor, it seems like yesterday we started the semester – but time goes by fast when you are busy and working on multiple projects and classes. It does seem like yesterday where I walked into class for Fall 2013 and met my new social media class back in August.

Now, we are heading not only to the holiday season, but the conclusion of the fall semester. One of the last blog assignments I had for my #Freberg13 class was to reflect on the class this semester.  I wanted to see what they were able to talk away from the course, what they liked and what they didn’t like, and what their plans were after the semester. I felt this was a way for me to prepare for the upcoming class in the Spring as well as see what were some of the elements I could continue to do or even improve on.

However, what I read from these posts was something I did not expect.  I was truly touched by what the students wrote about in their reflection posts because I really got to see what they took away from the class. What resulted was a clear indication on why I decided to go into teaching – it was to work with some inspirational and wonderful students who are set forth to make a difference in the field. Their inspiration, creativity, and energy is exactly why I feel teaching is so rewarding.

I can see the evolution they all went through in this social media class and there’s nothing more exciting to hear one getting a job or internship from what they learned in class or looking at the field as something they want to pursue. Here are a few class reflection posts I wanted to share with you all:

I have to admit, I did tear up a bit when I read some of these posts because I am SO proud of all of my students in #Freberg13. The class hashtag was not only used to share updates and information with the students, but it was about building a community. It was about sparking dialogue, engaging with everyone in (and sometimes outside of the class) about topics related to social media, and making connections with the industry. It was about also leading by example to be engaged with the materials, sharing ideas, and practicing using these tools to share information and knowledge with others.

To my #Freberg13 students: the thanks goes to each and every one of you in class for making this a wonderful semester. It has been an great honor and privilege for me to be your professor this semester. I know you all will continue to do fabulous things after this class and out in the social media profession. And, as Ron Burgundy would tell you all, stay fabulous, #Freberg13.

Have a wonderful day!

Best Wishes,


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