One of the concepts that is being discussed in social media are social consumers, an audience segment of the population via social media that is actively consuming information, data, and is constantly engaged with technology. Whether it is reading reviews to sharing updates and pictures or even creating their own content – this younger group of social media users are actively participating in the online discussion as well as having high expectations for information seeking and business activities.

Mashable has a great info graphic on this very topic that shows the specific characteristics of what exactly is a social consumer. In addition to their specific technology needs, these individuals rely heavily on their social circles for information about various topics and issues.  Why is this the case?  Well, Nielson found that family members and friends where to two groups these individuals trusted most about where to go for information.  Brian Solis wrote a very thorough post regarding this new emerging audience group back in 2010, and what are some of the trends we as PR and Strategic Communication professionals need to be aware of for the upcoming years to come.

The question arises when looking at this relatively new phenomenon – how can this be applied in the classroom?  Do professors and instructors have to take these emerging trends into consideration when they are teaching?

There are several things we as instructors and professors can do to accomplish this and reach and engage our “social” students – otherwise known as our social consumers in the classroom:

  • Lead by example:  Interact, engage, and show the students you not only know about technology – you have immersed yourself into the process and are willing to share these insights with the class.
  • Social currency = mentoring:  Brian Solis mentions in his post that an important metric to look at is social currency for a social consumer – whereas in the classroom, this comes in the form of mentoring and the results of having a positive and energetic classroom experience.  You want to have the students walking away with more knowledge and skills from the class.  I have always tried to give students more than they expected in terms of knowledge, information, and examples to help them be prepared for the workplace.  Mentoring effectively is the way to go.
  • Connect the dots through networking:  You may not have expertise in all areas of PR or StratComm,but you have friends and colleagues that have this experience.  Connect the students with these individuals if they are interested in a particular area (ex. social media and crisis) and guide them in building these professional relationships.
  • Use various readings, videos, and info graphics to stimulate class discussion: While reading are absolutely the foundation for learning in the classroom – it is also good to show various sites and information that might be useful in visually presenting some of the concepts and ideas discussed in class in a unique way.  I use videos, podcasts, info graphics, and even apps to show my students some of the elements we talk about in class.  It is all about adapting and updating some of these resources for the classroom.
In summary, what professors and other instructors are facing is that they have to adapt to this growing change in their students in the classroom and recognize that while they may be social consumers,we have to be social connectors in terms of information, resources, and networking relationships.  It will be interesting to see how this all develops in higher education.
Hope you all are having a great day!
Best Wishes,