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?

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