We have seen a huge increase in utilizing influencers for various campaigns and brands. This is something you are seeing more and more often, which is not too surprising. Influencers are not just prominent in the industry, but are getting some long-term contracts like traditional media personalities as Digiday reported.

Influencers, especially micro-influencers, have been able to grow their prominence in the industry through these various strategies and networks because 1) people are going to be listening to friends and others who are part of their network compared to a paid spokesperson, 2) they want to trust someone they can relate to, and 3) these individuals have the power of word-of-mouth working for them because the stories and experiences they share are viewed as being authentic.

So, how do you teach influencer relations and marketing for students? This has been something I know many professors have discussed in their work. Matt Kushin has a great exercise he shared on his blog about how he integrated this concept into his classes. Kelli Matthews also implemented a great listening and monitoring assignment for her students at Oregon on identifying influencers on social media for clients.

I took a slightly different approach to my assignment: I put the students in the driver’s seat and THEY were the influencer class. I think it’s good to not only have students analyze who the influencers are, but also be able to think about the best practices, content, stories, and experiences they want to share with others if they were in question, the influencer for a campaign.

How did this all work out? My advanced social media strategy class (#FrebergSM), went to the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville. We had amazing hosts, Brittney and Lindsay, who made sure we had a great time at the museum with a historical walking tour and experience all the things KDM offered. Special thanks to Bella Portaro-Kueber for making this great connection!

Both Brittney and Lindsay made sure they discussed what were some things they were looking for as far as the museum goes on social media, and took the time to chat with the students about the role social media plays for them.

What was a surprise to me was out of the 10 students I had in class, only two had been to the museum. So, they were sharing authentically their first time experiencing the museum – which I thought was an extra bonus here.

Here are some best practices from this assignment I wanted to share with you:

Prepare the students ahead of time about IM and best practices. This is critical, you want to spend a few days in class identifying the influencer marketing practices, what are some pros and cons about influencers, and best practices. I also made sure the students took advantage of the great program Traackr provides here as well. The students had to do this before the KDM field trip.

Give clear instructions on what hashtags and accounts to tag. Brittney and Lindsay were great with this and made sure to point out key photo spots that were popular for social media pictures, as well as their own hashtag. The students needed to know which ones they were using for their own monitoring and listening capabilities. Understanding what were some of the things they were looking for as well as who they were targeting on social media was key.

As it turns out, the KDM wanted to make sure they were doing enough to reach college students, which again, made this class partnership a great one since these students in class were influencers in their own right! This would be a key element to keep in mind if you want to replicate this assignment in your own community.

Discuss the type of content you (and the client) were expecting, but not tell the students HOW to create this content. I provided some brief instructions on what types of content to create, such as a Twitter Moment (like this one from Abbie), Instagram Stories, and an Adobe Spark recap (as Lacee did here) to name a few things. I didn’t tell the students what they had to have for each piece of content because I wanted them to share authentically what works for their own brand voice and audience. Essentially, this ties into their own personal brand a bit.

Report their metrics and provide recommendations for the future. I think that’s another component here as well is to make sure to report what pieces of content across the different channels worked and what got the most engagement. This also allows the students to think full-circle in how they look at IM not just as a possible tactic to add on to a social media plan, but to really integrate it into the overall scope of social media strategy.

In case you are interested, here’s the assignment and more will be showcased in my Portfolio Building Workbook by Sage (available in August along with my new textbook).

In summary, I had a blast and it was very rewarding for me as a professor to see the students be so attentive and creative with their work. I saw excitement, sparks, and smiles all around. The students were not only able to experience what it was like to be an influencer, but they were able to see what were the strategies and necessary steps that needed to happen to make this successful. This was the very first time I had ever done an assignment like this, and it really brings the students out into the real world and shows them how what we are covering in class really makes an impact.

Thank you Brittney and Lindsay for being amazing hosts for our class! We had a marvelous time and we will be back!

Best Wishes,