We are seeing a TON of final posts for the 2015 – ranging from best campaigns, ads, social media moments and hashtags, to even the word of the year (which of course was emoji!)

I like seeing all of these reflections posts and looking ahead to what will happen in 2016. While I appreciate all of these particular posts and reflections on what the past year has brought us, I wanted to take a moment and share a list of a different sort.

The one I wanted to create was to look at the top social media lessons professors took away from 2015. I wanted to create this list not only based on what I have seen happen with fellow colleagues at respective universities or in higher education, but also what were some of the main takeaways I walked away with this past year.

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We have to be comfortable going way out of the box
The classroom in which we teach in is not the same one we took classes in by any stretch of the imagination. We not only have to be able to teach in our respective disciplines, but approach the subjects in new ways using new tools, technologies, and channels.

This is one of the things I have enjoyed about teaching social media. This class forces you to be on top of things and try out new tools and see how they can be applied in various situations. From exploring the various geofilter and selfie filters of Snapchat to live streaming practicum  and international conference presentations through Periscope – this is just the beginning.

It’s okay to experiment and be a guinea pick in many ways – I have no problem doing this because that’s what we are doing right in research? Exploring and experimenting to learn more about the community, field, and tools we are using is some of the most rewarding duties we have in our profession. Sharing what we learn through the process is key though.

Professors are expected to be digitally connected online
We see networking as a powerful task and skill to have – and this is essential for professors now and the future. Everyone has established a classtag to use for their classes (S/O to Stephanie Madden for first using this term for her class!), but what else should we be doing? Do we need to be on ALL of the platforms that are out there?

In 2015, I feel I am still trying to determine my view on this particular point. Yes, professors need to be active and present on established platforms, but we have to be on ones where our audiences are at. For the purpose of our profession, at the moment, this is of course the major platforms like FB, Twitter, IG, LinkedIn, and YouTube to name a few. We should have an established website and create our own original content on a blog using LinkedIn, WordPress, or even Medium.

However, like I tell my students, it’s always good to experiment around new platforms and see 1) what works and what doesn’t, 2) experiment and explore around to brainstorm new opportunities and assignments, and 3) share these insights with the community.

Lastly, if we want our students to be present and establish a digital footprint online, we have to do this as well. We have to not only walk the walk – we have to be part of the planning and execution stages to be able to choreograph a complete production with multiple parts and parties for the world to see. And the world is indeed watching – so are future employers, brands, and professionals looking to hire the next round of talent in social media.

Tying in our research into popular press pieces is ESSENTIAL
We have seen – and of course heard at our respective universities, how it’s not only important to get our research and work out in the academic journals, but also establish ourselves in the popular press. While this may be challenging to some degree, it is indeed achievable.

I have had some pieces mention research work I have done in the past (ex. my work on social networking in Scientific American Mind), but this year was the year where I got a lot of press about the work I was doing in teaching social media, including this USA Today College piece talking about my social media class and using Hootsuite.

What lessons can we take from this? Work on building your voice and thought leadership on a subject and share this with your community on social media. It’s not only good to share other people’s content, but you want to make sure you create your own to showcase your perspective in your own voice. It’s all about establishing your personal brand, which I don’t think professors sometimes take advantage of. Who is the best person to market your brand? If you answer you, you are correct.

Branching out to explore new opportunities and networks
While attending the same conferences, we see sometimes the same people and professionals. This is all good – this is what we have to do to engage in research conversations, promote our scholarly works, and provide service for our community. What if we branched out to open our eyes to new conferences and even online communities?

Meeting new people is always great. Social media has allowed this to be done so seamlessly. The possibilities are endless. This is what I did this year and it has given me so much more in return – I would have never expected this. I became really more engaged with the #SMSports community this year than before and the rewards have been tremendous. What an amazing group of professionals and students! I am very thankful for the kindness, support, and generosity of these individuals.

Ability to wear even more hats and take advantage of opportunities
We have always had to wear many different hats – that’s something we have always been able to do. We are the masters of multitasking at times! However, with the increase engagement, opportunities, and expectations that arise with social media, we also have to add this to our list of tasks. We don’t necessarily have to live on social media, but we have to be actively present.

I was on social media a lot this year, but there were some opportunities I saw online that I would not have had if I was not active and engaged in the social media community. Whether it was interview features for articles, internship / job opportunities for students, to even media coverage for the class – all of these came from answering a single message on social media in a timely manner.

I have to say, 2015 was a busy yet wonderful year. I felt I grew both professionally and personally – while taking away many lessons, best practices, and ideas for the next year. Things will always change, but I think we as professors can take what we learned from this past year and continue to learn, develop, and expand our reach to our respective communities.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

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