Social media is one of my favorite subjects to teach at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. It’s inspiring to see so many students looking to pursue careers in the rapidly changing field. But social media is one of the most challenging, time-consuming and challenging courses to teach and take at the college level right now.

The social media landscape is always changing, and so are assignments, lessons, and curricula. Professors and students have to study twice (or even three times as much) compared to other courses to keep up with the industry.

There are many ways to set up a social media course, but there are a few steps I take before each semester. First, I determine the focus of the class and what I want to cover. Will this be an introductory course or an advanced strategy course?

I then divide the term into different areas to be covered, such as promoting social media and ending the term with future implications and trends. The last thing I do is add specific assignments and link to relevant articles, resources, and videos that I want students to consume. Due to the evolution of social media trends, there is a structure in the classroom that has room to adapt and change.

Types of classroom exercises I do

The class I taught at the University of Louisville is more like a strategic communications capstone class. We work with real clients in Louisville and students have a semester-long group project creating a social media recommendation. However, there are some individual assignments related to social media that capture students’ own interests. Here are some exercises I included in my class:

Online reputation check

Knowing how to rate your brand on social media is just as important as owning a brand. I have my students not only audit their personal brands, but also compare them with professionals they would like to work with at an agency, startup, or big brand. The audit I had my students do was inspired by Keith Quesenberry’s assignment to do a brand social media audit.

Your Moyens I/O Student Program

I was first introduced to the Moyens I/O Student Program by William Ward a few years ago and have been a fan ever since – the program is taught in my classroom every semester. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn more about how to use the Moyens I/O control panel. In the program, students can practice writing updates, creating their own reports and lists, and tracking hashtags, along with lectures on current topics from leading experts in the social media industry. At the end of the program, students can complete an exam and earn the Moyens I/O Platform Certification.

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student workshops

In a rapidly changing environment like social media, students often have something to teach the professor. Last semester, one of my students, Danielle Henson, our classroom expert on Snapchat, conducted a classroom workshop on how to design and create your own branded Snapchat filter.

He prepared a short presentation for the class and then opened Photoshop and explained the process of how to create a filter.

Social media etiquette and class attendance

You should use social media to teach social media. What better way than to build a community on a platform like Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or even a platform specifically designated for a classroom? I’m a Twitter fan so this is the platform I use. But if you’re going to use any platform for class, you’ll want to share your own email and social media etiquette policy with students so they know what to expect from the class discussion.

This is a brief guide to what to expect from students in their online correspondence and interactions with you, their classmates, and the online community. Similar to what you would see from a social media policy for brands and other organizations, this provides a framework for communication and online expectations for the right behavior you have for the classroom.

Strategy briefs using social media

This assignment helps students think strategically about how to use social media for local businesses, nonprofits or customers. This is one of my class focused on Snapchat.

The purpose of the strategic brief is to summarize key goals (for example, what do you want to achieve with Snapchat) and your target audience. The next section comes up with strategies and tactics for the platform, such as building brand awareness, hosting social media takeovers, and running ads and contests. The last part of the lesson outlines how to evaluate success, such as new followers, clicks and engagement.

How and where do I find new teaching topics

As mentioned, social media is a constantly evolving field and finding new and innovative assignments for students is a challenge. Fortunately, I have many different ways to generate new ideas.

I participate in Twitter chats

There are many chats that are useful for both students and teachers: #Hootchat, #HESM, #SMSports (for social media and sports), #PRprofs (for PR professors), #SMSsporchat (for sports businesses and public relations), #ChatSnap (all about Snapchat) are some of the ones I follow regularly.

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I keep in touch with alumni working on social media

I do this primarily on Twitter, and there is a class alumni hashtag that former students are encouraged to use to share their social media advice and tips with current students.

I follow other social media professors

The fellowship of professors who teach social media is really great. Collaboration provides a great opportunity for brainstorming and sharing ideas and exercises. For example, Emily Kinsky wrote about how she created an exercise for students to live-tweet a classroom session and the learning benefits this brings for the classroom. Matt Kushin researched an assignment for his class where he had his students write BuzzFeed articles for the class. Ai Zhang shared how Brian Fanzo uses Snapchat for his classes on his website. Each professor has inspired me to try some of these activities in my own classes with great results.

I share my lesson plan with social media professionals

My curriculum needs to be updated every time I teach a class, and I work on it at least two months before the semester starts. When I get the first draft, I send it to my network of social media experts to get their input. I would like to know if I have covered material on the current state of the industry and if there is anything else I should include.

I invite guest speakers to my class

It has always been helpful and interesting for my students to bring together professionals to share their stories, expertise and insights into what is going on in the industry, face-to-face or virtually.

What I learned while teaching social media in the classroom

When it comes to teaching social media in the classroom, I’ve learned that you can’t try to do everything. It is important to focus – what is the purpose of the class, is it an introductory course? Or is it a data and analytics course that students should take after the research methods course?

I also learned how important it is to stay flexible as social media is constantly changing. I book at least two weeks for “Future Developments and Trends” in my curriculum so I can identify what is new and relevant for my students.

While teaching social media is intense and a lot of work, it’s also one of the most rewarding courses I’ve taught in my career as a professor. I teach social media for the opportunity to be inspired by the attention of my students. Expertise in social media increases over time. Helping the next generation of professionals learn from the current is why I love teaching social media.

Do you teach social media at a college or university? Integrate Moyens I/O into your classroom with: Moyens I/O’s Student Program.

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