I was recently invited to submit my CV (no, I don’t have one of those) and a recommended semester syllabus to teach social media marketing, at a well-known university.
I’ve been teaching workshops for several years—hour long, half-day, full day, and even some multi-day sessions—but semester long? What is that, 10 to 12 hours of teaching time? Then there is the challenge that I’ve always had students who are in business or starting a business, and have at least been in the working world for a while. Undergraduate students have little experience, are possibly unable to relate to entrepreneurial life, have who knows what kind of mind set, and would be a completely different experience.
Anyway, I believe in learning by doing, so I’ve been sketching out ideas for student activities.
Then I had to think about grading. How do you grade a student on social media marketing?
I began to reflect back to the dark ages when I went to university, and which classes I remember and which ones I was happy to forget. Although I know things have changed a lot since those days, some basic truths still remain.
The only class I recall that actually prepared me for real life in the business world was one where our grade was determined by our teamwork. We had regular class work, but a large part of our grade was based on how well we performed within a team and the results from our team project. (I got an A+ even though our project was lackluster at best.)
Although I was pleased with my grade, translating those lessons from class into a working environment required more than what I had learned. I believed I was prepared to work at a large company—actually, I worked at a few—understanding individual performance within a team, team spirit, the spirit of cooperation, team dynamics, goals (mine, yours, and ours), our team’s impact on other teams, and the impact on the larger systems at play.
The lessons learned at school, later practiced in the real world with wins and failures at jobs, were the lessons that I brought with me as I became an entrepreneur.
I had to build a team, since I wasn’t able to do it all myself if I wanted to grow and deliver on my company’s promises. I had to develop a team with my clients, if I wanted them to be satisfied and continue to work with us (repeat business). I had to nurture those teams to become fans so that they would cheer for us (making recommendations).
The perspective as I have come to understand business, large or small, is that it is a team sport. Teams are communities.
Our businesses are communities. We rely on one another within our company community, and we rely on other communities such as vendors, associations, cities, and so on. As entrepreneurs, we build some, exist within some, and even disrupt some. A community is no different than a team, with players that have goals (yours, mine, and ours), and members that have roles. Leading a community takes empathy, listening skills, and communication skills.
Social media is all about community. In fact, today the title has shifted from social media manager to community manager. And where one person might be assigned the tasks of social media at a company, they must rely on everyone within the company for ideas, content, direction, and communication. These community managers must also rely on other people within the social media sites to acknowledge, engage, and even help to promote their company. Fans, followers, and friends: these are all members of a community that you create. Being a fan, friend, and follower to others means that you are joining their community. This is where one community may help another.
So beyond strategy, tactics and learning what can LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like can do for you, I think that community and teamwork is what I am going to try to teach in this course. And a significant part of their grade will be based on not just their individual performance, but also the activities that impact their team—and the class as a whole.
Mardy Sitzer is a certified inbound marketing professional and president of Bumblebee Design & Marketing. Since 1993, Mardy has been delivering creative and innovative marketing solutions. An avid reader of all things internet and marketing, she also writes blogs, articles, and web content for industry magazines as well as for Bumblebee’s clients. She is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and instructor at Rutgers University teaching social media for business. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.