Students Helping Startups: Teaching Social Media Marketing

social media marketingAs you might recall, I taught a social media marketing class during Fall semester at Howard University.  The class involved pairs of students working with a start-up client.  I used a blog post, which was spread through social media and super colleagues such as Techcocktail, Jess3, Guy Kawasaki, and Scott Monty, and had 75 companies apply for the program by September.  Students chose from among these applications and we worked with 26 companies during the semester.

Teaching Social Media Marketing with Startup Clients

During the semester, each team completed a number of tasks for their clients — tasks I recommend to all my own clients:

  1. Create an SEO optimized blog

Blogging still underpins successful social media marketing.  In fact, a recent post based on research from Technorati shows the use of blogging is becoming more extensive.  The reason is simple — a blog gives your social media marketing strategy a home base.  A blog builds online credibility, coordinates communities built on other social networks, and helps others find your brand community online.

We created blogs optimized with the WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast de Valk and used other plugins to improve the appearance and functionality of our blogs.  Social networks were integrated with the blog and social sharing functionality added.

Each student created 10 posts (for a total of 20 posts per client) over the course of the semester using keywords extensively in their posts.  Posts were written to appeal to the target market for the client and designed to build the brand.

Other strategies, such as creating backlinks, were not used because we couldn’t do everything in a single semester.

  1. Use social networks

Social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ were integrated into the website in several ways.  Sometimes the Twitter feed was integrated on the website or visitors encouraged to join the brand’s social network.  Posts contained sharing buttons to ease their spread across social networks.

In addition, teams created a presence in various social networks that coordinated with the blog to create a seamless social presence.  Team members worked to build the brand community on these social networks and shared links and media of likely interest to the target market using these social networks.

  1. Integrate Email marketing and Adwords

Students added a form to the website for creating and building an email list for future newsletters or other offers.  While actually creating the newsletters was not possible, students learned the importance of managing a list. I use email marketing frequently with my clients to optimize their results.

Google generously donated $100 for each client to get started with Adwords.  Each student created several ads, then spent the money to promote the client.

  1. Listen and Monitor

Finally, students set up a listening post to monitor mentions about the brand.  We also used various analytics, such as Google analytics and Facebook insights to monitor how well their efforts were working at creating larger networks and more engagement with visitors.

Overall, I think the project was challenging, but taught students a great deal about successful social media marketing.  We did encounter a number of problems, which I’d like to save for a future post.

We’ll conduct the class again in the fall.  If you’re interested in applying for a future class, please let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure you get the link to the application when it’s available this summer.

I also welcome comments about the class and suggestions for making it a better learning experience next time.