I read an interesting article recently on effective and appropriate pedagogies in classroom’s today. The premise of the article is that effective teachers carefully plan and implement appropriate pedagogical approaches that are dependent on the particular subject matter being taught and they adapt to on-the-ground conditions in the classroom (Learning Portal). Here at The Social Media Magnet, we believe this couldn’t be more true of trying to teach the practical applications of social media and digital marketing. In our conversations with professors over the last few months, we are hearing repeatedly that textbooks just can’t keep up with the changing social environment. Textbook examples are out-of-date before the book goes into print, and students are bored with the options that are available. For this reason, as we have previously explained here in a previous blog, we felt that we had to have an online text that could be easily updated and could adapt with the pedagogical changes needed to teach in this domain. This blog amalgamates our beliefs as it relates to the pedagogical challenges and needs for teaching social media and digital marketing in today’s college classrooms.
Social media has changed the marketing environment in ways that traditional marketers could have never imagined just a decade ago. It has rapidly provided a mechanism to communicate on a one-to-one level, allowing marketers to tailor specific messages and content towards a fine-tuned segment of customers, whether they are business-to consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), or even business-to-government (B2G). Multiple philosophies on best practices in this digital landscape have provided various methodologies for targeting these customers. During this time of change, these practices have led to the refinement of digital services, including behavioral advertising, search engine optimization, pay per click, content marketing, social media marketing, and organic inbound marketing, among specialized others. In fact, digital agencies today are for the most part very niche, providing only a couple of services to a couple of distinct target segments. Hence, when we considered the writing of this digital textbook, the coverage of topics and the timeliness of content seemed extremely daunting. The challenge that lay before us was: How do we teach these tactics in a way that stays both timely and applicable?
The answer to this question is tactically impossible, but strategically manageable. In other words, the focus of our Social Media Magnet course is NOT to teach all the tactical operations of digital marketing, but teach sustainable strategies. Teaching only tactics would be impossible due to the rapidly changing nature of the digital marketing toolset. While this is especially true at the inception of each major platform, the same challenges still exist if you try to teach this course tactically today. Instruction becomes channel specific, and as those channels change, you must change your content. Google and Facebook change their algorithms almost daily. Additionally, new platforms like Snapchat spring up quickly due to innovative platform design. If we tried to teach these tactics in a textbook format, then as we have stated already, the content would be out of date before the text ever went to print. Consequently, this is why we have chosen to develop The Social Media Magnet in a digital platform. It allows us to change descriptions of tactics and strategies at a much faster rate and with more precision. And as we have discovered in our own research, the rapid change within this domain’s classroom setting is also what keeps most academics from wanting to teach a digital marketing course. Professors are not suited to keep up with the changes in the practitioner’s use of social media.
However, the pedagogy and the platform management of this course is different. As much as we can, we try to be platform agnostic. We stress the strategic principles of marketing, and more directly, “pull” marketing. Our intent is to use the foundational knowledge of marketing from the last 75 years to build the principles that will teach you how to approach digital marketing strategically, assisting you to teach your students a new theoretical model relevant to how and why digital markets work as they do. With this theory as the conceptual orientation, we will then teach students the strategies of sound digital marketing, moving consumers from brand awareness to acquisition to retention. Yes, there will be some required tactical discussion in the classroom; however, the bulk of our text is built around a live practicum that we believe is essential to the learning process of this course. This practicum will allow your students to dive into the tactical application of the strategic principles you are teaching your students. It is at this level that they will achieve the hands-on experience of the current tactics, which will and can change from semester-to-semester without your requirement to discuss each change. The practicum will allow them to build the tactical toolkits in a real-time environment, while simultaneously and perhaps more importantly, allow them to build their critical thinking skills around the strategic principles that have and will continue to govern the process of marketing.
Finally, since students are most often on a restrictive personal budget and because current statistics indicate the increasing usefulness of pull marketing campaigns, we will teach our digital strategies from an inbound, organic perspective. Towards the end of the text, we discuss the usefulness of paid media such as Google AdWords and Facebook ad campaigns, but we will teach these as a supplement to the inbound strategies now being deployed by more than 80% of small and medium-sized businesses around the world (HubSpot, State of Inbound Report 2017). The economic return and ability to analytically track the invested return on these organic campaigns, as well as the demonetized value of these learning opportunities for you, makes this the optimal pedagogy to teach inbound principles as a knowledge foundation. In fact, we argue that not only is this true for you as students, but also any company or business campaign.
This choice of orientation is in no way critical of digital agencies or their ability to assist companies in their paid digital marketing efforts, but our contention is that if companies had the human capital and resources to deploy these strategic principles internally, then digital agencies assistance with paid digital marketing efforts would be unwarranted. However, as is the case with many small and growing firms, an emphasis has been put more on the immediacy of assistance through agency help, rather than building a digital department from within the company. And while agencies will continue to assist many companies in the future, our hope is that by training more and more of your students in the organic principles of inbound marketing, your students will become equipped to immediately step in and help companies increase their own brand awareness and ROI by focusing on both inbound messages and goal tracking behaviors. Likewise, these skills will also create a stronger relationship with the paid digital spend, or with a future agency, when the company is ready to expand their budgets.
With this endeavor, our desire is to train a market of students capable of directing and managing the overall brand, from story development to social media deployment to analytical audit. We appreciate that you are joining us in the journey through both the textbook and our live practicum assignments. The assignments will assist your students in setting up their own LIVE online campaign, specific to whatever he or she wants to digitally market. It could be a lifestyle blog on their dog, a not-for-profit or an entrepreneurial venture, or whatever he or she finds appealing and is within the purview of the university’s code of conduct and ethics. Most importantly, we believe the practicum topic really should be the student’s individual choice and something that he or she LOVES! A semester long project on the same subject really should be targeted at his or her passion, and something he or she wants to market for an extended period of time; otherwise, the project (and grade) will suffer due to burn out. Eight weeks may not seem like a long time, but if the student is not passionate about the topic, previous classes have demonstrated that the semester will seem like an eternity.
Our pedagogy with the live practicum will allow your student to apply the strategic principles taught in this course while learning the tactical management of digital marketing simultaneously, reinforcing the true learning of this digital medium. We have run this methodology in my classes for many years now and it has consistently rated as one of the top classes in our entire business school. Qualitative and quantitative feedback from previous students have reinforced us to press into this pedagogy to bring it in a delivery system that is easy and intuitive. We greatly look forward to sharing it with you.
If you are a college professor curious about The Social Media Magnet, check our professor overview with highlights of our features and benefits. If you would be interested in considering The Social Media Magnet for your university, we have a professor preview function that would allow you to see and work with some of the content. Within the professor preview, we have a complete list of instructor’s resources available when you adopt the course. If you are interested in our theory, then read our abstract and request our white paper. Or if you just have some general questions, feel free to contact us. We would love to assist you however possible.
Learning Portal: Effective and Appropriate Pedagogy. https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/teachers-and-pedagogy/effective-and-appropriate-pedagogy. Last accessed on 2/10/19.