Schooled in Social Media: 12 Undergrads Share Lessons Learned

The semester is near over.Social Media

Grading is almost done.

My students have learned well.

In a previous blog post I wrote about the lessons our Moms can teach us about using social media; now I write about what we can learn from my millennial undergraduate marketing students.

The Project.

In my Spring 2014 Social Media Marketing course at the University of Northern Colorado, 26 students were introduced to social media marketing and its application for personal, product, and company branding.

With a semester-long project, they defined their career focus, personal brand identity, target markets for social sharing and potential employment, as well as content marketing, connection, and engagement strategies.  They learned how-to develop and grow a personal learning network to support their social sharing and self-learning.

Then they crafted their personal branding strategies, including a career focused tagline/headline and a biography amplifying their personal brand story.

Next they used WordPress (with Google Authorship), Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, HootSuite (with Certification), Feedly, Klout, Kred, About.Me, and other supporting tools for a real-time, real-world self-marketing of their personal brand on the social web.

“Tell me, I’ll forget.  Show me, I may remember.  But involve me, and I’ll understand.” ~ Confucius

The Lessons.

Last week as my students were wrapping up their social activities and beginning their final project reports, I asked them if any of their prior personal Facebook and social media experiences or skills were transferrable for using social media for personal branding.  They all answered: no.

As the last question in their end of the semester project report, my students were asked what five lessons were learned from their use of social media marketing for personal branding.  Here are some of their responses for all of us to learn from:

1. It takes time.

“The biggest lesson I learned was that it takes a significant amount of time to grow your social media networks in a sustainable way. You may be real active one week in social media marketing, but if you can’t maintain that level of activity you can very easily lose that growth. It’s best to maintain a consistent level of activity so that your growth is easily measured and your efforts aren’t wasted.”  (via Calvin Webster, @Calvin_Webster)

2. Build a personal learning network (PLN).

“Having a PLN is extremely important. Even if you do not share what you are reading and learning, it is important to stay relevant and informed on career related topics. A PLN is a valuable place to find great, reliable sources of information. There are new links and posts added everyday. Furthermore, you can grow a PLN. As your needs and plans change, your PLN can adapt with you to help you grow.”  (via Caitlin Cumpson, @CaitlinCumpson)

3. Learning comes from observing others.  

Learning about social media came from reading and class, however I also learned a lot from watching others. I saw what successful people were doing and tried to apply those things to my profile and activities. Social media is constantly changing and by learning from others actions I had an easier time keeping up.” (via Koko Hansen, @koko_hansen)

4. The value of Twitter.

“Before this class I only viewed Twitter as a way to interact with friends and as a tool to try to make others laugh. I had no idea of the possibilities for learning and branding yourself that Twitter had to offer. Now I know how to use Twitter as a tool to further my education in sales and also how to connect and interact with some of the leading sales experts in the industry.” (via Alex Drew, @alexdrew92)

5. Follow the right people.

“I realized that following the right people can make a difference. Finding potential influencers requires time and effort. However, when I found them I was able to share interesting content and I started to have more followers.” (via Federica Bologna, @FedericBologna)

6. Practice, practice, practice.

“Social media is the hottest medium in marketing right now, and it is in its infancy. There is so much to learn and the only way to do that is hands on. Social media changes every day and there is always a new and better way to utilize the platform you were using yesterday. Research and time are the only ways to become a true expert.”  (via Rosemary Neel, @RosemaryNeel1)

7. Be interested.

“The big lesson I learned this semester is that you have to be interested in what you are posting on your social media platforms or you won’t get much out of it. If you are not passionate about what you are sharing, you won’t be believable to your audience.”  (via Courtney Van Oost, @CourtneyVanOost)

8. Be different.

“The web is making the world smaller, and making it harder to get noticed. In order to stand out on the web you need to be different. You can’t just rely on posting quality content, you need to add a little personality to make sure that your hard work gets noticed.”  (via Cameron Grimes, @CameronJGrimes)

9. Tell a story.

“Like I have said before, I was worried my blog was going to be outrageously boring and average. Which really frustrated me, because as a copywriter, it shouldn’t be. However, once I learned what I truly do, tell stories for brands, I was able to make my blog my own. And I think it’s entertaining, realistic, insightful, and informative. Talking about my own personal experiences helps me to humble myself in ways that I might not if I had just written bulleted advice.”  (via Rebecca Bunker, @b_bunk)

10. Always add social share annotation.

I learned quickly that almost everything I shared without any sort of social annotation or comment got no attention whatsoever. People don’t care that you can copy and paste exactly what someone else did and press send. People want your take on things; a unique perspective, something they haven’t heard already. This is especially true in the events industry, and I took that to heart.”  (via Kelley Robinson, @kelleymrobinson)

11. Don’t be a link dropper.

“Always add social annotation. I found that writing about why you decided to share a certain article led to more engagement and interaction. If you just drop a link, it shows that you may not care about your career focus and are just finding random stuff to share. Adding social annotation may have been time consuming, but in the long run it was effective.”  (via Marissa Cooper, @coopermarissa12)

12. Keep learning. 

I think that this was the part of social media that I found the most mind boggling, fascinating, and fun. There is an insane amount of content out on the Internet to learn from. It can be overwhelming, but all you have to do is start somewhere, just dive right in, and know that it’s okay that you don’t read it all (or know it all). The amount of things that people have written is truly astounding, and it’s all there to help you learn and get better. So use Feedly, Alltop, or whatever site you want to collect whatever interests you the most, and then read, read, read some more, and learn. And of course, ultimately share the best stuff.”  (via Stefanie Kiteley, @stefaniekiteley)

The Take-Away.

Social media is constantly evolving.  There is so much to learn and so little time to learn it.

While the social media experts, gurus, and seasoned professionals can provide guidance and thought leadership, a fresh perspective from the novices and first learners provide insight once forgotten (or never learned).

What is your most important early lesson learned for using social media for personal, product, or company branding?


Image credit: by Denny McCorkle

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Denny McCorkle @DennyMcCorkle

Professor of Marketing, Monfort College of Business at University of Northern Colorado
As a nationally recognized and award winning Marketing Professor in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado, I help students, professors, and professionals to gain a Digital Self Marketing Advantage through the use of social media marketing for personal branding, job search, skills development, career advancement, and life-long learning.