Social media class offers hands-on engagement opportunities
1:27 p.m., Jan. 30, 2014--The University of Delaware's first ever Social Media Marketing Strategy Certificate featured many opportunities for hands-on learning last fall, including a social media consulting project with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware, and a live Google+ Hangout conversation with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on the uses of social media.
The certificate program was launched last year by UD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies and draws extensively on the University’s in-house expertise in social media strategy, with UD’s director of digital communications Meredith Chapman serving as the program director and primary instructor.
Building leadership skills
From the beginning, the certificate program was designed with a real-life project component, calling for participants to team up with an area nonprofit organization to help fine-tune their social media communication strategy. When Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Jeanne Kasey attended a UD panel discussion on social media strategy last summer, the invitation to partner with the new certificate program seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“We were looking to better utilize social media to help us meet our two primary goals of recruiting volunteer mentors and raising much-needed funds,” explained Mary Fox, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware. “The members of the class really understood this and their proposals were all directly tied to these objectives.”
Many of the proposals included social media initiatives that would highlight the organization’s 50th anniversary this year, said Kasey, public relations and fund development manager. Added Fox, “The proposals included very solid takeaways, some that could be easily implemented right away and others that could be effectively worked into a longer-range social media strategy plan. We received hours of professional consultation services that will really benefit our organization -- what a valuable experience!”
With its focus on how to develop a social media marketing campaign and improve an organization's social media presence, the program attracted a variety of marketing and communication professionals from the region. “For the students, the opportunity to work with a client was a highlight for the semester,” said Chapman.
“Working hands-on with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware was a really great experience,” commented Christine E. Serio, one of the first graduates of the UD certificate program and an external communications specialist for Blood Bank of Delmarva. “Not only did we get a chance to delve more deeply into such an important organization, but it was great to put into practice what we were learning. It’s one thing to learn theories, strategies and techniques and apply them to hypothetical situations, but it is much more beneficial to be working on an actual, real-life situation,” added Serio.
Another highlight of the semester was the opportunity to participate in a live online conversation with Markell via Google+ Hangout, to discuss the uses and influences of social media. “The governor’s office has been an early adopter of social media all along,” said Chapman. “Since social media is about influence, this was an opportunity to learn firsthand from one of the region’s important influencers.”
Fielding questions from class members on the 40-minute live video chat, Markell shared insights into how the governor's office uses social media to interact with constituents or communicate with the public during a crisis, calling social media "a great tool for democracy in action." An enthusiastic adopter of many social media platforms, the governor’s social media presence includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, and YouTube.
The Social Media Marketing Strategy Certificate features a team of instructors representing a wide range of expertise in social media marketing and strategy. UD’s Chapman began her career in television as a reporter and producer at WHYY-TV and has also served as a communication manager in the U.S. House of Representatives. Chapman has been nationally recognized for her social media accomplishments and was named a top Social Media Professional by PR News.
Additional instructors include UD’s Mathieu Plourde, educational technologist with IT Academic Technology Services; Lori Seaman, social media director for AAA Club Partners; and Holly Norton, digital editor for Main Line Today and Today Media Inc.
The program is currently seeking to partner with another nonprofit organization in the region that might be interested in working with the next group of certificate participants, willing to discuss their goals and business strategies with the group, and at a developing stage in their social media presence. For details, please contact Meredith Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Nora Riehl Zelluk
Photo by Evan Krape