Jan 11

Welcome #ccc410mkt…Time to Fly!

I love the college cycle. Every semester we start anew. A new door.  A fresh perspective.  New opportunities.

I have written before how lucky I am to be able to teach a wide range of students at the college level — I teach them at all levels — first-year, sophomore, junior and senior.  This semester I am once again teaching seniors. I know all of these students and it has been a privilege to get to know them over the past four years.  For these students it is an exciting and scary time.  They are on the brink of graduation which brings with it a whole new range of responsibilities including entering into their chosen field. It’s a time of new opportunities and a time to face reality. The reality that very soon the structured ways of the educational system will be gone and they will be truly responsible for their own learning.  It will be up to them to stay current and not sit around and wait for someone to tell them what is due, how to do it and what will get them an “A”.  Grades become meaningless and everything will come down to proving that they can do the job, do it better than anyone else and add value to an organization — over and over again. The reward is a job. The reward is good pay. The reward is the beginning of a very successful career.

And that is where this class comes in.  In just 15 weeks it is my job to make sure that each and every one of the students in this class is ready to fly.  Every day brings us closer to me kicking them out of the nest and watching them fly on their own.  No more safety nets. This is about making sure that by April 30th these seniors are ready to take the world by storm and to be successful.

My goal is to make them ready for YOU. The employer. The graduate school. And this is how I’ve structured a college class to make it happen:

  1. A client project. On day one (that’s Monday, January 10th at 2:00 p.m.) the students will come into the class and be faced with FOUR clients.  These clients are organizations who have marketing challenges.  Complex, real challenges that they need help with.  The client pitch will provide the students with just enough information to complete the first assignment which is due the next day — write a paper to me that rank orders all the clients in order of which ones they would prefer to work with. In that paper they will have to outline not only what they can bring to that client project but also what they will learn from working with that client. Teams will be formed by Wednesday and the students will spend the rest of the semester helping those clients solve their problem.  They do not know who the clients are at this time and won’t find out until class on Monday.  It will be up to each team to work with the client, to interview them, to come to agreement on what they can accomplish and how they will get it done, to understand the target market, the organization, the external factors to consider, the financial issues and the resources. They will take everything they have learned over the past four years and bring it to this project. It will test their marketing knowledge, their communication skills and their ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines.
  2. A personal branding project — aka Social Media Ninja. Last year I launched the “social media ninja” project. I felt it went well and have decided to run it again. Students must read CRUSHIT! by Gary Vaynerchuk the first week of class, then identify their passion and write a social media project plan that will show how they will, using their passion, brand themselves online.  They will be required to utilize a host of social tools to accomplish this goal and they will be required to have clear goals and measure their success using various quantitative and qualitative data.  Last year this project brought forth the “Hire This Grad” site. I wonder what it will bring forth this semester.
  3. Read and Analyze a current marketing book (or 2). Students in the class will be required to read a marketing book and to write an in-depth analysis paper that will connect the book to their client project and their personal branding project. The book choice is up to them — the only requirements are that it can’t be one they’ve read before and it has to be something that will help them learn more about marketing.  In the past students have read Brian Solis, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and others.

This is all well and good, but what will happen in the classroom is perhaps the most important.

Every Monday the students will determine what we will be doing. Outside of the first class where it’s about the client projects and several classes during the semester when they will be presenting their progress, the content of the course — the stuff I’m supposed to “lecture” on is completely and utterly up to them.  There is NO textbook in this class. There is no structure. They have the first week in which to provide me with information on what they feel they need to learn or do more of in order to get ready. The paradigm is shifted and no longer will I be responsible for telling them what to know (although, to be honest, I will be in some context).  The students will be taking their experiences from the past four years, their internships, their part-time jobs, their reading and their personal career goals and looking for and identifying the gaps in their understanding and knowledge.

Everything I am asking from them is designed to help them get ready and to truly become life-long learners.

  • Client project: build communication skills, prove they can work well in a team, create deliverables that they can use in their portfolios, network, engage, connect.
  • Personal Branding project: show they know how to use social digital tools to manage the most important brand — themselves.  If they can do it well for themselves they can do it well for a business and will be able to prove they know the most current tools.
  • Choosing their own marketing book and analyzing/applying it to their client: It’s how we all stay on top of current trends in marketing — read, read, read and apply, apply, apply.  They do this in this context they will then know how to do this for their job.
  • Driving the lessons in the class: They will learn how to critically analyze their own skill gaps and be able to identify how they will address those gaps.  It’s something we all have to do every day.

The other day I asked this question on Quora: What are the THREE main skills a graduating marketing major must be able to demonstrate in order to get a job? So far I have gotten four great answers that I will be sharing with my students. I would invite you to answer this question as well.

Also if you want to see what the students are doing throughout the semester, they’ll be tweeting using the class hashtag #ccc410mkt. I’ve created a Paper.li for the class which will come out weekly so you’ll get an idea of the content they are sharing.  I’ll also do periodic posts on their client work and their personal branding project and of course, will announce the “Ninjas” at the end of the April.

Wish us luck as we launch and learn!

Dec 10

Facebook Memes: Unmet Potential — Why “Raising Awareness” is not Enough

I am participating in a Facebook Meme.

What’s a “meme” you might ask?  According to Wikipedia (and yes, I LOVE THAT SITE):

“A meme (play /ˈmm/, rhyming with “cream”[1]) is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme)

So what meme am I participating in at the moment?  Well the photo should be a clue (although she is NOT from the 80s and 90s as the meme is about CHILDHOOD).  The following articles are also great hints (hey I wouldn’t be a college prof, if I didn’t send you to other sources to READ stuff!):

I think that is enough to give you the gist, which is basically people are changing their facebook profile pic to “Raise Awareness”  against child abuse.  The idea being if we remember good things from our childhood (such as ISIS, my 70s childhood favorite Saturday morning show) we will remember what it is like to be a child.

As you can tell from the articles above, there is much “scoffage” (yeah I just made that up) about this meme and others.  That somehow they are silly, don’t actually do anything and are an insipid waste of time.

And yet one has to wonder if it was such a waste, why is it when there is a Facebook meme that news outlets including the Washington Post, ABC News and others, in their blogs and in their stories always cover it?  Did not the people who have made the changes to their profile just make their point?  Haven’t they indeed “raised awareness”?

How about all the people worldwide who are searching for “childhood cartoons”?

Frankly if the goal is to “Raise Awareness” then I would say any Facebook meme regardless of where it starts is going to be successful.  When people start talking about something they are, by default raising awareness.  The real question I believe we should be asking, however is, how does something like this help end child abuse?

As I tell my students in our Non-profit and Social Marketing class where I have in the past declared a BAN on the words “RAISING AWARENESS”…


This may seem like a difficult thing to swallow, but let’s look at the truth of this for a moment.

I am aware of the many problems in the world — from starving children, to homeless people, to abused pets, to wars, famine, global warming, over fishing, bad food, obesity, energy consumption…and the list goes on and on and on and on and I am now overwhelmed, curled up in a ball, unable to comprehend how I can do ANYTHING about ANY of it.

Social Marketing is all about moving individuals to take ACTION.  Notice I did not write SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING which is very different. Social Marketing is a part of the marketing field that is dedicated to getting people to change behaviors. For more on this check out the consulting site for Nedra Kline Weinreich.

When you have an IMPOSSIBLE problem it is the social marketer who can break that problem down into simple, doable steps — things that the average person can do to feel like they CAN make a difference.  Worried about trash? Then YOU can recycle your cans, bottles and paper. Concerned about animals? Then YOU can volunteer at an animal shelter for a day a month. Overwhelmed by the ravages of war? Send a care package to our troops.

The Facebook profile meme works because it is SIMPLE, EASY TO DO and makes me feel like I’m contributing to something.  But, truly as others have shown IT IS NOT ENOUGH.

This is why when I posted my ISIS picture on my Facebook profile I included this on my wall:

Change your profile picture, then consider making a donation!

It’s a link to one of the most influential Children’s organizations I know of, The Children’s Defense Fund whose mission is:

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

CDF provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble or suffer family breakdown.

CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations. We have never taken government funds.

Imagine if the meme went just one step further. POST your favorite childhood cartoon and as you think about what it was like to be a child post a link to YOUR favorite charity that is helping children every day and encourage your friends to donate or volunteer to help make a difference.

See, now I’m not only feeling good because I’m all nostalgic and stuff, I’ve given my friends and others access to an organization they might not know about whose mission it is EVERY DAY to help children.  Now that is a meme worth sharing.

News organizations, instead of just reporting on the meme and scoffing at it, how about you provide a service and list out the international organizations that are helping children every day and link to them, so you too, can move this meme from “meaningless” to “making a difference”?

Oct 10

Getting out of the Weeds: #ccalumchat

I’m in the weeds.

The tall 6 week weeds that come with back to school. They are spiky and sharp and they obscure your view.

Kitty in the WeedsHowever, tonight a group of former students brought me out of the weeds and reminded me what it is all about.

@nicholemagoon (former Ninja), @MBenti, @ryanfitz124, @caseyhopkins and @cailaburke all former students of mine in various Marketing and Communication classes joined together in a tweetchat. Hosted by Nichole the chat was specifically for Champlain College Alum and current students to respond to questions and provide support and guidance to one another.  Little did they know what they would do for me.

Nichole and Ryan are still here in Vermont, working for MyWebGrocer and 156Bistro, respectively. Marissa is out in California, Casey is in Colorado and Caila is in Oregon. They all have jobs or paying internships where they are providing Social Media, Marketing, Design and guidance and they all graduated between this past May and two years ago.  Majors represented are Marketing, Hotel Restaurant Management, Public Relations and e-Business Management.

Twitter has enabled me to be able to stay connected with students in ways I never dreamed it would and I can be the first one to tell you that I never would have seen this moment — even last spring semester when I was pushing students to develop their personal brand.

As a new semester begins and I am privileged to meet and get to know a whole new crop of students (and drag them kicking and screaming to use Twitter), these five former students reminded me why I do what I do. It is all worth it and they are great examples of individuals who have taken their college experience and turned it into something much more: the beginnings of a career. And, they are already giving back to current students by offering their expertise, advice and guidance.

Now that is a sure fire cure for being stuck in the weeds.

Many thanks to Nichole, Marissa, Ryan, Caila and Casey — you are all going to do great things and I am so thankful to have been a very very small part of your journey. Thanks for giving back so soon.  Here’s to another great and even better attended #ccalumchat in November!

For a recap of the chat that happened on October 5th, 2010, check out HirethisGrad

Apr 10

A Rubric for Determining a Social Media Ninja: An Update on a Class Experience

It’s the end of the semester and it is now time to determine who in the Marketing Management has achieved true Social Media Ninja Status. It’s been 14 weeks since the students began their journey by reading CrushIt! by Gary Vaynerchuk and then making their own personal branding plans.  What have they learned along the way?

  1. Building a personal brand is hard work. It takes time and dedication.  This is not unlike working with a brand that is for a product or service. Social media may not cost the same amount of money that an advertising campaign does, but there is an investment.
  2. Keeping it relevant takes intentionality. How do you stay relevant and add value? Every day. Day after day. Week after week. If you have an idea of what you want to blog about, how do you know who to link to, what words do you select and how do you leverage your keywords to help grow the visibility of that brand (namely you!)?

  3. Keeping the passion going isn’t that easy. Like a marriage, it takes work. Every day. Several of my students realized that what they initially thought they could be passionate about didn’t sustain them, so they had to switch it up.
  4. The tools, they keep a’changin! In social media and the digital world, there is one constant and that is change.  Just this semester alone we have seen Facebook institute “communities” and “like” vs. “fan”, the release of the iPad and an upcoming new OS for Apple, the growth of FourSquare and Twitter changes. Ning is now charging. Widgets abound. There are new options every day.  How do you keep up and keep your presence fresh and engaging?

The question for this professor, is how do I judge which of the students have been most successful?  Who, in this class of 20+ deserves true “Social Media Ninja Status” and more importantly, how do I arrive at that determination?  With a rubric of course!

So without further ado, here is Dr. Young’s Social Media Ninja Rubric. Perhaps this will be helpful to businesses and others who are hiring content and community managers!

The five areas to be evaluated:
  1. URL/Username
  2. Bio
  3. Connections
  4. Content
  5. Personality

Social Media Ninja Rubric







There is very little user name consistency
between all social sites.
There is some url/user name consistency between all social sites. User names are consistent between all sites. Personal domain name, all user names are consistent between all social sites.


Bio(s) are not well developed, few keywords and no picture Bio(s) provide basic information. Few keywords, may or may not have a picture. Bio(s) have strong keywords but are not consistent throughout all sites. Picture may or may not be relevant. Well written, keyword rich bio that is consistent throughout all sites. Picture is relevant to personal brand.

Social Media Connections

Social media sites are not clearly linked or visible.

Social media sites are linked, but not clearly visible. No use of widgets or visuals.

Social media sites are linked and clearly visible. Widgets may or may not be used.

All social media sites are clearly linked, widgets or images are used to visualize links.


Content is sparse, very little original work, posts are few and far between. Some relevant content, few external links, little focus on keyword intentionality.
Posts are more consistent.
Relevant content, with external links. Good use of keywords. Posts are moderately consistent. Content is relevant to the brand, engaging and recent. Keywords and external linking are strong.


Sites and posts lack personality. Lackluster overall. Sites and posts show sparks of personality but are not consistent. Sites are branded and posts show consistent personality. Sites are well branded and connected. Personality shines through — the readers “get” what you are about.


Key:20 = A (Social Media Ninja Status),
15 = B (Specialist),
10 = C (Apprentice)
5 = D/F (Grasshopper)

Tomorrow I announce in class who the TRUE SOCIAL MEDIA NINJAs for the class of 2010 are based on the rubric above.  What do you think? Is this helpful?  Have I captured the main points?

Posted via email from Elaine’s Posterous