Can Social Media be Taught?

I spoke at a class of Master’s students at ND and here’s their questions and my answers.  The class focused on social media but there’s a lot of good nuggets on general marketing.  At least, they thought they were good nuggets.

1. I read somewhere that no one is really influenced by Twitter. Is Twitter really useful (especially for keeping students engaged?)

No, I believe that Twitter is not currently used very much but students.  Facebook is better but you have to look at what you are doing to encourage participation and attention.  Marketing in the past didn’t have the direct feedback system that today’s social media has.  You will quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.

2. What is the trick to get people to follow your blog (work or personal)?

The trick is good content.  And using other people in your blog posts.  For instance, writing about others that you admire or want their attention gets them to notice you.

3. How do you get wary non-social media people to understand that it’s useful and it’s not going away and they are really missing out? I need help! How can I get other staff people on board and motivated to help update our program’s FB page? It takes a lot of time! I already did training on the basics and set them up with their own FB profiles and sent emails asking them to do specific things with the page and they still aren’t helping – they won’t even post pictures or events or anything, even though all of their students are on FB and it would really help them and our programs and students.

Are you sure this is the best way for them to help you?  For instance, we know that profs in a certain social science were not going to blog.  So we asked them to write a paragraph every other month and we would post.  That is working out better.  Forcing people to do what they think is your job won’t get you anything.  But asking them for information and then you taking it and using it in various communications vehicles will.

Another student:

1. What does he see as the best way to communicate with 23-30 year old people?

The old ways of marketing are not going to cut it.  There isn’t any all encompassing communications platform like TV, newspaper or radio.  You need to research your audience and know more than just 23-30 year olds.  You need to know more about demos to be able to reach them – early adopters, Pandora listeners, twitter users, etc…

2. What is the next up and coming technology that we could get a jump on?

New technology is flying in all the time.  Social Media aggregation, mobile communications and Real Time Search are the next big things.  Aggregation of all these communication platforms are what is trying to happen but it’s hard to figure out what’s next for the tech guys.  I would not worry about the next thing and try to figure out your audience first.  That and the things that we know work effectively like email and search.

3. Are there key words that get attention or some that people tend to ignore in email subject lines?

If you go to Blue Sky factory and Campaign Monitor, they share these terms all the time.

Another student:

1. What is the best way to communicate important information to students?

Use as many platforms as you can to communicate your message.  Listserv, facebook, calendars, posters, and table tents are the most effective.  Sidewalk chalk is unusual on campus so I would use that as well.

2. Our students do not read their e-mail. Would it be helpful to Tweet them that they have an important email?

No. They get bombarded in their email with stuff that is not important to them.  Most are not on twitter.  You need to find a way to cut out the garbage and get to them.  Direct mail might be more effective.  Or emailing their parents.  That way you know they will get it because the parent will be worried that whatever is must have been important enough to email them about it.

3. How many hours a week is required to keep Facebook updated?

Some people say they can do it in 15 minutes a week.  I believe it takes at least a couple of hours a week until you have a system down.  Facebook is more about customer service than social marketing.  Check out First Year Studies. They are all about customer service there.

4. How do I convince my co-workers that Twitter or Facebook are convenient and important to stay in touch?

By putting stuff there that they can’t get anywhere else.  I would not recommend either of these places for business information.  Now a secret group might be good for business but is secret really secret on Facebook?

Same question with our students?

Use as many communicate vehicles as possible.

Another student:

1.  I keep hearing people say, you need to use social media and have a Facebook account. Are there specific purposes for each type of social media and if so can you give an overview of the appropriate business uses of each?

I wish I could but this really depends on your audience.  You need to communicate with these people personally and ask how they would like to be communicated with.  Just because Facebook is there doesn’t mean you have to use it.  If your audience isn’t using it, what are you doing there?

Another student:

1. Can you recommend a simple “do’s & don’ts” for websites-some kind of online reference?

Sure.  There are lots of them but I like Sree’s tips.   And of course, my blog.  🙂

2. How can I use LinkedIn to stay current on industry trends? Is this better for certain professions?

Linkedin is getting much better.  What kind of industry trends are you looking for?  If it is communications, then I would use Marketing Over Coffee.  Christopher Penn and John Walls are awesome.  I recommend their podcast as well.  I listen to it every time I do the lawn.

3. How can I get invited to the OPAC Brown Bag Lunch & Learns?

By getting on the linkedin site or our list serv.

Another student:

1. Social media and audience:

a. Are certain types of social media communicating strategies more appropriate/effective for one audience and not another?

Yes, but there are no hard fast rules.  Again, it’s about studying your audience.  If you know what they like and how they communicate, then you can effectively talk to them.

b. Though facebook and linkedin are a popular social networking site, many, particularly those concerned with privacy or older generation users, are not connected to those sites. What is your “social media” strategy for reaching that type of audience?

I don’t have a social media strategy for reaching older audiences.  I use social media more for customer service than marketing and email is still way more relevant for older audiences.

2. Managing information:

At a minimum, how frequently should organizations/groups ‘connect’ with audience (send message out), so audience remains interested and engaged and aware of organization’s services.

When you have something of interest to say.  If you don’t, then don’t spam.

3. Trends/tools in social media:

a. How were you reaching your various audiences 3 years ago?

Email marketing and search.  Still effective today.

b. Are you doing anything differently now than you were three years ago?

Combining more communication tools and integrating all of them together.

c. Are you aware of any changes that mean you need to do things differently in the next year or two?

Be aware of real time search and friend recommendations.  Those are getting better.  Also be aware of geo-location services like foursquare and gowalla.

Here’s an insight.  If you are a communicator or marketer and you do not use have a smartphone or ipad,  if you are not playing games or communicating through these various outlets, you will not have a job soon.  This is where the world is going.  Don’t be left behind.  BTW, I still love print and I recommend it when the audience I know I’m after will be effected by it.  Print is still a great way to cut through the clutter of email.  I open all the mail I get that is personally addressed to me.

d. If you only had minimal resources and time and had to rely on one or two simple tools/approaches, what would they be?

Website, one sheeter (print piece on good paper and pdf) and email marketing.

Another student:

1.  Are there any regulations/ policies in regards with establishing a ND Facebook or Twitter account? Does the University have some restrictions? had the guidelines on it.  But we had to move it.  It’ll be back up in a month when launches.

Another student:


The Notre Dame athletics facebook fan page has almost 10,000 fans. Other schools like Ohio State have almost 1 million. Notre Dame has such a strong national fan base, so what are we missing out on that will grow our page?

Yes, because we haven’t really sat down as a university and figured it out.  There are tricks for getting a lot facebook fans and we haven’t decided if we want to use them yet.

Another student:

1. For someone who is not familiar with the process — What are the steps for planning, creating, implementing and maintaining a social media marketing campaign for an organization?

Experience and failing a lot.  Don’t be sucked in by social media experts or gurus.  They should be able to tell you how many times they’ve blown it and what they’ve learned.  I don’t trust anyone who hasn’t actually done social media for a business.  It’s much much harder doing it than giving a presentation like I’m doing here.

Is there a difference between social media marketing for a non-profit and a for-profit?

Yes, for-profits need measurement tied directly to revenue.  For non-profits, it’s even more important because you  aren’t really selling anything.

2. Content is king for online communication…but for social media what is considered effective content, how often should it be updated, and by whom? Is there some kind of content plan or calendar that needs to be created and maintained?

All the time.  Yes, it’s the only way to keep track and keep yourself on schedule.  You track everything else, right?  Why not track social media?

3. I have not been proactive in using social media for myself professionally. (I only have a LinkedIn account.) Is it important to have a presence in social media for one’s career? If so, what are the best ways of creating an online footprint for professional use that is effective?

You need a strategy for yourself and stick to it.  You need to be able to measure your own digital footprint or digidentity (borrowing a term from Archrival Clint!).  This is how you will get a career in the future.  This digital bio is very important.

4. What resources do you recommend (online, books, people and groups) to keep up with the fast-changing online marketing communications technologies and methodologies?

Read the professional marketing bloggers.  Friend them on Twitter.  I don’t have time to jot them all down but I’ll do so at a later date.


  1. Great post, I want to steal the idea right away for my next post on “questions overhead at starbucks about social media” … please?

    Seriously though one terrific way to learn more, if you are serious about learning for your career, is to set up an RSS reader that pulls you articles and posts daily from the great social media writers like Chris Brogan and Luis Grey. I have learned a ton, and been able to stay abreast of late breaking news in social media best by watching them and engaging with them.

    1. Don Schindler Avatar
      Don Schindler

      @Steve, thanks for the comments. I will put my list together soon of great people to follow and listen to online. You’ll be in the list!

  2. major take-aways here

    1. good content wins every time
    But, good content is everywhere, good content with a bit more of you wins. People will do business with people they like. Luckily, I may be the exception to that rule.

    2. real time search
    Your friends are saying who they are using. Your customers are saying what they want! Your job is to supply them the answer to their needs and wants.

    3. email marketing lives
    a website – good. one sheeter- good. EMAIL LIVES. Opened Email Really is the Key.

    4. go find them
    Your customers and clients are out there, in what ever form they be in: student, professor or the guy down the street. Find what medium they use or where they are going and get there first.


    1. Don Schindler Avatar
      Don Schindler

      @Dave. Thanks for commenting. As always you are full of insight and are an actual social media marketer will experience instead of a presenting guru. Good luck to you, sir.

  3. There are a few things here that caught my eye…

    1. Twitter is not influential… While that is PARTIALLY true for students I don’t think it is a permanent statement. Facebook and the privacy issues has caused enough controversy over the last few years that it is not the be all end all social network for students anymore. Twitter SHOULD be a place for students… a number of companies are out there advertising jobs, providing awesome advice and really providing topics of interest to both students and former students.

    University athletics are also becoming a large influence on Twitter as well as Facebook. I don’t think Twitter will be left out there as not influential for students… I think it is VERY quickly becoming popular.

    2. Convincing people to use social media… While working for a technology company you would think that everyone involved loves social media and thats really not the case. Over time our staff has slowly jumped onto the idea of using social media and one fo the key things about it is they have to see what they’re getting out of it before actually using it.

    Instead of telling your co-workers, student friends and employees WHY they HAVE to use it, SHOW THEM the benefits of using it… it will make a world of a difference in convincing them to use it.

    3. You should have a social media strategy for people of all ages. Just because they don’t dominate the market, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be considered… Email might be a good way to reach some but you never know who you’re leaving out by not targeting them on twitter/facebook.

    Overall good thoughts… just some things I didn’t quite agree with 🙂

    1. Don Schindler Avatar
      Don Schindler

      @Kristen – I completely agree with you but I was talking about specific audiences here at ND to a class of master’s students who are communicators here on campus. So some of the blog is without the context of the class.

      Thanks for the great comments and taking the time to post.

      My audience (who I direct these blog posts too) are the ND family of communicators.

  4. That makes sense! Like I said above, GREAT thoughts!

  5. The one issue about twitter is there is never any good content there. Everybody talks about content and this website is completely devoid of it.

  6. in my point of view none of social media can be taught. Also i’m agree with Kristin…Twitter is not influential.

  7. Hi Don, I believe that Twitter will soon die. It will just be like other sites that eventually lost their purpose to some bigger startups (like Digg and MySpace) the whole network as no real content apart from very short snippets of 160 characters. So building a brand or career over it will soon be a waste. The only reason that thing became this popular are celebrities like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher.


    1. Don Schindler Avatar
      Don Schindler

      I believe you are right. Twitter or at least Twitter’s style of communicating will be incorporated into how Facebook and Google Plus will work. I believe that social will just blend into the fabric of marketing. But my friends who do make a living on twitter, I’m very impressed you were able to do it.

  8. Great thoughts! I could see many important ideas about social network sites but probably true that twitter will die soon but off-course we don’t know their future plans.

    With regards to the student who used these social sites like Twitter, Faceboook and many other social sites. I think it depends on what purposes they would used. If they used it for sharing important information for their friend it could make great difference but if they do it in the wrong site will it could not really help them.

  9. I think it can be absolutely taught, but I think most companies are trying to use it as a marketing tool which is wrong. It’s okay to show what you are up to as a company and to get your ethos out there, but no one wants to be sold to on these platforms and I think the addition of advertising on these networks kind of devalues the purpose of it a bit. Its called social media for a reason an first and foremost it should be a way of people communicating with each other. I think it’s okay for and organisation to talk to is customers but not to ram sales messages and promotions down their throat!

  10. I agree that you cannot simply teach social entrepreneurship. You can improve people’s business skills, but you cannot create a social entrepreneur, or any kind of entrepreneur, as it is something that comes from within. It’s got to be in their DNA. I think it’s possible to cause entrepreneurship to grow, by creating an environment where it is encouraged and therefore the people that have the raw talent will flourish. But I don’t believe you can train people to become entrepreneurs, it’s something that comes from within and the circumstances that are around you. I look forward to social enterprises growing, being better understood and continuing to support sectors like the UK’s charities when they need it most.

  11. Over time our staff has slowly jumped onto the idea of using social media and one fo the key things about it is they have to see what they’re getting out of it before actually using it.

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