FDOC*: social media learning curve

It didn’t matter that I’m the instructor, yesterday I had first-day jitters for my social media course. This was amplified a bit when, at 9:05, I looked around the computer lab and no one was there (we start at 9 a.m.).  Turned out the class was listed in two rooms and the students were doing the same thing as me: patiently waiting and wondering what was going on.

Once we got settled, we reviewed the course outline and I talked about social media in general and the things we’d be covering and from the questions and looks on some faces, I remembered again how new social media is to most people.

It’s so easy for those of us who have been involved in social media for several years or more to take it for granted and assume it’s as commonplace as a news release, when in fact it isn’t.

And whether we’re talking to students, clients, bosses, colleagues or friends, we shouldn’t make assumptions. We should define the terms clearly and simply, explain how the various tools work and what their benefits are and answer questions with patience and good humour.  Those of us conversant in social media need to step back and realize that, as with anything else, there’s a learning curve.

I know I had it – have it, really, because one of the things I like best about social media is how it’s still evolving and there’s so much for all of us to understand.

And really when you get right down to it, aren’t we all students of social media right now?

*FDOC: first day of class


Back to Mac – social media for PR course starts September 11

Most of us learn about social media from the school of hard clicks. We Stumbleupon sites…download apps…subscribe to blogs…read and bookmark cases…tweet out links…test our ideas…and gain a working knowledge along the way.

And now there are also academic courses if you’re looking to understand social media in a more formalized environment (plug alert).

This fall on September 11 (not the greatest date to begin anything) and continuing for 14 Saturdays, I’ll be at McMaster University teaching a course in social media for PR.  It’s the second time I’m offering it.

The class combines communications theory with practical instruction in social media tools in order to get a strategic grounding in them.  We learn by listening, sharing, tweeting, discussing, collaborating, analysing and doing.

First day starts with an overview of where we are in the social space including getting the whole class on Twitter (under the hashtag #macsocmed).  I’ll also be introducing the students to the blogs of some of the more influential PR and marketing thought leaders.

The core assignment for students is creating a blog about a subject they’re passionate about and then researching, writing and editing posts, adding links, visuals and video and building and engaging a community.  Last year reading and discussing the blogs, which ranged from local politics to corporate social responsibility to moving into and renovating your first house to finding a job, was one of my favourite parts of the course.

Once the students have found their blog voices, I’ll introduce them and share some of our collective learnings and observations.  I’ll also be asking you for your thoughts from time to time.

Here’s where you go for more information on the class and how to sign up.

It’s Saturday morning (9 am to noon) and worth the drive to Hamilton (I hope).

More energi… on Inside PR

It was a funny feeling – announcing our merger, creating a whole new energi, so to speak, and then having to rush off to Hamilton for two days; 15 hours of lectures/instruction at McMaster to a group of smart, local business people who wanted to learn about social media.

And while I enjoyed the sessions, I felt a bit dislocated being away from the action after the initial burst of merger excitement.  This week, neither Gini Dietrich nor I were able to record Inside PR. (Gini was injured on her bike but is OK; and you know about me.)

So I want to thank Joe Thornley, the other member of our triumvirate, for zooming solo and interviewing my new partners, Esther Buchsbaum and Carol Levine and giving them a chance to talk about our new venture and plans!

You can read Joe’s post or listen to Inside PR.

You’ll hear my take in podcast 2.07.

Getting started in social media – new McMaster business course

As most of you know, I taught a social media for PR course at McMaster University last fall. You can read about it here, here, here and here.

And now, I’m happy to report that I’m teaching an accelerated business course on SM – also at McMaster. The after work sessions run March 4, 5, 11, 12, 6-9 p.m. and March 6, 9 AM – noon.

This is a hands-on class geared to business people and entrepreneurs who are looking for practical advice on how to get started with various social media tools.

Participants will learn how to set up a blog, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, post videos, record a podcast. I’ll also be meeting with people one-on-one to discuss their communications and business goals and help them figure out which tools might work best for the audience they’re trying to engage.

Here’s where you go to sign up.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Before marking

In early September, I wrote about the FDOC (first day of class) for my McMaster social media course. And now – 14 weeks later – we had our final session. And before I start marking (it feels like an arduous task), I thought I’d share a few observations.

First off, I’ve had a great time meeting and getting to know the students; watching (and hopefully helping) them learn to make their way around social networks and seeing how their voices emerged. I’m happy to report that most of them want to continue their blogs. In case you’re interested, here’s a class list.

It’s been a truly rewarding and humbling experience. I met the father of one of my students at Tim’s before class. He’s a former teacher and remarked that teaching is like being on stage except you’re throwing away 20 per cent of the script. That’s a great description.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • It takes a lot of time to prepare – I spent between four and five hours each week getting the lecture ready, managing the Ning class site and keeping up with reading and trends.
  • Terry Flynn was right. I can see why he said you need to teach a course three times to fine tune all the details. Overall I was pleased, but there are some things, notably the course outline and assignments, that I would adapt.
  • If possible, the textbook for a social media course should be in a digital format – so it can be updated frequently with new tools and relevant case studies. There’s an opportunity for someone.
  • Because it takes time to build relationships, readership and trust, I wonder if this should be a full-year course.
  • I’m not used to being the marker as opposed to the markee. I guess I will be soon.

Well, now it’s time to stop procrastinating and start reading the blogs and Wiki assignments and doing some serious grading.

Congratulations to all the students. Thanks for making it easy for me to get up early every Saturday morning and drive to Hamilton. Thanks also for making me want do it again!

Introducing my social media class

Well, the social media for PR course I’m teaching at McMaster University is half over (hard to believe) and the students are busy working on their blogs. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome them to the online community.


Blog title


Devorah Abrams Farmer

Devorah’s Blog


Suad Abukamla

Suadabukamla’s Blog

Natalie Ardanaz

Natalie’s Blog


Lisa Atkinson

Lisa M. Atkinson blog


Christine Davis

My New Digs


Sonja Dowbiggin

Staying Alive in the 905


Donna Drake

Dawna’s Blog


Paul Jones

Collapse of the West


Giselle Kimos

HR and more…


Lesley Morris

It’s All About Relationships


Julia Oudeh

JuliaOudeh’s Blog


Jotsna Pervin

JBPV’s Blog


Helen Powers

Socially Responsible Thoughts


Madeline Robins

You, Me and Poverty


Margaret Shkimba

In the Sisterhood


Mark Skeffington

About Cities


Allyson Wenzowski

Allyson’s Publicity Works School Works Blog


Kaan Yucel

Kaan’s Dervish Lodge


If you have a chance and visit their sites, you’ll see an eclectic group; original voices writing about a wide variety subjects including living the unemployed life, corporate social responsibility, city politics, HR, women in society, being a new homeowner, a doctor’s view of the mind, and many more.

And, if you do drop by, please share your comments and thoughts. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

Special thanks to Joe Thornley for suggesting I do this.


*First day of class…

Many of you know that Saturday was my first day teaching a 14 session course on social media at McMaster University.

And while I’ve guest lectured many times, presented at conferences and meetings, done keynote addresses, I don’t mind saying I had opening night (day?) jitters.

Walking into the class I felt much like I did as a student. Except my desk was facing the other direction. It put my own education in a slightly different perspective.

With a course on social media, one of the challenges I think we’ll face is the ‘body of knowledge’ is very new and constantly evolving. On the positive side, I’m trying to reflect that in the course and cover/discuss emerging trends, issues/crises as they happen.

So even though there’s a course outline and framework (and for anyone from the university who happens to read this, yes, we will cover it!), the dynamic and evolving nature of social media is going to play a big part.

One thing I did was create a Ning community for the class; everything’s going to be on it including the outline, suggested reading, assignments, my notes, photos, videos, RSS feeds of the student blogs (each student is going to have one), discussions, events. The only thing that won’t be there are the marks. I hope it becomes a virtual classroom that goes on beyond our formal hours with lots of conversation and shared ideas and information.

And even though I’m the instructor, I feel I’m going to come away from the experience having learned a lot, too.