The significance of Social Media in Project Management
Social media has transformed our lives in many ways at the individual, business, and societal levels. Managing or administering social media tools has become a new skill set that employers are seeking in potential candidates. Young’s (2009) assertion that “colleges today are supposed to give graduates the ‘immediate skills’ they need to launch their professional careers, and they now need more digital communication skills and need to understand why they are needed” (p. 9) is supported by Greenwald (2010).
It is not exaggerating to say that almost all our students are using social media in one way or another for various reasons, mostly to stay connected with their friends and/or family. This article describes the project design as well as the working process and reflects on this practice by reviewing students’ feedback, examining the final products, and assessing the learning outcomes. In concluding, the article provides suggestions for improvement.
A number of business communication educators advocate that we should teach students how to master digital communication skills to meet professional expectations (Bovée & Thill, 2010; D’Angelo, 2010; Greenwald, 2010; Young, 2009). In particular, they point out that as businesses are increasingly using social media, these media should be included in the business communication course. One big change in the latest edition of Business Communication Today (Bovée & Thill, 2010) is the addition of Business Communication 2.0 sections.
Project Overview and Project Management
Introducing the Project
Students were excited when they first learned that their final class project would be related to social media. Besides, they would be working with a real client. A few students looked puzzled, as if they were questioning the relevance of this project to a business communication class. Later, they admitted that despite being active users of social media themselves, they might not know how these tools are used in the workplace. I assigned or suggested different books, articles, websites, movies, or TV shows—for example, Get Connected: The Social Networking Toolkit for Business, the Oscar-winning movie The Social Network, CNBC’s The Facebook Obsession, Barack Obama’s Social Media Lessons for Business. I also posted a few articles (D’Angelo, 2010; Greenwald, 2010; Jones & DeGrow, 2011) on the class Blackboard site as external reading materials on social media use and business and business communication pedagogy and a few pages from Business Communication Today on social media use.
To convince students that this would be a viable project if taken seriously, I gave real-life examples of how social media tools have been used by governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and universities. We discussed how President Obama 70 Business Communication Quarterly 75(1) used social media during his campaign and won the election and how his office is using social media to reach out to the public. Then we visited the university home page as well as the home page of 10 famous universities to look for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube icons. Later, a guest speaker, who is in charge of university e-marketing in the public relations office, visited our class so that students could learn how and why the university is using social media.
Jones and DeGrow (2011) point out how big businesses are beginning to use social media as a channel to advertise. It is more interesting for students to know how small businesses are using social media to reduce cost in a troubling economic era.
A social media expert, invited by the local county Chamber of Commerce to lead a workshop on how to market business via social media, also visited our class to discuss the ins and outs of effectively using social media.
Preparing the Internal Proposal
The final project had several interrelated aspects: an internal proposal to me; two progress reports; the final deliverable, a business proposal; an oral presentation; and a reflection memo. The goal of the internal proposal was threefold: Students should identify a local business or organization to work with, explain to me why they wanted to work with this particular business or organization, and detail how they would work on this project.
After students chose their group members, they exchanged contact information and schedules. Each group was required to come up with a group name and design its own group logo. While everyone in the class had a Facebook account, this was not true of other media. Most had heard of Twitter or LinkedIn, but few had accounts. So we used a few minutes to register on each and created user profiles. To facilitate their understanding of Twitter, I explained what special languages Twitter users often use and what they mean when they appear in a tweet. In particular, I showed them when and how to use #hashtags, @mentions, RT@retweets, and embedded links.
Later, we spent time in class searching online for a real client in the area, preferably a local business or a nonprofit organization that has a website but is not currently using any social media tools. Once students identified an organization or business, they had to contact the organization/business to verify that it is not using social media tools. To successfully complete the internal proposal, they had to demonstrate that they had identified a communication problem in the business or organization and devised a strategy to solve it. As communication consultants, they had to learn as much as they could about this organization. They were also asked to provide client information and a plan of how to assist in enhancing marketing, public relations, and communications.