This past week I completed a Mini-MBA program at Rutgers University’s Center for Management Development, earning a certificate in Social Media Marketing. Despite having been a fairly good student as an undergraduate, I never fancied myself an academic so I had some initial reservations when I made the decision to return to the classroom. That being said, I found the entire experience to be incredibly informative, valuable and rewarding.
When I first enrolled in the program, I was hoping to fill in the gaps in my social media knowledge and build on the foundation that I had created by actively engaging on Twitter and experimenting with the likes of Foursquare, Quora, etc. In addition, while I felt confident in my social media savviness, it was difficult finding a tangible way to highlight that skill set on my resume.
What I did not anticipate was the enthusiasm and patience which the instructors displayed both while teaching and interacting with us individually during breaks. Each of them was incredibly friendly, helpful and forthcoming with advice, sharing wisdom gained from their extensive experience. They have even continued those interactions after the conclusion of the program on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I was pleasantly surprised by the degree to which I learned from those students in the program more advanced than me. In addition, I found that I solidified my existing knowledge and comfort level by helping those for whom the entire experience was new and unfamiliar.
I debated recapping the week-long program by touching on some of the key insights and takeaways from each of the 10 sessions (you can view a schedule for the week here), but that would have resulted in an outrageously long blog post. In the interest of brevity, I have chosen instead to share some of the advice, ideas, and information that I found to be most applicable and immediately actionable. So, without further ado, here goes:
- Mark W. Schaefer (@markwschaefer), whose blog I was reading religiously even prior to the class, taught a session focusing on Twitter and blogging.
- In discussing the relationship between the two, he made the analogy of Twitter serving as the movie trailer to the blog which is the movie itself. I am making a more concerted effort to maintain synergy between the two mediums and also promote the blog appropriately in my tweets.
- Schaefer convinced me to relocate my blog from Blogger to WordPress based on its advanced editing capabilities and superior analytics. You can click on the two links in the previous sentence to compare them. I think you’ll agree the WordPress version looks more professional.
- He suggested an acronym (RITE: Relevant, Interesting, Timely, Entertaining) to use as a helpful reminder when composing a new blog post. These are all things I strive for each time I write, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to review the acronym prior to beginning a new post.
- Mark also generously provided us each with a copy of his book, The Tao of Twitter, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in gaining a greater understanding of Twitter.
- Christina “CK” Kerley (@CKsays) covered Mobile and B2B in two separate sessions. Her blog is chock full of informative posts, videos, and SlideShare presentations and she was no less prolific with her information sharing in person.
- CK stressed the importance of mobile optimization, saying that it was of the utmost importance that your website can be viewed properly on a mobile device. She shared research stating that the average person is only willing to wait 2 seconds for a webpage to load, down from 4 seconds only 36 months ago. With most people no longer making a distinction between browsing on a laptop or PC and a mobile device, it is absolutely crucial that a site loads quickly and displays well across all platforms. The first thing I did when my new blog went live, prior to promoting it, was to view the page on my phone to ensure that the mobile version was working.
- She also spent a significant amount of time discussing the value and various uses for QR codes. The small matrix barcodes are becoming increasingly common in advertisements and can be scanned by an application on a smartphone and redirect the user in a variety of ways. A few of the more common utilizations of a QR code are to send the user to a specific URL, initiate the download of an MP3, set up a call or e-mail, download a PDF, or receive multimedia via SMS (text message). In Japan they have found a very practical, but interesting use for QR codes, placing them on tombstones, allowing those who scan it to read a memorial, see notes posted by previous visitors, and add one of their own.
- While chatting with CK during a break about ways to leverage my video resume, she suggested placing a QR code on my resume that redirects people to the video. To see this in action, you can either scan the barcode to the right of this page, or do so from my resume using any number of free QR code readers available for download. If you’d like to try this and don’t currently have a QR code reader, one very common reader is BeeTagg, which can be download by visiting http://get.beetagg.com on your phone (those of you with a Droid might want to download QuickMark from the Android Market).
- Greg Jarboe (@gregjarboe), a fellow Bostonian and author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day, outlined some easily executed, but often overlooked steps to achieving search engine optimization (SEO) with your videos. Following his session, I immediately revised the title, description, and tags on my video resume.
- Rob Peterson (@robpetersen) tackled the elusive ROI of social media. He showed the very compelling case study of Wisconsin restaurant AJ Bombers (@AJBombers) whose proprietor, Joe Sorge (@JoeSorge), says the success of his establishment was due mainly to its engagement on Twitter. Rob brought Joe into the classroom via Skype where he graciously answered questions and shared his story. For a January 2010 video of Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) interviewing Joe about his restaurant’s use of Twitter, you can click here.
- Chris Brogan & Joe Sorge have since partnered to launch Kitchen Table Companies, “an online education community, dedicated to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs to grow their capabilities.” Joe offered a discount to anyone in the class wishing to become KTT members. I joined earlier this week and have begun availing myself of the community’s resources.
- Augustine Fou (@acfou) closed the program with a thought-provoking and overarching session entitled, “Integrating Social Media & Digital.” He provided an incredibly useful tidbit regarding how to view your website as Google sees it for their search algorithms (it only views text, not images). To do so, Google cache:yourdomain.com (for example, cache:celtics.com) and then click “Text-only version” in the upper right corner and you’ll be able to see your website as Google search does. This exercise can be especially beneficial if you have images on your site with text that serve as important search keywords.
Each of the instructors used different examples that illustrated how social media is (surprise!) inherently social. A number of them spoke about developing close personal and professional relationships around the globe, many of which resulted in significant new business, solely on the basis of social media interactions. They preached patience and cautioned that developing an understanding of the various mediums and growing a following on them does not happen overnight (unless your name is Charlie Sheen). However, investing the time and effort to do so can be extremely rewarding as social media (at its best) is a pay-it-forward society where people gladly promote others and hype their achievements when deserving.
As I alluded to earlier, I could fill 10 blog posts with interesting statistics, quotes, insights, resources or tools shared by the instructors of this program, but I’ll stop here. I would, however, like to offer a sincere thank you to Glen Gilmore (@GlenGilmore), Heidi Cohen (@HeidiCohen), Sidneyeve Matrix (@sidneyeve), and Liana “Li” Evans (@storyspinner) each of whom could have merited a blog post all to themselves and are definitely worth following on Twitter.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the program or discussing anything I mentioned above, please feel free to connect with me.
Lastly, Rutgers is giving some consideration to partnering with companies who are interested in having students in the program work on their social media strategy or assist in devising a specific campaign. I think this could prove to be an extremely valuable aspect of the program for both the students and the organizations with whom the school partners. For an interesting read about a similar effort with undergraduate students at Emerson College in Boston, you can click here.