Having a background in marketing and a firm understanding of the power of Twitter before becoming an instructor, Mr. Barrick realized that restricting access to social media in class would be counterproductive to his students’ learning. As he puts it on his own blog describing his social media policy, “I wanted [my students] to feel comfortable with the fact that if they hear something that resonates with them, they should share it. Post it to your wall, Tweet it, whatever.” In addition to the many benefits of using Twitter in the classroom, Barrick cites the following motivations for encouraging active Twitter participation in his class:
It reinforces learning: If students are motivated enough to share something they’ve seen on Twitter, chances are, they’re more likely to remember it.
It’s permanently archived: Once a tweet goes out into the world, it’s there for everyone to see (and cannot easily be removed).
It’s searchable: Whether students need to find content for their assignments, or share content they find with other students, information is easily searchable on Twitter.
It builds a personal brand: Not only does the graphical representation of one’s Twitter profile help to define one’s personal brand, the content you tweet about, comment on, and share also helps to inform other people about the kind of person you may be.
Introducing Students to Twitter Chats
Having established a fairly inclusive set of ground rules for using Twitter in the classroom, Mr. Barrick then prepared his class to do some hands-on Twitter immersion training. The idea was for the students to get familiar with how conversations get started, and evolve, on Twitter, and how to find and interact with mentors and influencers on the platform.
To achieve this goal, Barrick turned to a Twitter chat group he regularly participates in, called #BizForum. He consulted with the moderator of the group, @SamFiorella, and got his permission to hold the chat on a special day and time. Fiorella extended an open invitation to Barrick’s students to join the chat, along with marketing industry leaders from the #Bizforum group.
And the results? “I ran a report on the chat after the fact, and my students were absolutely shocked by the results,” says Barrick. “That one Twitter chat generated almost a million and a half total impressions, reaching a potential audience of over 145,000 accounts.”
Using Twitter to chat in real-time with marketing professionals, with a potential audience in the hundreds of thousands, gave his students a whole new perspective on the value of Twitter. “When the students saw these numbers, they finally got it that Twitter is a whole lot more than just tweeting about your breakfast,” says Barrick.
Creating Twitter Simulations
Since his students were learning about how to market and manage snow resort operations, Barrick came up with the idea of having his students create Twitter accounts representing a variety of fictitious resorts. The accounts were designated as private so the tweets from each account would only be seen by the students (and the instructor) who were granted permission to follow these simulated resort accounts.
Barrick then used another private, fictitious account to pose as a customer (or prospective customer) of each resort. He would alternate tweets praising the resorts, with others that simulated disgruntled customers becoming increasingly exasperated over a series of issues common to this particular hospitality sector.
“I’d get pretty creative in the types of tweets I was sending to these defacto marketing managers,” says Barrick, “and to their credit, the students got pretty creative with their responses.” Barrick says that the class would later deconstruct the conversations in the classroom, taking a detailed look at what the students did right, and what they could improve upon. Barrick says that though the customer may always be right, “there are always creative ways that you can move a conversation forward, and make the most out of a tweet, whether it seems positive or negative on the surface.”
Using a variety of theoretical and practical Twitter training techniques, Barrick was able to prepare his marketing students for how Twitter behaves in the “real world” of resort management. Judging from the feedback he regularly receives from students (and faculty) every semester, Barrick considers his approach to Twitter in the classroom to be a glowing success. In fact, Barrick offers a recent recommendation from one of his former students, now working in the snow resort industry, as the best endorsement of his methods: “Jonathan related our course to real-life examples. I now look at social media from a business standpoint and realize the true potential it has on our lives.”
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