Howard Greenstein asked me to join his panel at BlogWorld and New Media Expo on May 24. The topic of the panel discussion is teaching social media. The panelists include Howard, Alex de Carvalho, Mo Krochmal, and myself.

I’m an assistant professor at NYU and I teach a course on social media called Electronic Communities. The course is made up of mostly MBA students at NYU-Stern. I teach two other courses that have a unit or two on social media: Collaboration Technologies (NYU-SCPS) and Search and the New Economy (NYU-Stern, co-taught with Norman White).

The panel will discuss how social media educators address the challenges inherent in teaching a subject where the tools and rules are always changing.  Earlier this year, I began considering the future of those that work in social media; there’s a significant role for those experts to begin educating in this area. I shared this in tweet to a tweet by Erica Swallow @ Mashable. Erica authored an article about the Future of the Social Media Strategist. Experts in social media should be central to curriculum in social media courses. This is one way to ensure the as tools and strategies change so does the syllabus.
Now, I have another opportunity to take this idea of social media education and reflect on my own teaching practice. This posting outlines some of the perceptions that student about social media in a business context.  I’m optimistic that I’ll continue these posts. This will help me test out a few ideas for the panel discussion, for a course, and/or maybe a book. Who knows.

LESSON ONE

Before your course begins, remember that your students have experienced social media. They have opinions and perceptions of its value in business. You might have to undo some of them.  Here are a few of the most common claims by students. Hopefully, this information is useful for those of you new to teaching social media.

#1. Social Media is a fad.
Students are skeptical about using Facebook for business purposes.  Certain technologies used in marketing, such as Facebook and Twitter are perceived by students as a fad. It’s difficult for students to see the value in having a social media strategy for a business. Many think it is about posting content and coupons.
#2. Social Media is for friends.
Students use social networks to connect with friends or find jobs.  Almost all my students are on Facebook and LinkedIn. They think of the technologies as serving different purposes. Facebook is their social networking site to connect with their friends. LinkedIn is their professional profile for finding jobs. The business use case isn’t clear to them. Many can’t comprehend how or why people would “like” a brand.
#3.  I never share anything I don’t want the world to see on Facebook.

There’s a big difference between words and actions. Many students claim they are well aware of the privacy settings on Facebook, etc. Some have taken steps to change their settings.
However, when asked, many haven’t reviewed the privacy policy.  Moreover, I’ve witnessed students claiming they never share anything personal on Facebook, especially location . In reality, they have. The in-the-moment Facebook posts and check-ins whereby students reveal their location and their status happens a lot more frequently than one realizes upon reflection in a class discussion.
#4. There’s no point to Twitter.  
Despite how tech-savvy you think your students are many do not know how Twitter works. Many can use it, but it is thought of as a posting tool, not as a source for news or “listening”.
My next post will provide some strategies for how you can address these challenges in student perceptions of social media. Please comment and share some of the initial perceptions your students have in you social media classes.
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