Find everything you need to teach a university course in social media
from blogs and books to certifications and software.
Why use blogs in your course?
Social media blogs are a great way to stay ahead of the game and teach your students about all the trends, tools, and topics from their favorite social channels. Unlike textbooks, blogs are timely and abundant, providing a broad array of resources with multiple opinions. As a professor, consider subscribing to some blogs yourself. That way, you’ll be able to guide your students through the changes that are happening in social media.
Blogs are typically lightweight content that could be used as a reading to supplement your lecture. Additionally, many blogs have resource sections with content you can share with for your students, such as content templates, calendars, and guides that can be turned into class exercises.
To give you an idea of where to look, here’s the breakdown of the best blogs to keep you and your students up to date on the world of social media:
The HubSpot Blog is a newstand for anything inbound marketing. You can a variety of content such as blog articles, infographics, and reports. By accessing the HubSpot resource database, you can find all the slide decks, ebooks, and templates that you need.
Social Media Examiner is a great resource for tactical advice on how to improve your social strategy. Their site is filled with relevant how-to articles on all the new tools and trends on social.
Social media SEO is a topic left to the experts over at Search Engine Journal. With everything from Facebook to Pinterest, they’ve got you covered when learning how to fight through a noisy platform to get found.
Maybe the hidden jem of the lot, but entrepreneur, author, and marketer Seth Godin is second to none at providing inspiration to be the best marketer you can be on his blog. His short, witty blog posts are an easy daily read.
Why use books in your course?
Social media disrupted the way the world did business and is consequently changing the way that professors teach marketing, public relations, and advertising in the classroom. With constant developments in the space, books written by professionals about their own social media strategies or theories can be really helpful in teaching students to use social platforms. Whether you're learning how to “go live” on Facebook, create an effective hashtag for Twitter, or develop a compelling story on Instagram, the people at the top of your feed are the best ones to learn from. And your students can typically see that.
While these books may not directly teach business strategy for meeting your social goals, they can show students how to build out a persona that people want to follow. They also bring unique perspectives to the different key skills that are important to creating great social content, such as copywriting, videos, or promotion. Influencers also show students how to bring life to a brand by using their personality to connect with followers.
Social media books are increasingly finding their way into the classroom, making the traditional textbook a little less relevant. To save you the time of reviewing the thousands of social media books out there for your course, we’ve outlined the books that we see professors referring the most.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck is a book that will grab your students’ attention. The book focuses on the approach that a growth marketer has to have when going into social media. It’s easy to read and full of practical advice to help students get started building their personal brand.
Contagious: How Things Catch On by Jonah Berger explores word of mouth and social transmission for brands. This book brings an interesting psychological perspective to social messaging by exposing what actually gets shared between consumers. In a world where we are bombarded by messages, this book looks at what really drives people to recognize your brand.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is the go-to guide for many copywriters, and a great resource for any person starting out in social media. If your course involves creating real social media content, then this is the right book to put in your students’ hands.
Inbound PR by Iliyana Stareva is the manual for PR agencies to transform with inbound. From the public relations side of social media, this book focuses on real- time engagement and provides the business strategy behind your PR efforts.
Why use textbooks in your course?
Textbooks can be really helpful when building out your course. They introduce students to theory and give you practical examples to use in the classroom. For social media you’ll have different exercises and lessons for public relations, advertising, communications, and marketing courses. Finding the textbook with the right focus for your course is really important, while also making sure to find something that will stay updated over time. Although it can be a lot of work to pivot the textbooks that you use to keep your course relevant, a good textbook can help you structure and fill out the core requirements of your class.
The list we have here are all textbooks created by professors, with a few that are current HubSpot Education Partners.
Social Media for Strategic Communication by Karen Freberg teaches students the skills and principles they need to run persuasive communication campaigns. This textbook uses research with practical exercises to get students prepared for their first jobs and internships. As a professor from the University of Louisville, Karen introduces activities and concepts she has used in her own courses. Better yet, this textbook is valuable across disciplines of social media as it focuses on the holistic view of social from a communication standpoint. While most books are focused solely on marketing, this textbook can be used for courses in communications, PR, or advertising as well.
Social Media Marketing: Principles and Strategies by Stephen and Bart is a textbook that has been noted as one that stays actively updated, and students receive lifetime access to the book after purchase. With a focus on the social media marketing side, this book teaches how to engage with potential customers on social, analyze your efforts, and use social to drive your business goals. For a professor teaching their course year over year, this textbook will give you the piece of mind of updated content.
Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach, 2nd Edition by Barker & Barker focuses on developing your social strategy from determining your goals, target audience, and channels to diving into the type of content created. With lessons on micro-blogging, video marketing, and content marketing, you get a well-outlined textbook that covers all the primary topics you may need for your course.
Why add new projects and exercises to your class?
For students to truly understand the effort put in behind the scenes of a social media team, you can give them exercises in class to give them a piece of that responsibility. By using some of the same resources that social media managers use every day, your students can start honing the skills they’ll need for their first jobs or internships.
It can also be really helpful to take a peek at how someone else is approaching social media in the classroom and adopt the lesson plans, classroom projects, and resources that would fit into your curriculum. With this free syllabus template, you can see how to structure your course around some of these new resources.
Conducting a social media audit is a great way to help students learn the strengths and weaknesses of certain business social media strategies. You can have students look at friends they admire to see some of the things they'd like to use in their social strategies, or you can have them audit a local business that has very little social presence and let them put their creativity to work with their suggestions. Learn more and get free templates from Professor Keith Quesenberry here.
A social media crisis simulation is a great exercise to run with your PR students to teach them about the real-time effect of social media on a situation. This type of project may take a little more effort to set up, but it can give you the opportunity to teach software tools along with your lessons. For professors, there are many social monitoring and publishing tools to use in class for free.
Having your students create buyer personas within your course will teach them about target customers and help them think about the behaviors of that customer type. The typical lesson plan will explore which channels these personas exist on, and help you determine how to interact with them there. Here is a sample buyer persona lesson plan to get you started.
Social Media certifications are a great way to give students a look into how the industry thinks about using social media, and teach them about the tools that go along with those ideals. When looking for jobs and internships, these certifications will jump off the resume for employers giving your students a huge advantage. Whether you assign these as part of your course, or recommend for future learning, you will be doing your students a huge favor by introducing them to a few good certifications.
Certifications are usually structured as learning modules with video or text followed by quizzes at the end of each chapter and a final exam to receive your certificate. Most modern certifications are structured with video, appealing to our modern day learn-as-you-go mentality. The two big things to look out for if you are spending time on a certification is the content quality and the date that it was last updated. For use in the classroom, you should look for a source that updates their content every 1-2 years and leans on industry developments for the most current updates.
The HubSpot Social Media certification course goes through the strategic development of your social strategy along with all the tools necessary to extend the reach of your social content, engage influencers, and break down your analytics to improve future campaigns. HubSpot Academy created this certification in collaboration with 16 industry professionals including one of our own education partners, Karen Freberg.
One key component of teaching students about social media is helping them to understand the content creation process. In this Content Marketing Certification, students will learn the steps to developing out a long term content strategy and how to repurpose that content throughout their social media channels. This is a great resource to show students how social can fit into a company's overall content marketing strategy.