Strategic Communication’s Social Media Class Prepares Students for Managing Online Reputations Effectively

This semester, strategic communication students in associate professor Guy Golan’s special topics course on social media are exploring emerging digital media and their influence on public relations and advertising practices and research, and gaining the analytical skills necessary to create, evaluate and execute social media campaigns. Along the way, students are learning how to build their personal brands and develop a strong social media skill set to take to internship interviews and future jobs.

Students are required to post at least three times a week on either Instagram or Twitter using the #TCUSM hashtag. The variety of content they’re posting is vast. Students have shared what they learned in class that day or provided a thoughtful response to the lesson. They’ve tweeted lists of the five brands they cannot live without or posted analyses of their favorite influencers’ Instagram profiles. They’ve shared their favorite recipes or uploaded videos of their current workout routines.

“I’ve enjoyed learning how to create content that is both informative and entertaining to my audience,” says Ryan Wayne, a senior strategic communication major. “Prior to this class, I thought social media content could only be one or the other.”

A screenshot of the Twitter exchange between TCU student Micaela Viacava and Gary Vaynerchuk.Students also have enjoyed getting attention from social media influencers. On the first day of class, Golan asked his students to tweet at Internet celebrity Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur who has founded several digital companies and has amassed a Twitter following of more than 2 million people. Junior strategic communication major Micaela Viacava aced the assignment. She not only got the attention of Vaynerchuk after she tweeted at him, she got him to respond one minute later.

Viacava says receiving a response from Vaynerchuk, and one that fast, was something she didn’t anticipate. “I sent my tweet without expecting much because roughly 30 other people in my class were tweeting the same thing. As a first-time Twitter user, I knew these interactions were common, but nothing like this had ever happened to me. This is just one of the few examples of how huge social media is and the power it has in connecting people,” she says.

Classmate Chase Berry, a senior strategic communication major, expressed similar thoughts about the power of social media. “One of the most surprising things I’ve learned and experienced is the number of brands and influencers who have reached back out to me and my class. It’s crazy how much brands and influencers are willing to communicate with you via social media, and how much they are willing to help you prosper,” says Berry.

Another time in class, Golan challenged his students to create content promoting the Schieffer College that would resonate with prospective and current students. Students could work individually or in teams and had to return to class in less than an hour with their created content. Some students like Wayne filmed video tours of the Moudy South building, others showed off the lobby where Mr. Schieffer’s professional accomplishments and awards are housed, while others like Berry shared a looping video of himself walking to class.

A Schieffer College-themed Instagram post shared by TCU student Lucy Long.“The best part of the class is seeing the students apply the class material to their own branded social media accounts,” Golan says. “When it comes to telling thestory of TCU, no one can do it better than our students who bring the most authentic voice to the content.”

Berry says he has enjoyed the opportunity to practice posting content on social media and building his brand portfolio. “This class not only has helped us learn how to properly create and maintain a personal brand, which is helpful for anyone with a media presence, but it has taught me the importance of having a presence. What I mean by that is, throughout this class and my experience on social media, I have been recognized by multiple accounts, networked heavily and learned so much just by being active in these spaces,” says Berry.

Golan says he wants students to learn the importance of social media engagement. “Everyone assumes that Gen-Z students are experts in all things social media; however, it is common to see that many students only use one or two platforms regularly and are often not aware of how brands engage their customers via social media,” Golan says.

Wayne says the most surprising thing she has learned in class is that using social media effectively requires both active and passive elements. “While posting quality content is incredibly important, monitoring and listening to online conversations and being informed of social issues is crucial on all platforms,” says Wayne.

Golan invited several special guests to speak to his class this semester, including TCU social media manager Amy Peterson, lifestyle influencer Patrick Lyons and executive vice president at the Zeno Group, Michael Brito. Students say the guest speakers’ presentations have provided them with helpful advice.

An Instagram post shared by TCU student Zoe Jones of Patrick Lyons speaking to her Social Media class.
“Hearing about their experiences firsthand and understanding what it takes to make it in this industry is very intriguing to us students and we learn things a textbook can’t teach,” says Viacava.

Students in Golan’s class say they now feel ready for their post-graduate careers which may involve managing social media for a company or brand.

“Looking forward to my post-college career, I believe this class is doing an excellent job of preparing me for a job in the communication field, seeing that social media is an integral part of communication in today’s world,” Wayne says.

“I think this class is preparing me to understand what brands and organizations are looking for in candidates once I graduate college. Having a good social media presence either on Instagram or LinkedIn is essential when looking for jobs and Dr. Golan helps us create such connections,” says Viacava.