Thursday, January 17, 2008

"48 Hours of Twitter" class assignment

My WOM communication class just wrapped up a replication of my colleague Kaye Sweetser's Twitter experiment, so here's a report on it for other faculty who might want to try it.

I created a Twitter account, WOMclass, keeping my updates locked so that only students could follow it. I then used Twitter's invitation system to invite all the students to register on Twitter and request to follow WOMclass updates. Once they all linked to WOMclass, they could click on each others' avatars (as opposed to the 100+ other people I follow as KarenRussell) and therefore easily connect with each other.

I made the assignment as unintimidating as possible -- students could post about anything, they had to post only 5 times in the 48 hours (but not all in a row), and they didn't have to follow anyone outside the class. They don't even have to use it ever again. The assignment was also worth only 5% of their final grade, so basically it was intended simply to encourage them to experiment with it.

Most of the students far exceeded the requirements and made a genuine effort to understand how the Twitter community operates. They uploaded their pictures, posted more frequently than required, and gamely jumped in to try the @reply method and to learn Twitter etiquette.

In class this afternoon (the experiment ended at 9 a.m.) we discussed Chris Anderson's description of "filters" that drive traffic down the Long Tail, including recommendations and reviews. I then pointed out how much of their conversation had served that purpose -- music, a movie, a local restaurant, a book, two television shows, and a certain new laptop all came up, not to mention red velvet cupcakes. We also talked about parasocial relationships, and compared our experiment with this study of microblogging and talked about the significance of one of its findings, that personal and community common interests comingle.

Finally, we reviewed how they might use Twitter for personal branding and networking purposes and listed ways that microblogging can be used in advertising/public relations/marketing communication. Our discussion, which was guided by several blog posts (sorry, didn't think to save the links) and 3 helpful Twitterers, included:

I enjoyed following the students for a couple days and thought the experiment was a great way to get students involved in a form of social media that most hadn't tried -- great idea, Kaye! I also loved how their conversations actually mirrored what academics and professionals alike suggest can and does happen on Twitter. I'm interested to see how many will continue tweeting.

Update: links I should've included-- thanks to Judy Gombita for an assist.

The Big Juicy Twitter Guide, Caroline Middlebrook

How Individuals Use Twitter, Peter Kim

If You Don't Twitter Now, You'll Hate Yourself Later, Deborah Ager

17 Ways You Can Use Twitter, Maki

7 Ways Marketers Can Use Twitter, Ann Handley

Guide to Twitter for PR Students, me

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I'm hooked!
Karen, thank you for sharing your experiences with this assignment. I'm inspired to replicate this in my class.
Awesome! Thank you for paving the way! Plan to do this with my International Marketing class.
All credit to Kaye Sweetser. But I'm glad to help spread the word!
It was a great tool since we automatically had 30 other students to follow and talk to. We knew we weren't talking to air.
I'm so glad that it worked out so well! I remember one not-to-be-named student said, "Who the heck would even do this?" when I showed them Twitter right before the assignment. Within 24 hours she had become the class's #1 Twitter-er!
No one ever gets it until they try it (and some people still don't)!
I'll send you a free copy of my learn twitter ebook if you want to review!

just let me know!
I'd be happy to take you up on that offer. Just let me know how to access the e-book.
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