Students engage community with social media

Apr 05, 2012

A course that was launched less than a year ago at SFU’s Beedie School of Business has provided students with unprecedented focus on analyzing and optimizing the value of social media for organizations and businesses. Through community-building projects, undergrad students applied the social media lessons of the course to new and established not-for-profits and social agencies on a wide range of issues, from life-saving transplants to disability in sport.

The course, Social Media & Business, was taught at SFU’s Surrey campus by assistant professor Jan Kietzmann and instructor Ashish Gurung.

Students used Facebook and the Twitter hashtag #BUS450 to engage with each other and their teachers, and to collaborate on assigned projects and readings. Throughout the semester, Kietzmann and Gurung invited industry thoughts leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses to share their insights and expertise in social media. In the classroom, students were joined by She & He consulting, Translink and Yelp. Via Skype, they also connected with University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist, and representatives from Badgeville and Crowdbooster. Outside the classroom, students visited Vancouver’s Invoke and Hootsuite to learn from two very successful global players in the Social Media space.

As a final project, students were tasked with developing a social media campaign for a community client or campus issue.

Among the highlights:

– The student project entitled “Don’t Be a Douchebag” used Twitter and Facebook to accrue over 100 registrations for the BC Transplant Society, with the aim of providing potentially life-saving transplants for British Columbians. The campaign’s social media messaging was endorsed and retweeted by the likes of musicians Jann Arden and Bif Naked, television personality Chris Gailus, and NHL hockey legends Doug Gilmour and Brendan Morrisson.

– Students with the #SIFEHungerArmy campaign raised over $500 for the Surrey Food Bank, and garnered over 1,000 blog page views to raise awareness of the food bank’s impact and needs in the community.

– A social media campaign addressing disability in winter sport, “Adaptive Sliding Canada”, was embraced by winter sports athletes and fans across Canada and is helping to build momentum for the inclusion of new sports in future Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

– A group of students going by the moniker “Jersey Score” – through fundraising tweet-ups and other social media activities – raised over $1500 for sporting gear and apparel for soccer-playing youth in Manamani, South Africa.

– The students from the project “Chic Campus” engaged via social media with fashion events and fundraisers across the Simon Fraser University campus to highlight the role of fashion in the university context.

– A group of students from the project called “SimonFSays” parlayed user-generated social media content into the capturing of student and community sentiment at Simon Fraser University in the digital sphere.

Social Media & Business, launched last fall, was offered for the second time this past spring, and has quickly emerged as a favourite offering among Simon Fraser University students, especially those who are increasingly compelled by the intersection of social media tactics with overarching business strategy and societal change.

“Our students worked very hard and, among the many difficult deliverables they had, they impressed me the most with their social media campaigns,” said Kietzmann. “They truly engaged communities – local, national and international, and to that end I am very proud of what they accomplished.”

The Beedie School continues to enjoy recognition for taking a leadership role in the promotion of social media for entrepreneurs, managers and organizations.

Last December, Kietzmann won a noteworthy research award from the journal Business Horizons (along with co-authors Kristopher Hermkens, Ian McCarthy, and Bruno Silvestre.) His paper “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media,” won the business journal’s Best Article Award for 2011, in great part for its industry impact and recognition.

And the innovation-focused tweets of SFU MBA professor Ian McCarthy have earned him a spot on OnlineMBA’s international list of “50 Business Professors You Should Follow on Twitter.”

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