Why I Rode a Bicycle into My Classroom and Other Lessons on Teaching Social Media Marketing Percepti

"Perception: The way you think about or understand someone or something...the way you notice or understand something by using one of your senses."

Social media marketing is about creating an online and offline connection to influence an audience's perception of your business, your organization, or your brand. The Internet gives us more and more features to create a world for our brand that our information can live in - and it's a very powerful world in regards to building perceptions in people's minds about who we are and what we're all about. These perceptions can stay with people even longer than social media marketing content is online and current.

Yesterday, I learned that my students thought I had broken my foot. Why? I'm not sure. There were no pictures of a broken foot, no Twitter posts, no Instagram updates, no direct emails to them. However, I was hobbling around because I was in a lot of pain after stomping up and down flights of stairs in an auditorium classroom wearing 3 in heels for 3 hours in a back-to-back class where I step at least 4,000+ steps (take that FitBit!). When I heard from my GTA that students were saying "Professor Fant broke her foot! Number One - is she okay? Number Two - do we still have class?" I decided that of course we still had class and yes I would ride a bicycle right into the room.

Why a bicycle? Only because one of my graduate students had a bicycle with him. So why not? As I fell into the classroom (on the hurting foot, I might add), the students were in shock and awe. I had created a memorable moment, but also planned to teach a valuable lesson - they have more power to create perception than they realize.

Video is a powerful Internet tool and the subject of our Digital and Social Media Marketing Strategy class at the MSM program. We live in a time where viral video and pictures make a presence in everyone's day. How much viral content have you seen this week alone? Brands can take advantage of this by harnessing creative power and content. However, brands can also hurt by poorly created social media or half hearted responses to social media directed to them by nay sayers and critics. Just take a look at your Facebook Pulse, your Twitter feed, and CNN headlines - major companies win or loose based on perceptions in people's minds and much of this is fueled by social media.

I like to teach social media as a living, breathing organism. It's people created and people consumed. If you can pull all of digital marketing off your computer or mobile phone screen in your mind you can see a 360 degree world - a website is a world, a social media page is a world, an app is a world - otherwise we would look up when walking instead of looking down at a phone engrossed in our own digital "worlds."

When word of mouth marketing - just an "old school" form of digital and social media marketing - prevails we find that a Professor's foot can be broken in 50 students minds. To all of them my foot was broken, smashed into a little pieces. It was part of their world, because they created it.

The way my students thought about me was going to be on crutches. Hobbling. Foot broken in a cast. That was a perception they created and a perception they fueled themselves by making it go viral amongst their classmates. Was it the truth, no. But stock prices, start up valuations, and brands aren't always built on the truth - they're built on how investors, customers, and audience members perceive them and what they say about them - both in a verbal and (now) in a digital manner.

My students have a lot of power to create perceptions. They can make strong ones, great ones, or cool ones. As we start our client projects and they handle living and breathing social media, I look forward to seeing which students ride the bicycle straight into their client's customers minds.

#highereducation #marketing #perception

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