It was far from your typical end-of-term essay assignment.
Students in Kane Faucher’s Brief History of Social Networking class were charged with creating a fictitious viral campaign – something along the lines of ‘LOL Cats’ – using social networking tools to engage a specific audience.
“I wanted to provide students an opportunity for unbridled creativity in terms of innovating the experience and making it, partially, a vocational assignment,” Faucher explained. He said the project was meant to teach students how to work effectively as a group, and how to effectively communicate in a digital environment.
“This was an experiment. Students in MIT (Media, Information & Technoculture) especially are given a lot of theory, a lot of opportunity to write essays and do substantial research. But they rarely have the opportunity to apply that research. So this balance between theory and praxis was part of the essence of this campaign project,” he continued.
Faucher divided the class into two groups, or ‘firms,’ delegating specific tasks to students, asking some to work on the creative aspect of their meme campaign while others were responsible for analyzing its success.
For one of the groups, the final project became a meme campaign titled, ‘Sh*t People Instagram,’ a project that took a satirical approach to the overly posted pictures of Starbucks cups, pets, food and foliage, frequently found on the photo-sharing site.
“We sat down and tried to come up with things that were funny and relatable,” said Alina Popa, the group’s campaign manager. She said this was an approach that would engage their target audience of individuals in the 18-24 age group.
Group members selected clichéd photos they found on Instagram, using them to create their own memes which they shared on social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. To measure the campaign’s reach, they used Sprout Social, a social media management tool created for businesses to help them engage their audience.
The campaign was successful in reaching individuals across the country, with a slightly larger female audience, Popa said. Even though the project is complete, and the group isn’t adding new memes regularly, people are still ‘liking’ the group’s Facebook page and engaging online.
While not comparable to the traditional academic essay, the meme campaign required the time, thought and commitment, adding an element of fun for the students.
“It was constant work, being on all of the (social network) accounts every single day. There was stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t work and things we had to change, but it was a fun thing to create,” Popa said.
Classmate Jennifer Krpan said the project taught students how to engage and use social media and networking tools to promote something and engage the general public.
“I thought it was a great way to incorporate all the knowledge we gained in MIT classes, and just incorporate skills and know how to use these (marketing) techniques,” she said. “It gave us tools we can take forward and use.”
The students did very well in both creating and developing innovative and engaging campaigns, Faucher said, noting the second group created an equally successful meme, the iPhone X, looking at Apple’s continuous upgrading of the iPhone.
“I don’t impress easy, I’m too cynical for that, but I was absolutely impressed with what my ‘firms’ were able to produce,” Faucher said.