Journalism Students Explore What Engagement Means With Friendly Class Competition

Journalism Students Explore What Engagement Means With Friendly Class Competition

Likes, clicks and shares – these are often seemingly nebulous numbers that strategic communications students, professionals and social media aficionados obsess over with militant efficiency. Advertising campaigns (and their creators) often live and die by these measurements. But for students learning what those numbers mean and how to use them is another story.

Students in Bob Felten’s “Creative Solutions for Strategic Communications” class are learning about all of this through an unconventional class assignment. Last week, students were tasked with creating a campaign, promoting that campaign and measuring its engagement during the course of the week. Students then presented their findings to the class later that week and learned that all important piece – what those numbers actually mean and how to use them to your benefit.

Students from the Buzzfeed article team present their findings to the class. Some of the most notable campaigns created by the students included fan accounts for cute pets, a Buzzfeed quiz intended to educate college students about the potential dangers of alcohol, an Instagram account dedicated to highlighting all of Nevada’s hidden, and not so hidden, gems as well as a sticker campaign that was able to turn a real profit by a particularly entrepreneurial team.

Engagement, as many of the students discovered, was harder to come by than originally thought. Many teams reached out to their personal social networks to help boost their numbers, but other teams were surprised by the amount of organic engagement they achieved. Students played with messaging, posting habits and some reached out to industry influencers for help spreading the word.

“Part of the challenge of this assignment is to make it simple and make it quick,” Felten said to his class as they discussed what they learned after their presentations.

It became clear, as the class discussed their findings, the simpler the message, the more effective the communication was.

According to Felten, students should be thinking about how to turn their communication tactics into a sustainable model rather than relying on family and friends. He noted that the most successful teams in the competition stepped out of their box and wrote for their audience rather than a class assignment and prioritized long-term engagement over initial reach.

So who won the competition?

“Let’s Thank Pets,” an Instagram pets fan page, “Issa Reno Thing,” a sticker promoting the Reno lifestyle and the alcohol awareness Buzzfeed quiz each won a king size candy to share. Sweet success.

Learn more about the Reynolds School of Journalism’s strategic communications track.

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