From Selfie to Savvy:
By Sue McMurray • Photos by Bob Hubner
Andrew Perkins knows that learning exclusively from textbooks and lectures in a traditional classroom setting is no longer enough to properly prepare students with the skills required by modern workplaces.
“Covering the fundamentals of business concepts is no longer sufficient, and it’s the responsibility of educators to provide students with skills across a range of areas,” says the WSU associate professor of marketing.
He recognized a need for online and social media marketing instruction that would complement his brand management course.
What’s more, students were asking for it.
“Social media plays a major role in people’s lives—young and old—and it’s here to stay,” says Ian Hess-Baxter, a marketing major. “As business students, it is important we understand its social and advertising functions so we can use it to our advantage.”
Closing the Gap Between Theory and Practice
Perkins’ Internet Marketing course flips the traditional classroom format by delivering instructional content outside of class, leaving class time for interactive activities. Case studies supplement hands-on learning and close the gap between Internet marketing theory and practice, says Perkins.
Student teams create comprehensive online marketing plans for real businesses. Perkins develops a new client list each term, but students are able to pitch a particular client or firm to him. To qualify, firms must be local and willing to work with students.
Tyler Nash, owner of the White Pine Gear Exchange and Fly Shop in Moscow, Idaho, partnered with a team to help brand his outdoor sports gear and clothing consignment store.
Using Google Analytics, students found numerous problems with his website.“The website was bare bones and not attractive,” says team member Addison Attar. “It needed more photos and less writing, social media links, contact information, and a new domain name.”
The team designed a new website that portrays the essence of Nash’s “anyone can afford to recreate and enjoy nature” brand. Other deliverables included a Facebook advertising campaign that improved traffic in less than a week. They also created an improved mission statement, an ecommerce store, and a blog.
“The students were phenomenal in figuring out how to push products through social media,” says Nash. “The online store has made business more accessible and improved cash flow. We hope to continue a relationship with the class to develop further publicity.”
Better Branding Practices Build Rico’s Business
Some participating clients may already have strong social media presences but desire brand-consistent content that will promote web traffic, as was the case with Rico’s, a Pullman public house offering food, craft beer, music, and events.
Most of Rico’s customers come from the WSU community and are 25-years-old and older. After an online analysis, the student team found Rico’s website was not appealing to the unique culture of Pullman’s “town and gown” market segment.
“The old website had no clickable links to social media, and mobile viewing was a problem,” says D’onna Barton.
“We made the new site consistent across mobile platforms and added new photos and videos to capture what Rico’s brand is really about.”
The team also developed several visual Facebook ads to promote special events and a buy one get one breakfast special. All posts resulted in increased page likes.
“Students know best branding practices, and I’ve studied social media plus have photography skills. The best thing is that we learn from each other,” says Gary Marinin, Rico’s general manager.
Besides helping businesses, students also create their own professional social media profiles that become part of their real-world résumés. The whole experience gives them a unique advantage that will open doors to the careers they desire, says Perkins.