A Wake Tech course prepares students to navigate the shifting landscape of social media marketing.
Social media isn’t just for teens posting selfies; it’s how we keep up with friends and family, get our news and, increasingly, seek out goods and services. That’s why, whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, it’s especially important for modern businesses to maintain a social media presence.
This summer, Raleigh-based digital marketing agency Walk West partnered with Wake Tech to offer a new, 16-week course in social media strategy and management. The goal of the course is to introduce students to social media management with lessons around analytics, paid media, influencer marketing, writing marketing strategies and more.
“Social media is going to be a part of the customer journey,” says Ann Marie Taepke, director of digital media at Walk West who helped teach the course. Taepke has personally led digital marketing campaigns for well-known brands including Velcro and AstraZeneca at Walk West, shaping social media strategies through video production, influencer outreach, paid medium and other initiatives. “You want it to be part of what’s pushing someone down the funnel to convert into a purchase or a sign-up. People don’t realize that there’s a lot of fundamental marketing you need to learn about, even when you’re just applying it to social media marketing.”
During the Wake Tech course, students worked with real-life clients—all startup companies—to find out what the businesses’ goals were and to create and present social media plans for them. Benjie Davis, founder of personal styling business Wirl, served as one of the students’ clients; Davis says he had his own goals in participating in the course and learning about how to get the word out about his company.
“They gave me a different perspective on how other people view us,” Davis says of the students’ proposal. “I’ve been more mindful of that and how [people] might view us if they came across us on social media.”
While courses like the one Wake Tech partnered with Walk West on are relatively new, businesses have been using social media in their marketing for nearly two decades now. But, of course, social media has evolved since Facebook launched in 2004, with Twitter following in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. Taepke, who previously worked at Cary-based Ignite Social Media—the first solely social media marketing agency in the nation—says social media used to consist largely of professional, picture-perfect feeds that felt very impersonal.
And while that strategy is still relevant in some markets, Taepke says she’s noticed that most businesses on social media are leaning towards more authentic, less curated presences, which helps brands connect to their customers on a personal level and feel more relatable rather than as if they’re just trying to sell something.
“The whole reason why social media was big when it came out and is still relevant is because it is a two-way conversation with the brand and with the consumer,” says Taepke. “We need to be talking with these people, not at them.”
Brand Cam—an open-air digital photo booth which aims to create unique, intriguing content for its customers—is a case study in how brands can co-create content and maintain an authenticity that attracts more potential consumers, explains Raleigh-based entrepreneur and founder Cam Lilly. Brand Cam records GIFs, boomerangs photos and videos of people at events, conferences or simply within a business’s normal operating hours that are instantly uploaded to a gallery and texted to users.
This allows both the brand and consumers to upload live content in the moment and share it with their followers. It’s an exciting, approachable way to promote a brand and a way to stand out among competitors on social media.
“If these are your customers and they’re posting something on your behalf, it’s authentic,” Lilly says. “When folks see that social content from a person they know, they say ‘that’s a cool place, I should go there.’ So it’s more of a friendly, native way of advertising. And it’s also kind of fun.”
In the future, Taepke says she sees social media as lending itself to more micro-niches and intimate, private groups within the larger social media platforms that we see now, with even more emphasis on those aspects of authenticity and connectivity.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we penetrate into that as brands and engage with users in a meaningful way, and in a way that they don’t feel encroached upon,” Taepke says. Whatever the future of social media marketing for businesses holds, one thing’s for sure — you’re not going to be putting your phone down anytime soon.
Wake Tech will offer the course in Social Media Strategy and Management again in the fall semester. Find out more at waketech.edu.