Zsolt Katona - Social Media Marketing

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Syllabus - Social Media Marketing (MBA268C-1 - Fall 2014)

Note: this document may be updated in the future. Please check back for the latest version.
Last Update: September 15, 2014

Note that this course will be taught in a new hybrid fashion, with some of the classroom time substituted with online activities. There is no additional requirement for the students to be available at any fixed time period outside the specified class time.


This course takes an in-depth look at social networks, social media platforms and online advertising to offer students an advantage in many positions involving marketing, consulting and brand management both on the buyer and seller side of social media. Students with an interest in entrepreneurship will also find the course useful as new businesses often rely on social media marketing.

Businesses worldwide face a fundamental change in the ways that consumers interact with brands and each other. Social media has helped give consumers a voice, connect them with their friends and other like-minded consumers, and has given them considerable power over marketers and brands. This course offers an overview of how marketing has (and has not) changed due to the rise of social media. It will equip students with the relevant knowledge, perspectives, and practical skills required to develop marketing strategies that leverage the opportunities inherent in social media and consumer-to-consumer social interactions for achieving business and marketing goals. The emphasis of this course is on understanding consumers' social interactions, the various social media channels available to marketers, how to build social marketing strategies, and how to track their effectiveness. Also, since social media is heavily technology-driven we will cover relevant related aspects in digital marketing more broadly, as well as emerging topics in electronic commerce, mobile marketing, and social media startups.

From a marketing perspective, consumers now have louder voices than they used to, they are more socially connected than they ever have been, they expect more from brands, and information reaches them faster than ever before. In light of these fundamental changes, the overarching goal of this course is to help you get a clear perspective on what's really going on in marketing in the age of social/digital/mobile so that you can start to see where the true value - to consumers, to marketers, and to other corporate stakeholders - lies. The course covers a number of topics including

  • The differences and interaction between traditional and social media
  • Two-sided markets and social media platforms (including verticals such as gaming, shopping and entertainment)
  • Basic theory of social networks online and offline (graph theory, sociology, information diffusion)
  • Consumer behavior and digital media
  • Social Media Analytics and Monitoring
  • Brand strategies on social media
  • Best marketing practices for paid and unpaid social media
  • B2B marketing and social media

Since this is a new topic and the "jury is still out" on best practices for social media marketing and using social media to support business operations (e.g., CRM) the emphasis is on covering important fundamental principles, identifying areas of opportunity, and pointing out challenges (and developing plans for overcoming challenges).

The class will be in the new, hybrid online-offline format. About 9 hours of classroom time will be replaced by online activities, mostly instructional videos. The online material will serve mostly as a supplement and will be used for lectures and exercises that can be conducted better online.

Preparation and Participation

The success of this course depends on everybody's effort to prepare before class. Learning is the most effective when you are actively engaged in thinking about and doing marketing rather than passively absorbing the material. Everybody's contribution is important. It is rare that there is one right answer to a particular marketing issue. Do not expect one. Rather, you should expect to learn from seeing how others address the problem that you have thought seriously about. The better prepared you are the more you will learn. Therefore, I will try to call on everyone, not just volunteers to contribute and defend their viewpoints. Lectures and cases will be interactive.

Class participation will include the time you spend with the online video lectures. There will be questions/surveys/discussions between the videos. You are expected to answer these as if I called you in class, since all your answers will be recorded and will serve as proof that you completed the video lecture. In fact, I might call on you in class based on your answers. There is not always a correct answer, but some of them will be great discussion starters. Although your online activity will not be graded question by question, I and my TA will track your answers and your overall performance will be part of your class participation grade.


Required Readings

For each session, required readings are listed under Session Details. If there is a link you can directly click, if only the title is listed, you can find the material on study.net. There will not be many required readings, mostly the cases that we discuss in class, so please read them carefully. When you allocate your preparation time that you spend with the materials outside the classroom, make sure that you have enough time to do the readings and also complete the video lectures. In other words, you have to allocate preparation time in addition to the time spent in the online part of the class.

Supplemental Readings

I provide a variety of articles in addition to the required readings for each session. If you want to learn more about a certain topic these readings provide a good starting point. Some of these will be on study.net and some of them are directly linked. Also, to keep up with the recent developments, it is very useful to regularly check - among others - the following blogs:


Class Participation

My expectations for you are straightforward: come to class on time, be prepared and participate. To help your preparation and guide your learning, in this syllabus, you will find a list of study questions. For cases, the study questions will guide our in-class discussion. Please read the cases carefully and think about the topic. Be prepared to defend your viewpoint and convince others.

Network Analysis Exercise (Individual)

You will analyze a small social network using the Gephi software. This is a very user-friendly, yet powerful program that allows you to map and calculate metrics on networks. It is free and runs on all operating systems. You can download the problems here.

Due date: 9/20 11pm

Social Media Strategy Evaluation Project (Group)

In this project you will form groups of maximum 3 students to evaluate the social media presence of a company. You are free to choose any company to follow (adhering to a few rules) and evaluate its performance based on what we learned in class. Make sure that you choose a product/brand that has enough activity for you to analyze. Before you decide, try to search for the brand on Twitter and make sure you get a reasonable amount of results. You will be required to form groups by the beginning of the third session and pick a subject for your project before the following session. Your final paper should be 10-12 pages including figures and exhibits. Make sure to include links/screenshots or whatever is necessary to demonstrate your points. The paper should cover at least the following topics, but feel free to add to these or structure differently.

  • Brief description of the brand/product/products. Where are they sold/marketed? What is the target market?
  • Overview of the social media presence of the company. What platforms do they use? How actively? etc.
  • Evaluation of the social media activities.
    • Are the activities appropriate for the brand?
    • Is there interaction between the brand and consumers and between consumers? Should there be more/less? Is it useful?
    • How successful are they in terms of number (follower/fans)?
    • Analyze the company's social media presence over time (as far as you can go in the past). Do you see any trends?
    • Provide a rough estimate of the resources needed to maintain the social media presence you currently observe.
  • What would you change? How would you improve the company's social media presence? Be realistic in terms of budget constraints.

Data for analytics

  • You will have to pick about 10-15 relevant keywords about the company, it's products, and it's competitors.
  • I will use (mostly) the Twitter API to collect data based on these and I will give it to you in Excel format.
  • When picking the keywords, make sure you get some results for them if you search on Twitter or Facebook.

A few rules

  • Don't analyze a company that you work/worked/interned for. Competitors are allowed.
  • You can and are encouraged to interact with the company on social media as a fan/consumer, but don't be obstrusive, e.g. don't identify yourself as a student working on an assignment, at least in the beginning.
  • Two weeks before the paper is due you can contact the company and try to talk to them/ interview them about their social media strategy. This is encouraged, but it is not required (as they might not respond to you).

Due date: 9/8 11am: Please form groups of maximum 3 people. Submit a short document on Canvas containing the names of the team members, stating the name of the company you are following and links to all their web/social media channels that you are planning to use in you analysis. Also include the keywords.

Due date: 10/13 11am: Submit the final paper.

Social Media Analytics Exercise (Group)

This exercise will be based on the data you get from me about the company you follow in the group project. Based on the keywords you submit, I will give you a dataset in Excel format that you will have to conduct simple analysis on. You will get the detailed questions on 9/19. You are encouraged to conduct further analysis of the data inspired by my questions to include in your group project analysis.

Due date: 10/6 11am.

Submission of Documents

All assignments that require a document to be submitted should use 12pt font, double spacing, and 1 inch margins. Submit all the assignments on Canvas in .docx or .pdf format, no paper submission is necessary. If there is a problem with Canvas, email me a copy. The comments and grades will be added to the file electronically which look better in Word, so .docx is the preferred to .pdf if you use Word. If multiple members submit from a team, the last submission will be graded.


Your grade will be based on the number of points you get from the following assignments. The maximum total score is 100 points.
  • Class Participation (including online activities): 30 points
  • Social Network Analysis Exercise: 20 points
  • Social Media Analytics Exercise: 20 points
  • Group Project: 30 points

Session Details

Week 1. Introduction: Social Media Transforming Marketing

8/25 - Monday

An overview of the course's content, objectives, learning methods and assignments

8/27 - Wednesday

Case Discussion: "United Breaks Guitars"

  1. Evaluate United's response to Dave Carroll's video? Did the airline handle the incident well?
  2. Why was this video seen by so many people, so quickly?
  3. In general, how should corporations prepare for the challenge posed by user-generated video and other material disseminated on social media?

Required Reading

  • "United Breaks Guitars"

Week 2. Network Effects, Two-Sided Markets, and Platforms

Complete Online Modules 2A and 2B by 9/2 11pm:

9/3 - Wednesday

2A. Network Effects
(opens 8/27 12pm)
2B. Two-Sided Markets and Platforms (opens 8/27 12pm)

Case Discussion: "Zynga (A&B)"

  1. Identify the basic game mechanics and social mechanics in Zynga games such as FarmVille or CityVille. What impact do these mechanics have on (i) game experience, (ii) players' social relationships, (iii) Zynga's profitability?
  2. What factors account for Zynga's rapid growth and subsequent problems?
  3. What should Pincus do regarding: (i) product, (ii) corporate strategy, and (iii) relationship with Facebook and customer acquisition/retention?

Supplemental Reading

Week 3. Social Network Analysis

Assignment Due: Submit Groups, Company Information and Keywords for Social Media Strategy Evaluation Project

Complete Online Module 3A by 9/7 11pm:
3A. Social Network Analysis
(opens 9/3 12pm)

9/8 - Monday

Applications of Social Network Analysis

9/10 - Wednesday

Case Discussion: "Mekanism: Engineering Viral Marketing"

  1. How is the advertising landscape changing and how does that impact Mekanism?
  2. What role can viral marketing play as a promotional tool for advertisers?
  3. What types of brands stand to gain from using viral advertising? Which brands may not?
  4. What is Mekanism's secret sauce for "engineering virality?"

Required Reading

  • "Mekanism: Engineering Viral Marketing"

Supplemental Reading

Optional Online Modules 3B and 3C suggested to completed by 9/18:
3B. Network Analysis with Gephi
(opens 9/3 12pm)
3C. Analyzing your Facebook Ego-Network (opens 9/3 12pm)

Week 4. Influence, Diffusion, Contagion

Complete Online Modules 4A and 4B by 9/14 11pm:
4A. Consumer-to-Consumer Interactions
(opens 9/10 12pm)
4B. Contagion, Influentials and Influenceables (opens 9/10 12pm)

9/15 - Monday

Virality, Influencers

Required Reading

Supplemental Reading

9/17 - Wednesday

Guest Speaker

  • Manan Goel - Teradata Aster: "Business applications of network (Connection) analysis"

Assignment Due on Friday: Network Analysis Exercise

Week 5. Social Media and Reaching Consumers

Complete Online Modules 5A and 5B by 9/21 11pm:
5A. Digital Channels for Reaching Consumers
(opens 9/15 12pm)
5B. Social Media and Advertising (opens 9/15 12pm)

9/22 - Monday

The online advertising ecosystem

Supplemental Reading

9/24 - Wednesday

Case Discussion: "Maersk Line: B2B Social Media-'It's Communication, Not Marketing'"

  1. Evaluate how Maersk Line executed on its social media plan and platforms.
  2. How do you think Jonathan Wichmann calculated the 1,500 percent ROI on Facebook? Do you agree with his calculation? Why or why not?
  3. What are the challenges facing Maersk Line in social media going forward?
  4. What should Maersk Line do next? What areas should the company focus on and why?

Required Reading

  • "Maersk Line: B2B Social Media-'It's Communication, Not Marketing'"

Week 6. Social Media and Measurement

Complete Online Module 6A and 6B by 9/28 11pm:
6A. Social Media Listening and Monitoring
(opens 9/24 12pm)
6B. Social Media Analytics (opens 9/24 12pm)

9/29 - Monday

Case Discussion: "Bluefin Labs"

  1. Do you ever tweet, text, or email while watching television? If so, why? What motivates people to participate in social TV?
  2. Whether you do or not, it seems 40 million Americans do. Are their conversations representative of television viewers? If not, are the data valuable to television networks? Are they valuable to media buyers? To brand marketers?
  3. Nielsen had become the gold standard in the broadcast industry, and felt confident in their data. Could Bluefin's system provide new insights to marketers and broadcasters?
  4. Dave Poltrack refers to Bluefin's data as a deep dive and SocialGuide's as a more summary picture. What features of the Bluefin system of data collection and analysis make it a deep dive?

Required Reading

  • "Bluefin Labs"

Supplemental Reading

10/1 - Wednesday

Using experiments for measurement

Week 7. Social Strategy

Assignment Due: Social Media Analytics Exercise

10/6 - Monday

Case Discussion: Social Strategy at Nike

  1. Evaluate the Nike+ ecosystem as a foundation for the company's social strategy.
  2. How does Nike use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for its digital strategy?
  3. How does Nike integrate its digital strategy with its social strategy?
  4. How was Nike able to develop such a rich, integrated social and digital strategy?

Required Reading

  • "Social Strategy at Nike "

Supplemental Reading

10/8 - Wednesday

Guest Speaker: TBA

Week 8. Course Wrap-Up

Assignment Due: Social Media Strategy Evaluation Project Final Paper

10/13 - Monday

Current Trends and Course Summary

  Optional photo goes here