COMM 351 – An Opportunity to Excel

COMM 351 will be one of the most heavily practical courses you’ve encountered so far. While we’ll spend a portion of the semester looking at the status-quo-shifting aspect of the technology, we’ll focus primarily on establishing (or enhancing) your professional presence on social media.


Your main assessment will require you to work towards a goal of your choice using social media as a primary tool. The project can be a professional endeavour, a personal objective, or something that complements your studies. Be sure to define the goal clearly in your mind (you should be able to state it in one short sentence). Only then should you begin to select the social media platforms and services that best suit your needs as a student or professional.

The graphic design crowd usually excels in this course. As artists, creators, and makers at heart, many of you are already using the technology to build your skills and display your design work, illustrations, or photography. Some of you will want to use this opportunity to pursue personal projects that don’t fit into your school and job workloads.

And if you’re not a graphic designer?


Read on.

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PR and Marketing

We spent most of the PR and Marketing session discussing the broader implications that social media has on advertising, marketing and public relations. We discussed two interesting cases that highlighted both the opportunities and the challenges that new media brings to those fields. Although I expect that most of you, hardworking and resourceful as you tend to be, have already done extensive research on those cases, here are a few follow-up reports on both of them:

Here’s a story and light analysis by the Globe and Mail on Samsung Canada’s highly successful use of social media…and childish drawings of imaginary animals. This CNET News report on the Nestle social media meltdown of 2010 gives a blow-by-blow account, while 1GoodReason delivers an in-depth analysis of what the corporation did wrong, and how they could have capitalised on the initially negative press.

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Session 2 – Contextualising social media

We kicked off the semester by discussing social media’s status as an emerging societal institution. It’s quite a lofty way to look at it, but consider the reality: in little more than a decade, social media has become integral to the way we communicate, do business, and learn about the world. For better or for worse, the technology has become the embodiment of the public sphere, and social-media-driven public discourse is becomingly increasingly important to our civic and political engagement. Similarly, the fields of journalism, PR, and advertising are now adapting to an unprecedented array of challenges and opportunities, all of which we’ll examine over the next few weeks.

apple applications apps cell phone

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on

Our first task, however, is defining and contextualising social media itself.

Read on.

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Journalism and Social Media

Without making light of the events that have made it one of the biggest stories of 2014, it’s safe to say that Ferguson, USA has become an invaluable case study in social media’s impact on journalism and activism.


photo by Robert Cohen, St Louis Post-Dispatch

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Session 1 – Planning your project

You’ve been given an opportunity to prove to yourself, the public, and future employers and clients, that you’re capable of consistently producing quality content for digital platforms. Beyond simply a valuable asset, that skill is increasingly becoming a necessity for communications professionals. So keep that in mind as you approach this coursework, and aim to produce something that is exciting, uniquely you, and manageable.


Today’s update focuses on that ‘manageable’ bit. I want you to think big and bold, but I don’t want you to bite off more than you can chew. Here are some simple guidelines for developing an appropriate project idea, and for using the social media platforms that are most appropriate for your goal.

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Social Media Project Example – Behind the Scenes of Modelling

The hallmark of a good social media project (and good communication in general) is getting people interested in a topic they might not otherwise care much about. So it’s to Shonika Greenidge’s credit that her blog on her developing career as a model ended up being one of the most interesting and well-presented of her semester.


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Social Media Project Samples – Spanglish Dija

As much as I appreciate social media projects that focus on broader topics and cater to (potentially) large audiences, some of the most interesting projects I’ve seen have been smaller-scale and personal.

Khadija Collins decided that spanglishdijascreenshotshe’d use social media as a language-learning tool. She’d signed up for a Spanish course that semester, and she thought it would be helpful to connect and practice with Spanish speakers. Her search led her to Busuu, social network focused exclusively on connecting language-learners. She also watched instructional videos on Youtube and visited other blogs focused on Spanish language and culture.

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Social Media Project Examples – The Fringes

While many students enjoy the creative freedom afforded by the social media project, others find the breadth of options intimidating. With that in mind, I’ve compiled examples of the most successful project submissions, and I’ll be sharing them here over the first few weeks of the semester. These should act as a useful complement to the in-class presentations by former students.

First up is Alicia Viarruel’s The Fringes. Alicia, who had long aspired to work in the fashion industry, set out to comment on clothing design on a fashion-themed blog. I was (and remain) amazed at the level of work Alicia put into her project. She posted frequently and consistently, and she created several well-maintained companion pages for her main blog.


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Social Media Project Example – Heart Talk and Challenges Associated With Scoliosis

Lest you think that only the women of COMM 350 courses past have produced good work, I present today a double feature of notable work from male students. While the execution wasn’t as solid as other projects I’ve highlighted, these two projects stood out because they forced the fellas to open up about very personal challenges they’ve lived with all their lives.

In Challenges Associated with Scoliosis, Ewan Headley first set out to share information and advice on scoliosis, a spinal condition he lives with. However, a post or two in, Ewan realised how much he enjoyed sharing his experiences growing up with (and receiving treatment for) the condition. His stories, the most compelling of which recounted the sacrifices his family had to make to pay for his treatment in the US, proved to be much more focused and interesting than his original plan. Ewan also started a Facebook group for people living with scoliosis in T&T.

Triston Palmer’s Heart Talk blog dealt with a topic arguably more personal than health.

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Crowdfunding in the Classroom



image via TechCrunch/Shutterstock


I’ve been struggling for a while now to incorporate a meaningful, interesting segment on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing into one of my social media theory classes. So far, those efforts have resulted in middling explorations of Trinbagonian Kickstarter projects and reiteration of the “social media empowers audiences” theme. It’s a topic I was beginning to dread covering, but this semester, I have an opportunity to add a lot more substance to my illustrations.

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