SMUG: Auditing Classes and Applying for Admission

Auditing Courses

If you want to begin your education at Social Media University, Global without committing to the full coursework, please be our guest. Feel free to audit a few classes. You might want to start with Social Media 101 (formerly called the 12-Step Social Media Program for PR Pros) and Social Media 102 (Intro to RSS), followed by Facebook 101.

Applying for Admission

But once you’re ready to get with the program, enrolling is easy. Just go to the SMUG group in Facebook and join. You don’t need to submit any transcripts, or ACT scores or even letters of recommendation. As the ads promoting overpriced life insurance say, “You can’t be turned down for any reason.” (Of course the reason for that is because the prices are so high, with limited short-term benefits, that they’d be crazy to deny anyone “coverage.”)

At SMUG, you’re eligible for full benefits right away. And we can hardly overcharge you for a free service.

There’s no application deadline, either. SMUG is a 24/7/365 school, and you can begin studies at any time.

How about right now?

Social Media 102: Intro to RSS

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is at the core of social media, which is why this course is among the first in the Social Media University, Global curriculum.

In essence, RSS is a way you can subscribe to get updates (RSS feeds or “Web feeds”) from Web sites that interest you. All you need is an RSS aggregator or feed reader (and you may have one built into your Web browser already!) If you’re using Firefox or IE7 for Windows, you have the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds “baked in.” Likewise on Safari for Mac OS.

Conversely, when you are producing content on the web as you become a more advanced SMUG student, RSS will be the way interested people can subscribe to your updates.

Among the best advantages is that RSS doesn’t get caught in spam filters. You don’t have to maintain a list of subscribers. They are self-selected.

Another neat thing about RSS with news sites is you can subscribe to just the sections that interest you, if the site owner has made those specialized feeds available. For instance, the Washington Post site has more than 150 separate feeds (see them in a new window) so you can tailor what news you receive. Look for the logo at the top of this post, or the XML graphic (see below).

And if you appreciate being able to fine-tune the information you receive by RSS, think of those who are reading  or listening to your material (if you have a podcast). You may want to provide multiple feeds, so people can choose.

You can read all about RSS here on Wikipedia, or better yet go to the Common Craft site to see the RSS in Plain English video (opens in a new window). I can’t recommend this video highly enough. Lee and Sachi LeFever may well be among the first candidates for Honorary Doctorates from SMUG.

Homework Assignments:

  1. Get an RSS reader/aggregator. If you aren’t getting RSS through your advanced browser, Google Reader is a great free online RSS aggregator. The Attensa products are free, too. If you have a laptop and would like to be able to read your feeds when you’re not connected to the Net (like when you’re on the bus or a plane), you might want to get a standalone reader like these from NewsGator for Mac or Windows.  There also are some plug-ins for Outlook that let you get RSS feeds in a folder that’s part of your email client. Here’s one of those from Attensa.
  2. Subscribe to the RSS feed from SMUG by clicking here. Pick one or more of the Washington Post feeds, too.
  3. Share your experience with your classmates. If you already have a way of reading RSS feeds, leave a comment below telling which reader or browser-based solution you use, and why. If you’re having any difficulty getting started with RSS, leave a note about that, too. It’s really important to get this step right. Understanding RSS, at least at the “Plain English” level, is an essential prerequisite for further study.

Remember, at Social Media University, Global your tuition is free, and we will never require anything in our homework assignments that would force you to spend any money.

A Message from the Chancellor

Social Media University, Global (SMUG) is a natural extension of my family’s interest in education and the development of the Internet, as well as my experiences in speaking to conferences of professional communicators who are interested in exploring how social media relate to their jobs.

My Dad was an elementary school teacher before becoming a principal, and upon his retirement served a term on the local school board. I graduated from college the traditional way in 1986.

But since then, we’ve taken a decidedly non-traditional approach to education.

In fact, SMUG’s headquarters facility, Old Main (pictured above), doubles as the headquarters for Aase Academy, a primary and secondary school that has seen its first two graduates go on to complete their four-year degrees at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. I am the Superintendent of Aase Academy, and my wife Lisa is the Principal and Master Teacher.

Unlike SMUG, Aase Academy is an exclusive institution: you need to be born into it.

Accredited, certified, standardized degrees obviously have a place. My brother, Mark, graduated from college last year through a cohort degree-completion program that involved substantial on-line interaction and distance learning. He got a management job largely because of it, and was chosen to give the commencement address, which you can see here.

But while a degree (maybe even an MBA) may be a requirement for a particular job, it’s generally just a minimum price of admission to be considered. What matters even more is demonstrating what you can do and the results you can deliver, and how you continue to learn and grow and develop new marketable skills.

This leads to discussion of another type of learning that I view as necessary and beneficial, but not quite sufficient. Many professionals attend conferences and seminars for a quick immersion in social media. I enjoy attending and speaking at these because they give opportunities for face-to-face interaction, and I highly recommend them. But if you spend a couple of days and hundreds or even thousands of dollars at a social media seminar, but then don’t apply what you’ve learned personally and professionally, you have developed familiarity with social media but haven’t really experienced it.

That’s where Social Media University, Global comes in; it provides an ongoing framework for structured learning about a field that will become increasingly important for professionals, particularly in communications, sales, marketing and management.

SMUG uses social media to help you learn social media. So you aren’t learning alone; you’ll be part of a group that is learning together. And it’s not a theoretical, ivory-tower curriculum. It’s real-world stuff.

SMUG is not accredited by any higher educational body, so therefore the credits you earn don’t transfer. The learning does transfer, however. You can apply it immediately in a hands-on environment to your personal or organizational projects.

So how do you get started?

While SMUG’s headquarters facility, Old Main, was completed over a century ago, our curriculum is definitely under construction. Please join us in building it out. Associate professors are welcome to join the faculty. Compensation is the same as tuition.

Book Review: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

 Silos Politics Turf Wars

This excellent book by Patrick Lencioni has an intriguing subtitle: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors. It’s a quick read (or a short listen, as I did via Audible, thanks to Michael Hyatt’s recommendation to try that service), but page-for-page or minute-for-minute I believe it’s one of the top business books available today.Scratch that. Who says bigger business books are better? The real value of a book is how it changes your outlook and, at least to some extent, what practical difference it makes in what you do. Based on that, I think Silos, Politics and Turf Wars is one of the top business books of any size or at any price.The first 85 percent or so of this book is the fable of Jude Cousins, a self-employed management consultant who eventually develops a practice that helps companies beat the silo problem. Spurred by the insight of his wife’s trip to the emergency room to deliver his twin daughters (where no one had the time to be “turfy” and everyone across various departments had a common goal of helping the trio of patients) and by a client whose company was silo-free after having survived a “near death” experience, Lencioni’s protagonist was able to apply key lessons to his other clients.Lencioni’s background is as a screenwriter, and his fable is quite engaging. It helps to bring to life the principles he has uncovered. In the last 40 minutes or so of the audiobook, Lencioni outlines his theory of how to create organizational alignment. Silo-free organizations have a compelling context for working together, created by four components:

  • A Thematic Goal: A single, qualitative focus or “rallying cry” that is shared by the entire leadership team and ultimately, by the entire organization-and that applies for only a specified period of time. This time can range from a few months to a year, based on the nature of an organization and the challenges it faces. You can only have one thematic goal. Something has to be most important.
  • Defining Objectives: The temporary, qualitative components that serve to clarify exactly what ismeant by the Thematic Goal; shared by all members of the team (and usually varying in number fromfour to six). What must be done to reach the Thematic Goal? Again, these are time-limited for the duration of the Thematic Goal.
  • Standard Operating Objectives: Other key objectives that an executive team must focus on andmonitor. These objectives do not go away from period to period and often include topics such as:revenue, expenses, customer satisfaction, quality etc. These aren’t “the rallying cry” because they are insufficiently motivational: they lack context, and they aren’t unique to a given period. But if you don’t acknowledge and monitor these indispensable essentials for long-term success,  you’re in trouble. I personally found this part of Lencioni’s model extremely helpful, because it helps to balance the short-term strategic priorities with the things you need to do to keep the organization running. Operational doesn’t mean unimportant.
  • Metrics: It is only after looking at the first three elements that you have enough context for meaningful measurement. Employees will be more motivated to “hit the numbers” if they understand how those numbers relate to the Thematic Goal, Defining Objectives and Standard Operating Objectives.

Lencioni has several helpful handouts available on his Web site as PDFs. His other books look interesting, too. Silos, Politics and Turf Wars is not officially part of the SMUG curriculum, but it is related. Sometimes social media tools are seen as ways to break down organizational silos. For instance, an intranet blog could theoretically be a great way to share knowledge across the company.  But if employees in different departments see each other as competitors instead of as  teammates, they’ll be likely to hoard information instead of sharing it. Social media tools are  just tools. Without a shared purpose, the collaboration made possible by social media won’t happen.What do you think? Have you experienced silos in a large organization? Do Lencioni’s lessons ring true from your perspective?

SMUG Tuition and Financial Aid

At the risk of seriously undermining the incentive for potential participants in the design-the-logo contest for Social Media University, Global (which offered at 50 percent tuition discount to the winner), I want to clarify two important points:

  1. SMUG students are not eligible for any state or federal financial aid programs to assist with their tuition payments, because
  2. Tuition and fees for SMUG are $34,998 less than those for Harvard.

In other words, SMUG tuition is Free. You are responsible for your own room & board, though.

Still, even though we receive no federal funds, SMUG does not discriminate based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion or any other factor. We are fully Title IX compliant, with opportunities to play open to both women and men.

Many prominent organizations advocate Universal Basic and Secondary Education, and other programs like One Laptop Per Child are aimed at giving youngsters in developing countries access to technology. SMUG’s focus is different: we offer free, universal post-secondary education in social media not primarily to kids, but to the non-traditional student; the lifetime learner.

Yet hopefully the curriculum will be valuable even to the digital natives who’ve grown up with this stuff, because it offers a more structured framework for understanding. They may even find out that what they’ve learned about social media will be valuable to potential employers who are looking for more effective ways to engage key stakeholders, because they will see practical examples of social media being used to meet real business goals.

SMUG is no “Ivory Tower” institution for pointy-headed intellectuals. You’ll get hands-on, real-world experience in social media…with no student loans to repay.

I’m looking for stories of people who’ve used blogging or other social media to generate bottom-line business results. I’d like to profile you in a future post, or even have you be an adjunct faculty member. Leave a comment below, or send me an email in Gmail (see address in the upper right) or a message in Facebook.