Students must create a website and YouTube channel for their brand, as well as use four types of social media (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat, SoundCloud, etc.) to promote it. During this ongoing assignment, students are required to upload two new videos per month, to show growth in followers and views and to do monthly class presentations using Google Slides explaining the techniques they’ve used to expand their brand and to engage with the online community they represent.
(A similar student branding project could be justified through the Media Literacy Education & The Common Core State Standards: Expanding the Concept of Literacy; Empowering Students as Critical Thinkers through Media Production and Analysis.)
Even though this project is a large time commitment, Nina enjoys updating her social media platforms and interacting with her global audience. She often goes well beyond what is required because the subject she has chosen is intrinsically motivating to her and because she doesn’t want to disappoint her followers. In fact, Nina wishes she began this project as a freshman because she sees how the experience can be applied to her future chosen profession, most likely in finance.
When asked what advice she would give to students beginning a similar self-marketing project, Nina recommends personally reaching out to people you admire in your online community, as opposed to waiting around for others to find you. She sagely states that quality is always better than quantity and advises students to be genuine, not phony or halfhearted.
For my part, I suggested she explore Twitter chats and to perhaps create a chat of her own. To show off and refine her literary skills, I also recommended that she start her own blog.
I know sincere self-promotion works in the adult world because the reason I am now a KQED In the Classroom blogger is due to the articles I have written and shared online. Although I have only been on social media for two years, I have been offered several professional opportunities, garnered many accolades and formed supportive friendships with colleagues from all over the globe — all directly stemming from my online presence.
When one diligently shares their passion, wisdom and experience in an online forum where others in your field gather and connect, tangible and emotional benefits follow.
Yet I come back to my original question: Is it right for us to encourage children to market themselves online?
Nina certainly thinks so, and she even asked me, “Uncle Robbie, don’t you wish you had begun your social media platforms way earlier?”
I do, and I know it would’ve been much easier to promote my first two books if I had the online following and recognition I have now.
In cyberspace, I have defined my professional brand. I write about meeting the needs of the whole child and how teachers and parents must be allies in education. In fact, my friend Rita Platt, who I met on social media, wrote a compelling article on why teachers themselves should define their own brand.
Balancing Branding With Benefit
When creating their own social media student project, I strongly suggest that teachers avoid these possibly pejorative terms: branding, marketing and promoting. Students can still gain valuable experience with those very real aspects of the work world while using words that instead emphasize contribution over consumption.
Encourage your students to share a part of themselves with the world that brings them joy. Embolden students to define what is important to them, to learn more about it and to interact with others of like minds. Ask students to pay homage to works and people who inspire them, so they can in turn inspire others. With children, make the measure of success less about followers and likes and more about message and meaning.