MKTG 4300 Social Media Marketing Syllabus (Updated 8/23/2023) Dr. Spencer M. Ross

Basic Course information

Course Information
  • Course Meeting: Tuesdays/Thursdays 9:15-10:45 (PTB 180)
  • Office Location, PTB 232 (when on campus)
  • Office Hours: Tuesdays/Thursdays 9:30-11:00, on Slack DM, or make an appointment on Calendly
Ways to reach me:
  • Slack DM (preferred): @srossmktg
  • Email: spencer_ross@uml.edu
  • Phone: x45305 or Google Voice: 413-274-4227
Table of Contents (click to jump)

What’s this course about?

The emphasis of this course is on understanding consumers’ social interactions, examining the various social media channels available to marketers, learning how to build social marketing strategies, and practicing how to track their effectiveness.

What should you be able to know after successfully completing this course?

How do I teach?

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think” – Socrates
“Content is continuously changing. Thinking stays with you forever.” – Dr. Don Schultz

With Blogger (24 years old), Facebook (19), YouTube (18), Twitter (17), Instagram (13), and Snapchat (12), even the oldest of social media has moved into “adulthood.” It’s an understatement to say that social media is an essential staple of marketing communications in 2023. People follow brands for news and information about the brand, products, and promotions in order to offer feedback, as well as to engage customer service. Consumers now have louder voices than before, they are more socially connected than they ever have been, they expect more from brands, and information reaches them faster than ever before.

Note this course is not ONLY about specific online social media platforms you may know well from a user perspective (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok). While these platforms are important and will of course be discussed, it’s important to know in advance that this course is not solely about these platforms. The intention is to broaden your perspective, not just narrow your thinking by focusing on just a few platforms that happen to be important now... and may not be important-- or even around-- in the future.

Social media platforms evolve, but strategic thinking is forever.

What materials will you need to be successful in the course?


Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach (3e), Zahay, Roberts, Parker, Barker & Barker, Cengage, ISBN 9780357710982, $43 for eTextbook (through 5/12/2023), or rent the hardcover for $78 (through 4/12/2023). Or rent on Amazon Kindle for $47 or Amazon paperback for $25

Hootsuite, Here are step-by-step directions on how to register for the Hootsuite Student Program. You'll need to obtain the Hootsuite Platform Certification and the Hootsuite Social Marketing Certification (certification will make you eligible for the Hootsuite Certified Professionals Directory, there are badges you can apply to a LinkedIn profile, and you can put it on a resume).

If you follow the registration directions correctly (they take a couple days to approve), the cost of the Hootsuite Student Program and certifications are free in this class. As part of the Student program, you'll have access to: Hootsuite Academy courseware for Hootsuite Platform; Free Social Marketing course ($199 value); Free Hootsuite Platform Certification ($99 value); Free Social Marketing Certification ($199 value); Hootsuite dashboard (free features). You should not have to pay anything to complete these certifications.


Canva is a basic graphic layout and design tool to create digital marketing content. The Canva Design School has a number of modules to help you create social media content. You are more than welcome to use other tools to create content, however, this is a good free one if you don't have prior experience.


Slack is a business communications tool we’ll be using instead of email/Blackboard. The reason I prefer Slack (vs. email/Blackboard) is because it’s available for web/iOS/Android, and has a whole host of contemporary app features. As a collaboration tool, it puts everyone in the course on a level playing field to share media, ask, and discuss. And, it also has the benefit of making virtual collaboration on your team work much easier. People at universities have just started using it, but thousands of businesses and other startups have used it for years now. During COVID-19, it has allowed me to respond to students much quicker, and allowed students to collaborate among themselves much easier while everyone worked remotely. Nearly all course materials and engagement will be posted through the course Slack channel.

I'll send a registration link to your UML address. Check your spam folder in case you haven't received it.

If you need to register manually, please do so with your @student.uml.edu address at https://srossmktg.slack.com/signup/ (team name: srossmktg). Join the course’s channel by clicking/tapping the + ("plus") by the CHANNELS,” searching "#sp23-socialmedia”, and clicking “Join Channel.” (you’ll also be automatically added to the default #general-announcements and #newslinks channels). Downloading the app to your phone and turning the notifications on is recommended for easy and quick communication and collaboration.

All my course communications (i.e., Zoom links, cancellations, announcements, discussion) and supplemental course materials (i.e., links, other readings, slides) will be posted through Slack – NO EMAILS.

Blackboard (assignments/grades only)

I only use Blackboard for individual assignments (such as the Homeworks) and gradebook purposes.

Additional Readings

As business students, you should naturally be visiting business related news sites (e.g., WSJ, FT, Bloomberg, Mashable, Business Insider, Social Media Examiner) and coming to each class ready to share articles and events relating to marketing topics. Part of your course engagement grade will heavily depend on being able to present, discuss, and debate these current marketing topics.

How Will you be evaluated?

I WILL NOT ROUND FINAL GRADES. (Unless I’ve erred in calculation, do not ask for your 89.99999 to be an A-.) All assigned work will be graded based on guidelines provided. Late work will not be graded and instead, will be given an automatic “zero” (0) grade.

What's Being Evaluated?

Individual Work (60%)

Hootsuite Platform and Social Marketing Certifications (10%)

You’re required to earn the Hootsuite Platform and Social Marketing Certifications through Hootsuite’s Student Program. You’ll receive an online certificate (good on resumes!) and will also be added to the Hootsuite Certified Professionals Directory. You'll be asked to submit evidence on Blackboard that you've passed both certifications. Check the course calendar for the deadlines. The point of the Hootsuite Certification is to a) make sure you know how to use at least one prominent social media management platform, c) understand how a social media management platform helps with strategy, tactics, execution, and measurement; and c) provide you with a practical certification.

Personal Branding Homeworks (6 @ 5% = 30%)

There will be six short homework assignments that relate to personal branding on social media -- particularly as you develop a professional career. The homeworks are designed to have you think strategically about how you present yourself as a potential employee (or entrepreneur) and apply what you're learning to your own career development. These assignments will be posted to Blackboard for grading (or Slack PM if you can’t attach content samples). The point of the personal branding homeworks are to have you evaluating how social media for personal use differs from social media for professional use.

Course Engagement (17%)

Communication skills are extremely important in marketing (after all, it’s one of the things we do!), which is why I grade course engagement on active participation and contribution, not mere class attendance (you’ll note I don’t have a formal attendance policy). I also expect everyone to actively engage in class discussions, any class exercises, and make quality contributions/discussions on Slack. All of this counts as engagement. Therefore, course engagement is a function of: (in-class active participation + outside-class on Slack)*(volume)*(quality). Both inside and outside of classtime, I encourage us to work hard to create and maintain a supportive, respectful, and empathetic environment. While I’ll help guide you, the class should be a thought lab to express your critical and analytical thinking, while also considering the backgrounds of others in and out of the class.

While you must be present in classes to be able to participate in them, I guarantee attendance alone will not earn a full 17% engagement mark (for example, attendance but no participation may earn closer to 14% while no attendance but a lot of participation may earn closer to 12%—and obviously, participating on Zoom can be tricky). Your involvement and participation are vital to the success of yours and your peers’ learning experiences; consistency and quality matter. Slack has threaded messaging; rather than mandate Blackboard discussion posts, I encourage actual, real discussion in and out of classtime. The point of course engagement is to foster communication and collaboration skills with peers, as well as to actively engage the content, both inside and outside class lecture.

Manning BeHub (Behavioral Hub) Research Credits (3%)

You’re required to participate in at least 3.0 credits of Manning BeHub research studies (or, if you choose, see me for an alternative credit task) as part of your course grade. 3.0 credits is approximately 4-6 studies in a semester (1.0 credit = 1% of final course grade). Most studies take between 10-20 minutes per study. If you accumulate credits for my course in excess of the 3.0, up to an additional 2.0 credits may be awarded as extra course credit

Many studies will be online studies that can be done at home, though occasionally, in-person “lab” studies will be offered for credit or other incentives. You’ll find a description of the BeHub here https://www.uml.edu/msb/behub/. I'll send out announcements via Slack to the class as the BeHub periodically announces new study availability. You may also direct BeHub questions to me as one of its co-administrators. Study availability may be ongoing through the semester. However, studies are usually only open for limited periods of time before they expire and are then unavailable for participating credit. Please make sure you participate in studies before they are closed. The point of participating in research studies is that these studies will help your professors (including me) generate knowledge and insight about business, as well as give you firsthand experience of how business research is conducted

Team Work (40%)

Social Media Plan (15%)

The culmination of the course is a social media plan that ties together the course goals. Your team will write and present to the class a social media plan for a business (small or large) that you think needs improvement or re-strategizing. This plan will be due by the end of the semester and will incorporate everything you’ve learned.

The project will be done in teams of ~5. If there is a problem within the group, you should inform me as soon as problems arise

Groups may meet with me during any class workshops or outside class. As well, students often find Slack private groups or group DMs help with collaboration (and that’s ultimately what the purpose of Slack is in business). If there’s a problem within the group, you should inform me as soon as problems arise, not the week before deadlines. The point of the social media plan is to showcase written communications skills, to work on interpersonal skills in a teamwork collaboration, and to demonstrate social media strategy, execution, and evaluation in a cumulative fashion.

Social Media Presentation (20%)

Your team will create a 7-10 minute pitch of your social media marketing plan. In contrast with the plan, which should have a lot of written strategy, the presentation is an opportunity to bring your plan "to life" with a presentation of the content. The point of this presentation brief is to demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate scholarly insights on consumer behavior, analyze their links to marketing strategy and application, to showcase oral communications skills in a visual presentation.

Online Peer Evaluation (5%)

A link to a rigorous online peer evaluation form will be distributed in the last week of class. Failure to submit the evaluation by the assigned date will be an automatic “0” (zero) for your own evaluation score, as I use your peers’ scores to calculate your own evaluation grade. If you can't be bothered to give your peers their scores, I won't be bothered to calculate your score.

The major course policies

Academic Honesty, Cheating, and Plagiarism

Even in business, ALL work that’s paraphrased or taken verbatim from an outside source must be attributed to that source. Not doing so can lead to career (and sometimes, legal) troubles (e.g., former German Education Minister Annette Schavan’s case, journalists Jonah Lehrer, Jayson Blair, and Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism allegations, and even Call of Duty skins.

Here’s the general rule: If it’s a direct quote and/or a reasonable person would not be expected to know the fact/argument/evidence, you must provide credit to the source. You may still use the information, but it needs to be credited.

I take academic dishonesty personally. Any instance of academic dishonesty will receive an “F” for the course and be reported to the Office of the Provost for further disciplinary action. Academic dishonesty comes in many forms including, but not limited to, copying another student’s exam or homework assignments, plagiarism, and using Internet material without proper referencing. If you’re still unsure how to appropriately credit/cite a source, please use the phenomenal Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) as a resource or ASK me.

All non-group assignments and testing are to be the work only of that individual without help or guidance from any other person, unless instructed otherwise. If you’re not clear as to what constitutes academic dishonesty, please clarify with me or read more about the university’s Academic Integrity Policy.

My Tentative Academic Integrity Policy for a Responsible Use of AI-based tools (such as ChatGPT):

The beta release of Dall-E-Mini in July 2022 and ChatGPT in November 2022 are among many tools using artificial intelligence. There is a good possibility that using tools like these are going to become an important skill for careers in the not distant future. In the meantime though, it's going to take a while for society to figure out when using these tools is/isn't acceptable. There are three reasons why:

  • Work created by AI tools may not be considered original work and instead, considered automated plagiarism. It is derived from previously created materials from other sources that the models were trained on, yet doesn't accurately cite its own sources.
  • AI models have built-in biases (ie, they are trained on limited underlying sources; they reproduce, rather than challenge, biases, offenses, and factual errors in their underlying sources).
  • AI tools have limitations (ie, they lack critical thinking to evaluate and reflect on criteria; they lack abductive reasoning to make judgments with incomplete information at hand), functioning more like a "word calculator" than a substantive creator.

Given these (important) ethical caveats, some scholars in computational sciences debate if the hype over AI-based tools-- especially as "automated plagiarism" tools-- should be heeded at all. For the time being, I'm tentatively, pragmatically augmenting my academic integrity policy with a policy regarding a responsible use of AI-based tools in my class. This policy was developed from a response by ChatGPT-3 (2023) and edited on critical reflection by me:

Academic integrity is a core principle at UMass Lowell and it's vital that all students uphold this principle-- whether using AI-based tools or otherwise. For my class, a responsible use of AI-based tools in completing coursework or assessments must be done in accordance with the following:

  1. You must clearly identify the use of AI-based tools in your work. Any work that utilizes AI-based tools must be clearly marked as such, including the specific tool(s) used. For example, if you use ChatGPT-3, you must cite "ChatGPT-3. (YYYY, Month DD of query). "Text of your query." Generated using OpenAI. https://chat.openai.com/"
  2. You must be transparent in how you used the AI-based tool, including what work is your original contribution. An AI detector such as GPTZero may be used to detect AI-driven work and assign (human) originality scores.
  3. You must ensure your use of AI-based tools does not violate any copyright or intellectual property laws.
  4. You must not use AI-based tools to cheat on assessments.
  5. You must not use AI-based tools to plagiarize source material without citation.

Violations of this policy will be dealt with in accordance with UMass Lowell's academic integrity policy. If you are found in violation of this policy, you may face penalties such as a reduction in grade, failure of the assignment or assessment, or even failure of the course. Finally, it's your responsibility to be aware of the academic integrity policy and take the necessary steps to ensure that your use of AI-based tools is in compliance with this policy. If you have questions, please speak with me first, as we navigate together how best to responsibly use these tools.

ChatGPT-3. (2023, January 10). "Write a syllabus policy about the academic integrity of students using ai-based tools." Generated using OpenAI. https://chat.openai.com/


This course works best when everyone’s around and we’re all engaged with the material. However, sometimes people get sick, emergencies occur, you’re having a terrible day, there’s a university event, or you’re having to take care of a family member (I have two school-aged kids whose school schedule can be unpredictable) etc... no questions asked. I always welcome the courtesy of a heads-up, but I don’t take formal attendance. Your presence does affect your overall course engagement grade, so if you need to miss a lecture or two (or three), engaging on Slack in your absence is an option (especially since lectures will be posted to Slack for you to engage with).

I learn all my students’ names and take mental note of who’s absent. In the case where I note repeated, excessive absences, I (or UML) may reach out to make sure everything is okay, but I also reserve the right to adjust the engagement grade beyond what is outlined in the course requirements. If you cannot attend class for an extended period, or if you experience life-altering circumstances and cannot attend class, you may wish to seek advice from the Advising Center about withdrawing from the course.


Assignments are due at the beginning of class on their due date. I don’t accept assignments by e-mail unless specified. Failure to meet due dates result in an automatic zero for the assignment. If, for valid reasons, dates cannot be met, please let me know in advance (not after the fact!).

Zoom Etiquette

If you're attending any livestream via Zoom, etc, I'm strongly requesting (but not requiring) the courtesy of turning your webcam on so I can see you. I am totally okay with you showing up in pajamas from home. I am totally okay with an appropriate, mutually respectful virtual background camouflaging your room/house, etc (I usually do the same for lectures). The same respect afforded in the classroom should also be afforded out of the classroom.

Since I don't have an attendance policy anyway, the class feels a lot less "close" when I'm talking to black squares on the screen (if you need additional technology to support bandwidth for video, please let me know and I'll see what options the Dean's office has available). I greatly appreciate when I can see you all.

As far as audio goes, please mute your mic if you're not speaking (feel free to interrupt, but I don't want 25-35 mics on at the same time). If you don't want to verbally interrupt, use the reactions on Zoom (or a note on Slack) and I'll call on you that way once I see it (which could be delayed).

Zoom lectures may be recorded for asynchronous viewing. If you do not wish to be recorded, you may view the lecture at a later time.

In-Class Tech Etiquette


We all use our devices. But critical and analytical thinking take a hit once screens are out. Some colleagues of mine published research in 2017, finding that the mere presence of your smartphone on a table cuts down cognitive resources and attention (for even more, I recommend "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr, Jul/Aug 2008, The Atlantic). Research also finds evidence college students taking notes by hand outperform and remember more material than students taking notes on laptop. And then there’s the distraction it causes to the rest of the class that’s paying attention to whatever’s on your screen.


I am looking to make this course accessible to all. To do so, I welcome individual conversations on how to improve personal accessibility and we can plan how best to make accommodations. Aside from that, if you determine you need formal, accessibility-related accommodations, you may register with Disability Services (located at University Crossing, Suite 300, 978.934.6800, disability@uml.edu) and have them notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations.

Mental Health

College life is not necessarily easy. As a student, you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning. These might include strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol/drug problems, family issues, feeling down, or loss of motivation. Certainly, COVID and its personal effects has added to the complexity of mental health issues. The Wellness Center is here to help with these or other issues you may experience. Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do–for yourself and for those who care about you. The Wellness Center is located on the third floor of University Crossing. Urgent Crisis Line 24/7 is 978-934-6800 (choose option #1 outside business hours).

While I am a professor, I don't believe human-to-human empathy should be a radical concept and welcome an open line of communication to how things are going. I’m not a mental health professional, but I'll also be candid about my own experiences as encouragement.

Additional Course tidbits

  1. Slack DM is the best way to reach me for personal issues. The course Slack channel is best for issues that may be class-relevant and of interest to your peers as well. If a reply is appropriate, I will try to respond within 48 hours.
  2. I’m more than willing to answer questions, however out of respect for my family, I may not respond past 9pm.
  3. Check Slack frequently (or just turn on Slack notifications on your phone) for communications/materials. Though business users tend to be on Slack all day, I try to use it in moderation.
  4. If you find you’re falling behind the class at any time, please please PLEASE speak with me. I understand complex, personal situations arise in our lives and will work to help achieve learning outcomes. But, if I'm unaware of difficulties, or if I don’t hear that you're struggling with the course, I assume you understand the material and assignments and will evaluate you accordingly based on the work I receive. It’s better for all of us to preempt a potential problem by communicating with me earlier, rather be left panicking after the fact.
  5. Due to student privacy issues, I will not discuss any topic that pertains to a student (enrolled or non-enrolled) with parents, spouses, children partners, legal guardians, or employers. I will not accept grade disputes from parents, legal guardians, spouses, children, partners, etc., or third-parties. Please do not have any of the aforementioned people contact me to discuss student issues. You are responsible for you.
  6. Although technology has become an integral part of our lives, with it comes complications. Barring an entire system outage, last minute computer malfunctions, printer problems, and email mishaps are no excuses for late material. Please be prepared and protect yourself by managing your time and constantly backing up your work in multiple places (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.).
  7. Additionally, the university has 1TB of cloud storage through Microsoft OneDrive. Make sure autosave is turned on (Protip 1: default the autosave directory to your cloud storage, as they usually allow you to recover deleted files, too. Protip 2: write in a word processor or use a form recovery extension like Typio (Chrome and the latest version of Microsoft Edge) or Lazarus (Firefox), in case you accidentally close your browser while working). Should you have a problem, please notify me immediately and without hesitation.