WEST LAFAYETTE – John Wanamaker, an early 20th century department store magnate and marketing pioneer, famously quipped, so the legend goes, that 50% of the money he spent on advertising was wasted. The problem, he said, was that he couldn’t tell which 50%.
In the age of the web and social media, that’s no longer the case. A plethora of readily available data makes it possible to determine not only which messages are working, but also to plan for effective messaging. The problem today is how to make sense of all that data.
Enter Digital Media Analytics, a new series of seven online courses from Purdue University designed to make savvy social media data crunchers of almost anyone. Individuals who complete the courses will come away knowing how to use social media analytics to glean information from the data, answer questions and generate actionable, data-driven recommendations and decisions.
“We’re trying to open up the social media black box,” said Sorin Adam Matei, a professor in Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication and associate dean of research in the Purdue College of Liberal Arts. “This is for communication professionals or any type of nontechnical professionals who work for corporations and organizations of any kind, and whose mission is to understand the effect of social media campaigns, plan social media campaigns, or justify investment in social media campaigns.”
Details about each course are available on the Digital Media Analytics website.
People who complete the courses will gain an understanding of social media data and data analytics methods and tools, as well as their limitations. Students learn how to transform information into insight, moving from data collection to analysis, interpretation and recommendation, and how to score and report their results.
They also get an understanding of media strategies involving “owned” media, meaning their own social media accounts; “earned” media, meaning amplification by the websites and social media feeds of others; and “paid” media, meaning digital advertising they buy.
In addition, they will gain skills in, and a healthy respect for, social media planning. That includes planning for social media content and campaigns, but also how to plan for analyzing the resulting data in order to draw valid conclusions that can guide future actions.
“One thing you will learn is that social media is not a magic bullet, and without very careful planning it is very easy to get disappointed,” Matei said. “You need to think very carefully about who you’re trying to reach, how your message maps on to what your expectations are, and how to measure every step of the way.”
Digital Media Analytics combines the expertise of the Brian Lamb School of Communication with the results-oriented nature of Purdue’s traditional focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. The courses use a methodology called “read, reflect, practice, assess,” which emphasizes the application of the material. Laura Rossi, a member of the teaching team for the course series, serves as a “learning moderator,” guiding students during the process, acting as a sounding board and providing feedback.
“These are very hands-on courses,” Rossi said. “The assessment is always a practical problem rather than a quiz.” Matei characterized it as “just-in-time learning,” with students coming away ready to use what they learn almost immediately. The final course also serves as a practicum, prompting learners to put together the knowledge and skills gained in the previous six courses.
The online courses are self-paced, and students have 12 weeks to finish each course once they start it. Individuals who complete all seven earn a Digital Media Analytics certificate from Purdue. There are no prerequisites for taking this course series, which costs $300 per course individually or $2,000 for all seven.
While the courses are noncredit, they can be converted to credit if a student decides to pursue a Purdue online Master of Science in Communication. They also dovetail nicely with Purdue’s online Data Storytelling course series.
For more information about Purdue’s online Digital Media Analytics course series and certificate and to register, visit the registration page.