Teaching social media marketing through following firms on Twitter---a perspective of experiential learning


  • Yujie Wei The University of West Georgia


The experiential learning theory sees learning as a four-step process: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualism, and active experimentation (Kolb, 1984). According to Kolb, learning is a cyclical process and effective learning takes place only when the cycle is completed. Prior research demonstrates that experiential learning can enhance student learning in marketing education (Cappuccitti, Gunn, and Lee, 2019; Young, 2002). Students will be more likely to succeed in a corporate context if they experience daily interactions throughout a curriculum that approximate a professional environment (Ewing and Ewing, 2016).

The process of following companies on social media is experiential learning (Craciun and Corrigan, 2010). Social media users who follow a brand acquire knowledge of the brand, its company, and other users (Chu, Chen, and Sung, 2016; Jin and Phua, 2014; Logan, 2014). Similarly, college students can follow firms or their brands, learn brand information, evaluate assurances, and interact with account managers and other followers. In a sense, the following itself is “doing” from a perspective of experiential learning because the student can observe the marketing activities of firms and interact with account managers and other followers by writing comments for others and responding to others, including the account managers. College students can learn real-world social media marketing skills and content management by following companies.

As social media marketers use more advanced content management systems to create and update content, social media platforms have created a resourceful learning environment. Twitter provides millions of mass-produced messages or images to users on mobile phones and laptops (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2015). Previous research demonstrates that Twitter is a real-time environment for student learning; instructors can use Twitter for direct communication with students to generate discussion and interest in the course topics and examples (Rinaldo, Tapp, and Laverie, 2011). This research project uses elements of experiential learning to explore how students benefit from following companies on Twitter. Specifically, the research addresses three crucial questions about teaching social media marketing: (1) how can instructors integrate Twitter into social media marketing courses to provide experiential learning? (2) how does following firms on Twitter enhance students' learning? (3) what theoretical implications can this research provide for experiential learning?