College Course Syllabus for Digital and Social Media Marketing & Analytics
Montana State University – Jake Jabs College of Business
Instructor: Jacob Cook
Office Hours: By appointment
Email: [email protected]
The material for the course is designed straight from the trenches of working in digital marketing and analytics going back to 2006 to the present. The course has been iterated over the years with generous feedback from students and experts in industry and built on the foundation of data (qualitative and quantitative). I designed the course for what I would want a junior hire to know on day 1 when starting at a digital agency or in-house brand side for online marketing. I’ve gone on to hire many of my students at Tadpull and seen others land at some of the world’s most respected brands (see Alumni section below). That said, please email me with any ideas or questions and I’ll do my best to respond at [email protected]
What Students Learn
Hacking Empathy: Design Thinking for a Digital World
Our foundation for succeeding in digital requires us to design experiences through our users’ eyes. We’ll rely on the power of design thinking and a user-centric focus to help us imagine and execute successful online marketing campaigns. Students will learn how to interview users across various age groups and identify their online habits and preferences in-depth to design the right digital experiences.
Next, we’ll prototype these in a low-fi way using wireframes and user journey mapping.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Arguably the toughest part of the course, the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) covers long-tail keyword research methods, on-page SEO for a focus keyword phrase, the art of inbound link building, and identifying influential sites based on Domain Authority to support online PR efforts. You’ll do this for your own WordPress site using the Yoast SEO plugin for on-page SEO. We’ll also setup Search Console so you can track your own websites performance through the eyes of Google.
- Answer The Public for keyword inspiration
- SEMRush for keyword volume (free trial)
- Google Ads – Keyword Planner
- Google Search Console for site issues & indexing
Next, we’ll build out a social media strategy and campaign against a target market’s preferred outlets and measure engagement for Conversation, Amplification, and Applause. After all, are Facebook Likes really that important for a brand? You’ll see why social is a critical part but not the only tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal. More importantly, you’ll see why this is truly a pay to play channel and should be approached with skepticism for what natural growth can honestly look like.
- Facebook Audience Insights
- User Interviews
Online Advertising or Pay-per-click (PPC)
We’ll scratch the surface for basic fluency in online paid platforms like Google Ads and Facebook/Instagram Ads to map out target markets, customer acquisition costs, and retargeting campaigns. Here’s where we’ll crack open a spreadsheet, evaluate our margins, and compare cost-per-click to basic metrics like customer lifetime value (CLV) and Average Order Price (AOV) to see if paid ads make sense for customer acquisition over the long term.
- Google Ads (account required)
- Facebook Audience Insights
- Google Analytics (demo account for Merchandise Store)
The unifying framework behind all this will be basic web analytics using the Google Analytics platform and the demo account for Google’s Merchandise Store. This is an incredible opportunity to work with real data to validate hypotheses in real-time for an e-commerce store. Google Analytics is overwhelming for new users, so we’ll play with this tool early and often throughout the semester. Students are encouraged to also download the mobile app of this tool for daily updates via iOS or Android.
- Google Analytics
- Python/R for statistical analysis with Jupyter Notebook on Google Colab
Finally, we’ll move beyond just crunching numbers to data-visualization for crafting custom dashboards that help our key stakeholders see the important numbers and the changes over time. We’ll rely on Google Data Studio to sync various datasets across Google Analytics, MailChimp, Social, or whatever dataset you like to get the right insights using integration services like Zapier. (Bonus points here for providing context around the data and making it actionable)
- Google Data Studio
- Google Sheets
- Optional: Zapier and Supermetrics
Emphasis on Real-World Applications
To supplement the concepts, various leading online marketers, experience designers, and content strategists from industry will address special topics such as email marketing, user experience design, search engine optimization (SEO), building online communities, geo and mobile marketing.
Students will also have the opportunity to examine these topics firsthand through group projects and exercises ranging from getting a project funded on Kickstarter, building out a personal site in WordPress, to working with a real e-commerce company on the final.
Participants will exit the course with a solid understanding of digital marketing tactics, tools, and resources available for ongoing education.
Course Prerequisite: TBD (BUS 341–Principles of Marketing)
Required Text & Readings
Textbook on this website: “Beginner’s Textbook for Digital Marketing & Analytics“
Assigned readings from the following outlets and blogs:
- Harvard Business Review
- Forrester Research
You will be assigned various readings from the text and also handouts for which you will be tested upon. Not preparing for class will show in the discussions in front of your peers and in your test scores. Participation is graded upon attendance, leading class discussions on your assigned case study day, and asking smart questions of your colleagues.
Your final grade will be determined by your understanding of the course materials, case study analysis, and ability to creatively apply the concepts in real world scenarios via the final group project. Particular emphasis is placed on having a solid foundation of qualitative and quantitative data to back up your recommendations for campaigns.
Grades will be determined by the following breakdown:
- Tests: 50% (2 @ 250 points each)
- Final Group Project: 40% (300 points) *This is a live e-commerce client with presentations to executive team
- Class Participation: 10% (100 points) *Daily quiz on Socrative over the readings
Total: 1000 points
Digital Marketing Course Philosophy
First off, congratulations.
You’re entering the field of marketing at a time of incredible change. An industry once stagnant for decades is undergoing seismic shifts and whenever there is big change there is big opportunity.
Yet it’s easy to take these changes and technology for granted.
At the time of this writing YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine. Google permeates almost every aspect of our lives from instant messages via Gmail to driving directions courtesy of Waze or Google Maps.
If Facebook were a country, it would be third in population size behind India and China.
News breaks today not on CNN but rather on Twitter, where real-time user generated content can be tracked and trended.
Companies are launched on Kickstarter via free mobile platforms like Instagram and fueled by hashtags.
The good news?
Managers and entrepreneurs in industry are looking to you to help lead. They perhaps didn’t grow up with an iPhone by their side and are itching to know how to use platforms like social media, SEO, and online advertising with real-time analytics to grow their businesses.
With a bit of hard work you can begin to gain a proficiency in these areas and provide yourself with a great opportunity for job placement and career advancement through knowing the fundamentals of user research, digital strategy, campaign execution, web measurement and real-time adjustment of online campaigns.
This course will seek to provide you with that knowledge.
But there is no substitute for doing and so you will be split into small groups and assigned with coming up with your own strategies and tactics based on a target market. I will be matching groups with local companies and nonprofits for a short marketing exercise the last six weeks of the semester. You will present your strategy and answer questions from your peers and the management team of the business in a live presentation at the conclusion of the semester.
Course Alumni: Where Are They Now?
I am very pleased to report that alumni from this course have gone on to do incredible things. Ben and Carlee work embedded at Google as part of an agency relationship with R/GA in San Francisco and Tokyo. Scott was rookie of the year of R/GA global in the NYC office. Hannah has become a digital marketer of supreme skill leading C-Suite executives through a variety of digital initiatives. Abby works with the Fortune 50 on customer experience management software implementations. Chris leads the direct to consumer website for Caterpillar.
And the list goes on and on.
And that’s my one goal as a professor – to ensure you are getting the most relevant skills and mindsets to make you competitive for digital jobs upon graduation.
I love to learn and teach.
I’ve been fortune to serve as an adjunct professor since 2007. Currently, I create and teach courses at Montana State University, University of Montana’s MS program in Business Analytics and guest lecture at Harvard Business School.
At Montana State, I served as the Academic Director for Digital Marketing & Analytics program in Executive Education and was a cofounder of the Design Sandbox for Engaged Learning (DSEL) which is an interdisciplinary effort across colleges at MSU designed in collaboration with Stanford’s Dr. Jim Patell.
Our “Innovative Ideation” class teaches the principles of design thinking to engineering, business, and design students. I also get to work on outreach efforts with organizations like IDEO, Stanford d.school, R/GA, Havas, Google, and IBM.
More recently, I created and co-taught the first graduate class designed exclusively for the unique challenges of direct to consumer e-commerce called “Ecommerce Pillars of Profitability” at the University of Montana’s MS program in Business Analytics. In addition, I created an introductory graduate course on Python (all code can be found here on Github).
My day job is that of a co-founder at Tadpull with a focus on building digital marketing and analytics software with a user-first approach. Currently, we are solving the data explosion for businesses around the globe by combining insights ranging from SEO, Social, Email, Paid, ERP, and Site Analytics to be crunched in real-time for driving more effective online campaigns.
My undergraduate degree is in Physics via a swimming scholarship (I’ve since sworn off chlorine forever) and I stuck around for an MA in Marketing from a liberal arts college called Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.
I split my spare team between trying to learn how to cook better, writing Python code, reading the latest biz marketing or analytics book, building Jupyter notebooks for playing with AI and getting outside as much as possible in southwest Montana with my lovely wife and business partner, Dr. Eulalie Cook.