Becoming a Social Media Influencer

I teach a class in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland called “Becoming a Social Media Influencer”. It’s a hands-on class where students create social media accounts (or work with ones they already have) and learn how to make good content, to build a community, to gain insights into social media algorithms, and to develop strategies for growing their accounts. We do in-class critiques and offer feedback along with doing readings and trying out new tech.

I come to this from my own experience as a computer scientist who studies social media and as someone who has a bunch of sort-of popular accounts. I run @theGoldenRatio4 on Twitter (~120,000 followers), Instagram (~100,000 followers), SnapChat (~400,000 followers), and pretty much everywhere else. I have a much smaller account where I post about running (jenRunsWithDogs on Twitter and Instagram) that has about 20,000 followers on both platforms. Combining my academic research plus experience with these accounts has informed a lot of what’s in this class.

I know not everyone can take my class! College classes are expensive and time consuming. This post is going to give you some of the high-level content. These are all topics, readings, and lecture videos from the class. It’s not everything we do, but if you just want to learn some of the material, it’s a great place to start.

Who am I?

What does it mean to be an influencer?

Content Types

External videos on this topic:


Meme warfare: how the power of mass replication has poisoned the US election (The Guardian, November 2016)

Creating good content


How to write a joke in 7 easy steps

Editing in Lightroom

Engagement and Analytics


Best times to post on social media

Batrinca, Bogdan, and Philip C. Treleaven. "Social media analytics: a survey of techniques, tools and platforms." Ai & Society 30.1 (2015): 89-116.

Connecting to Community


Identity & Member Roles in Online Communities


Propagation — How things spread in social networks

This is a more technical topic!

We start with some basic terminology of understanding the structure of social networks. This really helps you understand how things spread in networks, but it’s a lot of detail. These videos cover material in my book Analyzing the Social Web. You may just want to jump ahead to the video on how to make posts popular, but some of the terminology I use there may not make sense if you skip the other videos.

For More…

If you want to learn more, I post videos on these topics semi-regularly over on my YouTube channel. Check in there or give it a follow if you’re interested in finding more

Written by

Prof @ UMD iSchool, computer scientist, social media analyst

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