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Investigating the pros and cons of social media outlets


Students will examine case studies about social media marketing from a professional social media strategist and several high school media staffs and conduct an investigation to determine the advantages and disadvantages of several social media outlets. Finally, students will synthesize their ideas about the pros and cons of different social media outlets by creating a blog post, infographic or brochure highlighting how journalists can effectively use social media for media marketing as well as the pros and cons of the common platforms.


  • Students will read and analyze case studies about how a professional journalist and high school journalists use social media to market their publications.
  • Students will discuss and synthesize their ideas about how social media marketing can be most effectively used in a high school environment.
  • Students will analyze how social media is used by journalists to draw readers to stories.
  • Students will determine the pros and cons of various social media platforms as invitation tools.
  • Students will conduct an investigation of journalists’ and news outlets’ social media pages to evaluate the journalists’ entrepreneurial use of social media to draw readers to stories or otherwise capture their attention and to demonstrate mastery of how journalists use social media.
  • Students will write a blog post, create an infographic, or design a brochure that details the pros and cons of using at least three different social media tools for reader engagement and/or to drive traffic to a news website to demonstrate mastery of how social media can be used effectively.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2b Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2c Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2e Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2f Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


180-280 minutes


Handout: Investigation assignment

Rubric: Investigation/brochure assignment

Rubric: Social media post rubric

Handout: Social media marketing case study assignment

Handout: Social media marketing case studies

Slideshow: Using social media effectively

Handout: Using social media effectively slideshow notes

Case study rubric

Electronic devices (desktop computer, laptop computer, iPad, other tablet, smartphone, etc.)

Materials for creating blog posts, infographics, and/or brochures

  • Recommended software: WordPress, Paint, Illustrator, PhotoShop, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher or other preferred creation software
  • If students will complete on paper, you will need various sizes of paper, rulers, pencils, pens, colored markers, pens, pencils and crayons; possibly also scissors and glue

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Explain to students that the class will spend several days analyzing how social media can be used most effectively, including an investigation of how journalists are already doing this practically and of how professional media outlets are using different types of social media.

2. Review and assessment introduction — 5-10 minutes

Review the principles of social media already introduced from previous units, including the five purposes for social media in journalism, how to select a platform, writing for social media, and ethical issues surrounding social media use.

3. Case study examinations — 25-35 minutes

Distribute the social media marketing case studies. Have students read the case studies, complete the analysis worksheets and discuss in small groups. Consider using the case study rubric to grade this work.

4. Large class discussion — 15-20 minutes

Culminate the class period with discussion around the following questions:

  • What are some similarities and differences between how these journalists use social media for media marketing?
  • What are the most interesting thoughts you had or conclusions you drew from reading these case studies?
  • How does social media help you make connections with an audience?
  • What are the most effective ways to use social media to market a publication?
  • What are the most effective tools for branding in social media?
  • How should high school students go about starting social media accounts for their publications or improving their current social media usage?

Day 2

1. Teacher preparation — day before class starts

Before the lesson, create a generic class login for each social media platform you wish to introduce to students during the investigation portion of the lesson. This will save time and ensure all students are able to investigate all of the platforms. Post the class logins on the board.

2. Introduction and quick discussion — 5 minutes

Introduce lesson objectives and ascertain student background knowledge of social media by questioning students on their impressions of popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Given available time, students could discuss in pairs and then share with the class or the teacher could simply ask guided questions.

3. Why have social media? — 5 minutes

Explain that many types of social media exist, giving journalists multiple ways to use social media in reporting, but one of the most beneficial uses of social media is to draw readers to news websites.

4. Slideshow — 20 minutes

Distribute note-taking sheet and go through the slideshow, allowing ample time for questions and emphasizing how journalists can capitalize on the impact of social media on society.

5. Investigation activity introduction — 5 minutes

Introduce the investigation activity to students, explaining that they will examine professional journalists’ use of social media to drive readers to published online stories, videos or other interactive elements as a way to determine which social media platforms are the most suited to this task.

6. Work time — 25-35

Direct students to the logins you created for each social media platform and give them the rest of the period to work on the investigation and complete the accompanying worksheet.

Day 3

1. Work day — entire class

Remind students of the objectives and give them time to complete the investigation of the social media platforms. Students who finish early may move on to the processing activity. Students who do not finish must finish the investigation for homework.

Day 4

1. Student synthesis — entire class

Introduce the processing activity to students, explaining that they should synthesize the notes from their investigation and create a blog post, infographic or brochure that explains both how journalists can use social media to drive reader traffic to online content and demonstrates the pros and cons of at least three different social media platforms.

2. Homework assignment — only if needed

Students who do not finish must finish their blog post, infographic or brochure for homework.