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Unit of study_

MECO6936: Social Media Communication

Semester 2a, 2020 [Block mode] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit introduces the fundamentals of strategic social media use for professional and organisational communication, media practice and cultural production. It aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to become competent, ethical social media communicators and to critically analyse social media forms, services and cultures. Students will explore online, mobile and locative platforms for interacting with audiences, publics and online communities, including professional networks.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MECO6936
Academic unit Media and Communications
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Cherryldene Baylosis,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Weekly In Class Skills Application
In class activities
30% Ongoing
Due date: 17 Oct 2020 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO3
Assignment Analysis of a Social Media Campaign
20% Week 03
Due date: 11 Sep 2020 at 23:59
1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment group assignment Social Media Project
50% Week 07
Due date: 16 Oct 2020 at 23:59
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

More detailed information can be found in Canvas

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

High distinction students demonstrate outstanding levels of creativity, storytelling, technical competency and publishing ability. Their productions have a sophisticated approach towards social media by understanding audiences, platforms, content production and regulation. Their assignments demonstrate and draw on outstanding audience engagement techniques. Their content production demonstrates outstanding skills by correctly recording, capturing, manipulating and exporting social media content that adheres to industry standards. The theoretical integration from the course materials is outstanding and academically rigorous. The work exceeds the requirements of the assignments and could be commissioned by ‘real world’ clients. 


75 - 84

Distinction students demonstrate excellent levels of creativity, storytelling, technical competency and publishing ability. Their productions have a sophisticated approach towards social media by understanding audiences, platforms, content production and regulation. Their assignments demonstrate and draw on excellent audience engagement techniques. Their content production demonstrates excellent skills by correctly recording, capturing, manipulating and exporting social media content that adheres to industry standards. The theoretical integration from the course materials is excellent and academically rigorous. The work exceeds the requirements of the assignments. 


65 - 74

Credit students demonstrate good levels of creativity, storytelling, technical competency and publishing ability. Their productions have a well-rounded approach towards social media by understanding audiences, platforms, content production and regulation. Their assignments demonstrate and draw on good audience engagement techniques. Their content production demonstrates good skills by correctly recording, capturing, manipulating and exporting social media content that adheres to industry standards. The theoretical integration is present. The work demonstrates the requirements of the assignments. 


50 - 64

Pass students demonstrate minimal levels of creativity, storytelling, technical competency and publishing ability. Their productions have some understanding towards social media by understanding audiences, platforms, content production and regulation, but have been masked by some errors and problems. Their assignments demonstrate little to no audience engagement techniques. The theoretical integration is limited. The work minimally the requirements of the assignments. 


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 What's so social about social media? Seminar (3 hr)  
Week 02 Social media industry Seminar (3 hr)  
Week 03 Social media metrics and mobile innovations Seminar (3 hr)  
Week 04 Social media ethics and regulations Seminar (3 hr)  
Week 05 Social media practice Seminar (3 hr)  
Week 06 Futures of social media Seminar (3 hr)  
Week 07 Presentations Seminar (3 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.

  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.

  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings


Lecture [content]


What’s so social about social media? In this week’s introductory seminar, we will explore social media from a media and communications perspective, and from a market perspective that examines neoliberal rationales. As such, we will unpack concepts such as what does it mean to be social, what’s social about social media (aren’t all media social?), representation, online identity, publishing and self-representation. We will also investigate the concept of ‘platform’: social media platforms are a combination of many things including hosting provider, access enablers, curatorial tools, rule-maker, and amplifiers. Finally, we will begin to unpack what different forms of capital are present within culture, as a precursor to understanding intermediaries across social media.


Key Reading:

Lipschultz, J. H. (2018). Introduction to Social Media Concepts Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics (pp. 1-38). New York: Routledge.

Stevens, R., Gilliard-Matthews, S., Dunaev, J., Woods, M. K., & Brawner, B. M. (2017). The digital hood: Social media use among youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods. New Media & Society, 19(6), 950–967.

Leaver, T., Highfield, T., & Abidin, C. (2020). Platform Instagram (pp.8–38). Cambridge: Polity.

Additional Reading:

Bourdieu, P. (1983). The Forms of Capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 112-141). New York: Greenwood. Bonilla, Y., & Rosa, J. (2015). #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist, 42(1), 4–17.

Practical Exercises:

In our three-hour in-class seminar, we will develop our professional online identities by constructing our biographies and profile images. Through a selection process to reveal the appropriate professional platforms, we will then build our online professional profiles. We will also establish our Twitter profiles and join the Facebook page [] for MECO6936 to enable class interactivity for the remainder of the semester. We will also go through the editorial process of the class blog which is the central repository for all class content and publishing exercises.


Institutions and Social Media.

In week 2, we examine how social media is being used in a number of professional industries, especially journalism and public relations. In this context we will explore how content is both found and distributed across social media. For example, it makes sense for journalists to publish their work accordingly across a number of social media platforms, but are they able to use social media as a means to find journalism? Similarly, how might strategic communications professionals use social media to push and pull content? The lens of ‘produsage’ becomes important here, and we will explore participatory culture and understand the motivations behind users contributing to cultural production

schemes. What is user-created content? Why do projects and institutions engage crowd sourcing? How is collaboration played out through social media? We will also explore the agency of unseen actors such as interfaces, code, algorithms, and technology and power. Finally, we introduce the cultural intermediary as a key agent who operates across social media as a ‘capital translator’ – one who translate cultural capital into economic value, for example.

Key Reading:

Bishop, S. (2018). Anxiety, panic and self- optimization: Inequalities and the YouTube algorithm. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 24(1), 69-84.

Lipschultz, J. H. (2018). Social Media in Public Relations Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics (pp. 97-130). New York: Routledge.

Bailey, M. (2016). Redefining Representation. Screen Bodies, 1(1), 71–86.

Additional Reading:

Cotter, K. (2018). Playing the visibility game: How digital influencers and algorithms negotiate influence on Instagram. New Media & Society, 21(4), 895–913.

Seo, H., Houston, J. B., Knight, L. A. T., Kennedy, E. J., & Inglish, A. B. (2014). Teens' social media use and collective action. New Media & Society, 16(6), 883-902.

Practical Exercises:

Building on our professional online identity from last week, we will explore Hootsuite as a platform that connects services and provides basic data analysis. We will also schedule automated social media updating through its functionality and generate reports on key concepts such as ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’. We introduce basic social media analytics and explore why these are useful and how they guide social media strategies.


Social Media Metrics and Mobile Innovations

This week, we dive deeper into social media metrics and begin to critically examine metrics and analytics that surround social media communication. What are useful metrics in social media, and how might they be used for content production? How are platforms, advertisers and marketeers manipulating metrics to introduce false value? How can metrics be use for social good? With a background of social media metrics and analytics, we then turn our attention to mobile media to explore the impact mobile technologies have on social media communication. What are the industries that surround social media? How has Instagram created its own economy? How do entrepreneurs operate in these environments? This leads us to explore the importance of internet memes and how these cultural artefacts represent varying levels of cultural capital. We return to: who can translate this form of cultural capital?

Key Reading:

Lipschultz, J. H. (2018). Social Media Metrics and Analytics Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics (pp. 157-182). New York: Routledge.

Freelon, D. (2017). Campaigns in control: Analyzing controlled interactivity and message discipline on Facebook. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 14(2), 168–181.

Leaver, T., Highfield, T., & Abidin, C. (2020). Economies Instagram (pp.100–148). Cambridge: Polity.

Additional Reading:

Dijck, J. v. (2013). Facebook and the Imperative of Sharing The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Baym, N. (2012). Fans or Friends? Seeing Social Media Audiences as Musicians Do. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 9(2), 286 - 316.

Practical Exercises:

Design a social media strategy and design a user engagement strategy that will assist you in your final pieces of assessment. Having established your area of interest to develop your social media campaign, you will now build the strategy to engage your audience and users.


Social Media Ethics and Regulation

This week, we focus on the frameworks in which social media operate. We explore the complexities of regulating social media practice at the global, regional, and local perspectives. How do we provide safe and legal communication spaces across social media? What happens when things go awry? How do we monitor social media spaces to ensure there is equality and a variety of voices?

By looking at the recent Australian Digital Platforms Inquiry, it is possible to understand the complexities of operating in social media ecology.

We finally look at the role ‘digital’ intermediaries play within the social media landscape, with particular focus on multichannel networks (MCNs).

Key Reading:

Lipschultz, J. H. (2018). Social Media Ethics Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics (pp. 271-296). New York: Routledge.

Anne L. Washington and Rachel S. Kuo. 2020. Whose Side are Ethics Codes On? Power, Responsibility and the Social Good. In Proceedings of ACM Fairness Accountability Transparency conference (FAT’20). ACM, Barcelona, Spain, 10 pages.

ACCC. (2019). Executive Summary Digital Platforms Inquiry - Final Report(pp.4–29). Canberra.

Additional Reading:

Lobato, R. (2016). The cultural logic of digital intermediaries: YouTube multichannel networks. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22(4), 348-360.

Till, C. (2020). Propaganda through ‘reflexive control’ and the mediated construction of reality. New Media & Society, Online First, 1–17.


Research the three levels of social media regulation here in Australia (International, regional, and local regulations). Find a recent social media moment that is legally or ethically challenging, and begin to work through how you would resolve this situation under those regulatory processes. How might this differ if the same social media issue happened in China, or Brazil?

Find the work of a user spreading disinformation. Explore what they did, how they did it and what were the consequences of such an activity. Think through issues such as, were their activities illegal? Did they harm an individual or group of individuals? Did they demonstrate characteristics of culture jamming? Was there any benefit/implication of their actions?


Social Media Practice

In this week’s seminar, we use social media as a lens to rethink our practice. What might be considered ‘best practice’ for social media users? Given the regulatory discussions of last week, how is your thinking challenged by ‘best’ practice? How might we as social media producers embody best practice, and indeed transfer those practices to our managed communities?

We also look at how social media and cultural production is aligned with media organisations. Working on a best practice model, how do media organisations encourage users to engage with their material? Do they engage users to co-create material with them? How could we include this thinking into a social media strategy and/or campaign?

You are required to also watch the Merchants of Cool to understand how certain agents perform cultural translation tasks such as discovering fringe culture and converting that into the mainstream, i.e. “killing it” as one of the producers note. How might cultural intermediaries align/misalign with ‘cool hunters’?

Key Reading:

Lipschultz, J. H. (2018). Best Practices in Social Media Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics (pp. 297-318). New York: Routledge.

Hutchinson, J. (2017). Participation in Media Organizations Cultural intermediaries: Audience participation and media organisations (pp. 87-106). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Leaver, T., Highfield, T., & Abidin, C. (2020). Cultures Instagram (pp.149–173). Cambridge: Polity.


PBS. (2006). Merchants of Cool. Frontline. New York: PBS. Available at


Find a digital influencer on YouTube and another on Instagram. Undertake a content/discourse analysis on their pages to understand how they operate, what they produce, how/if they include the audience, and what the possible benefits are of their best practice? Indeed, what is their ‘best practice’?


Futures of Social Media

Each concept explored until this week has been building towards a summative understanding of how decentralised communication models operate. This is a complex scenario when combining participatory communicative activities and social media with organisations, considering organisations are tasked with eliminating group complexity and communicating a central message. As many of you will be moving on to social media roles within organisations, this is a chance to explore how many large-scale corporations use social media, both effectively and ineffectively, to involve their clients, employees, users and publics.

The students will explore the tensions between hierarchies and heterarchies, virtual worlds, open culture and institutional online communities.

This week is dedicated to exploring the futures of social media practice, with an emphasis on algorithmic culture. How are algorithms defining what we consume and how we produce material? How is this shaping our social discourse? What is the impact of algorithmic recommendation systems?

Key Reading:

Noble, S. U. (2016). Traversing Technologies. The Scholar & Feminist Online, 13(3), n.p.

Hutchinson, J. (2017). Algorithmic Culture and Cultural Intermediation Cultural Intermediaries: Audience participation and media organisations (pp. 201-220). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Leaver, T., Highfield, T., & Abidin, C. (2020). From the Instagram of Everything to the Everything of Instagram, Instagram (pp.191–217). Cambridge: Polity.

Additional Reading:

Hallinan, B., & Striphas, T. (2014). Recommended for you: The Netflix Prize and the production of algorithmic culture. New Media & Society, Online First, 1-21.

Lohmann, F. v. Your Intermediary is your Destiny. In M. Mandiberg (Ed.), The Social Media Reader (pp. 170 - 178). New York: New York University Press.


Explore the YouTube algorithm. How does it work? What is at play behind the algorithm? What resources online can you find to trick the algorithm (i.e. hacks)? What are the implications of the YouTube algorithm?


Students are asked to present their social media projects to the class. Additionally, we will explore WordPress as a content management system that facilitates an internal collaborative publishing tool.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. use social media technologies and practices
  • LO2. discuss critical perspectives on social media history, platforms, uses and cultures
  • LO3. investigate and design networked communications strategies
  • LO4. establish professional social media presences for a defined communications objective
  • LO5. create, curate, promote, discuss and evaluate social media campaigns and projects

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

We have condensed the assignments into a more digestible format based on last year's feedback, while including brand new literature from a number of sources including the new Instagram book by Leaver, Highfield and Abidin.

This unit is taught in intensive mode over 26 hours. This means that in addition to the weekly three–hour seminars held between weeks 1 through 7 inclusive, you will be expected to attend the one day (8 hour) session on Saturday in week 2. It is also expected that each week you will spend at least two hours reading and additional time on self-directed study. That study includes viewing social media platforms, taking notes, blogging, gaming, researching, interviewing, exploring tools and tutorials, and producing media content. 

You will need access to an internet-connected computer to access our e-learning site, Canvas, to complete your social media communication studies. This unit requires regular use of Canvas and many study and assessment tasks must be done through the site. The unit also uses Twitter discussions using the hashtag #UsydSocMed, where we will often have intensive question and answer sessions with industry practitioners, experts and researchers.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.