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As a follow-on to last night’s work with social network application development,  today’s sections of my MIS class were devoted to walking the class through the systems development process for social network applications.  We talked about the textbook case from Experiencing MIS (2nd Ed.) to identify the case company’s business needs.  Then we investigated key terms around viral marketing and viral hooks. After introducing the concept of viral distribution, I asked the class to generate a list of things that make something (like a YouTube video) potentially viral.  Concepts like funny, scary, emotional, unique, easy-to-share, educational, and politically charged came up.

We then spent some time looking at examples online of viral marketing campaigns including the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and its derivatives, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, Starburst’s Berries and Cream ad, the Embrace Life seat belt PSA as well as wing suit base jumpers.  After comparing and contrasting these, we talked about how good viral efforts need to do more than just “create buzz.” They also need to be able to support the organizations strategic goals (e.g., did Old Spice actually make money?).

To help students understand what social networking applications are for, we looked into the Facebook Application Directory and looked at friend quizzes, Trip Advisor’s map sharing application, and a variety of Facebook games including Farmville, Frontierville, and Social City.  I talked about the business model for these types of applications and discussed some of the ideas in my two previous posts.  Afterward, I assigned the students to take 5-10 minutes to browse applications on Facebook to get ideas for how MRV (the textbook case company) might use the functionality available through social networking platforms and to list some possible applications that could be inspirational for an MRV, “Let’s go rafting” application.

As I went around the classroom, I joked it was difficult to tell whether the students were on task or simply playing games and watching videos.  We got some useful examples and the exercise led to an interesting (but too short) discussion about different options for such an application. Across both sections some of the ideas included, using a Facebook Page instead of an application to focus on community development among existing and potential customers, using a rafting game to generate experience points that can be converted to discounts or promotional items, using an application as a travelogue tool to track where people have been and to share photos, videos, and narratives of the experience, and creating an application to identify interest in potential rafting sites and to plan future expeditions.

Overall, I think today’s exercise was worthwhile. I wanted my students to understand how fuzzy and complicated systems definition and requirements analysis can be. My biggest challenge today, I think, was estimating how much time everything was going to take. We could easily spend a full week on an exercise like this.  So today’s activity didn’t feel completed, but we have to move on next week.  Hopefully over time, I’ll get a better feeling for how much can be accomplished in a single class period.

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