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Social Media 101:
Understanding Ads & Audiences 

digital ethnography for entrepreneurs & organizations

Reading Corner

I've been studying digital cultures for over a decade.* 

In 2011, I completed a Master's thesis on a digital community. 

In 2014, my dissertation proposal on communicative habits in an online subculture was approved.


In 2015, I started freelancing as a social media analyst and manager. I worked first with a nonprofit arts organization whose executive director asked me one question: Could what I learned about audiences through academic study be applied to improving community outreach? 

It turned out the answer was yes. 

I kept it up, adding new clients on the short term here and there –– and in February 2020, I defended my doctoral dissertation (With/In Limits: Play as Practice in the Digital Vernacular).


With a Ph.D. after my name –– and finally free from the daily grind of dissertation writing –– I set my sights on expanding my client list.

I worked on two local political campaigns in the Fall of that year (hint: one of my advisees is now the mayor), and kept after the freelance work, adapting the research methodology I developed to support my dissertation for community and commercial use. 

my background

There's an old saying. Maybe you've heard it: 

"Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime."

Because of that freelance hustle, I came into contact with a wide array of people who clearly needed my services –– the sharp jump in engagements and the opportunities for sustained growth that come from applying ethnographic methods, rather than conventional marketing strategies, to digital audiences. But these people, entrepreneurs or small business owners or freelancers like myself, largely couldn't afford what I would have to charge to conduct a systematic review of their existing audiences, locate their preferred audiences, and pull together an analysis of the results with enough depth to inform a fine-tuned reinvigoration of their outreach strategy.


They also wouldn't be able to hire me to come back and conduct the necessary review and adjustments every time their digital audience shifted. 


And there were far more of them than I could possibly help, all on my own, for free. 

Did I mention I'm also a college professor?
I built this course to be a college freshman-level (that's the 101) introduction to digital ethnography for advertising. 

I can't, realistically, fix everybody's social media problems.

But I can damn sure teach you the basic principles that have driven my clients' CTRs over 8% (cross-industry averages run 2-5%) ... and I can show you why ads are part of a sustained strategy for organic growth, not an alternative to it. 

I can explain why "engagements" are not just other people's responses to your "content" ... they are how you participate as a member of a community. 


I can teach you how to put the "social" back in social media and rethink the digital marketplace so you aren't thrown by every new algorithm change, or constantly chasing the next influencer trend. 

Young Accountant

I can't honestly say that the course will be "cheap" or "easy" ... but it's a lot cheaper than losing your business for lack of sales, and it's a lot more satisfying than taking the easy route to, well, anywhere.

This course teaches ... 
  • the basics of data collection (so you aren't guessing about who your audience is and what those folks are up to)

  • how to ask useful questions to inform your marketing (let's go ahead and call it "outreach") strategy

  • why paid ads aren't always your best option

  • how to figure out when to USE those ads (plus how to set them up when it's time)

  • what ELSE to do (besides running ads)

This course will teach you why conventional "advertising" strategies developed for mass media will always be an inefficient and expensive way to operate in the digital marketplace. 

It will also teach you what to do instead.

The course could be useful for any small business owner ... but I set it up to begin Sept 1st and end the Thursday before Thanksgiving, just in time for holiday shopping season.

... so if you have a product-based business (or any business that aims for holiday sales), you should finish the course on Nov. 17th with your 2nd ad campaign –– incorporating all the troubleshooting we did on the first round, using audience targeting options based on your own research -- ready to roll for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all those shopping dates that lead to the winter solstice and the gifting season at the turning of the year.

course objectives

Week One: Who Needs Your X?

Week Two: Understanding Your Existing Audience


Week Three: Recognizing Who Doesn't
Need Your X


Week Four; Intra- Audience Diversity


Week Five: Creating a Content Calendar


Week Six: No Group Session; 1-on-1 Work

Week Seven: Paid Ads & How to Place Them

Week Eight: Understanding Ad + Audience Metrics

Week Nine: All Part of the Plan

Week Ten: No Group Session; 1-on-1

Week Eleven: Telling Strangers Who You Are

Week Twelve: One Last Time

Because this course is explicitly designed to serve a community of small business owners, nonprofit organizers, and entrepreneurs who are not in a position to pay an expert consultant to review their digital outreach and provide recommendations, I am offering registrations in a set of competitively-priced packages to meet the broadest set of needs possible. 

Registration packages are available: 

- by the week (due each Tuesday, August 30th-November 15th)

- by the month (due 30th of each month, August-October)

- by the program (single payment, due August 30th)

Please understand that pricing is calculated to the minimum necessary to cover the time I will spend preparing the group sessions and supporting your individual social media projects as you put the course concepts into action throughout the program.


My expectation, based on several years of prior experience in teaching research and analysis, is that my part of the course will constitute a time investment of roughly four hours per student per week –– substantial even for a college seminar. 

This isn't my first time around the track, so I also expect that somebody (probably several people) will nonetheless complain about the cost.

Per my calculations, for course members who subscribe to the monthly plan I will earn about $15/hour ... before any of my expenses in setup or hosting are calculated.

Cashiers at Hobby Lobby earn $17/hour. 

What's the cost of reimagining your digital future?

The basic course design works like this:

Thursdays, 9pm CT

one-hour live session

(I'll introduce a concept, we'll discuss, you'll do some guided practice while I'm there to check your work; as the "semester" progresses, we'll also use this time for group troubleshooting on common problems)

Sundays, 9pm CT

first round of mid-week "homework" assignments

(you'll put the Thursday night concepts into practice on your own LIVE social media accounts, developing your strategies in real time; I'll respond with feedback and suggestions by Monday night)

Tuesdays, 9pm CT

second round of mid-week assignments 

(you'll incorporate my feedback on Sunday's homework AND take your growing strategy to its next step so that your accounts are primed to use the concepts coming up on Thursday ... and I'll give you another round of feedback, with tips for short-term improvement and long-term implementation)


up to 90 minutes per student* of one-on-one, personalized support and assistance, on everything from
  • technical problems (what IS up with Facebook's disappearing video titles, anyway??)

  • confusing data (why do the humans act this way????)

  • last-minute panic attacks (we've all been there)


*available by email, or feel free to use the website's "members chat" function - that's why it's there! 

... oh yeah, that reminds me. You ALSO get a free site subscription, with access to virtual Q&A, social media and web design tips, the community forum, and other cool $h!t for the duration of the course. 
course design
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