NYU Stern School of Business

Undergraduate College

MULT-UB.0037.001 (C70.0037): Electronic Communities

Spring 2012

Instructor Details

Sosulski, Kristen


(212) 998-0994

Wednesdays 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Tisch 509


I am also available for office hours by appointment.


Course Meetings

TR, 2:00pm to 3:15pm

Tisch T-UC15


Course Description and Learning Goals


Watch this video for a preview of the course


An eCommunity is defined as a group of people organized online around a topic or issue.  In this course, students will be introduced to the landscape of online communities and social networks.

Examples and case studies of online communities will be discussed and analyzed to identify the characteristics of effective communities and methods for evaluation. Students will review and interact with several online platforms used to design, develop and maintain online community. Students will use this knowledge to design and/or redesign an online community for a business client. Student will work in teams with a small business owner or organization leader to analyze their online community presence, their competitors, and propose and maybe implement a new online community strategy. 

To provide cutting edge perspectives several industry professionals will be invited to lead class discussions on special topics.  Guest speakers in the past included Helen Todd, founder of SocialitySquared Christian Erhardt, V.P. of Marketing @ Leica, Angie Gentile, Assistant Marketing Manager for the Mountain Dew Brand @ PepsiCo, Lauren Drell, Assistant Editor @ Mashable and Community Manager for Luke’s Lobster, Erica Swallow, Assistant Editor @ Mashable, Dina Gold, Account Manager @ Facebook, and Eric Friedman, Business Development Manager @ FourSquare.

Why is this important?

New technological innovations have changed the way we communicate, cooperate, collaborate, and share. According to Nielsen Online (2009), 74% of the North American population has Internet access for a total of approximately 1.7 billion Internet users worldwide. “Until recently, the Internet was largely an information medium. However, in the last couple of years, the Internet has become increasingly social” (Weinburg, 2009, p. 3). There are a substantial number of users participating in large, Web-based groups outside of the work context. Many are organized around recreation and entertainment; some are organized around civic and political issues; some are organized around personal needs for support or advice; some are organized around technical topics; and some are organized around consumer products.  With the growth in open-source technologies, social media, and advanced collaboration tools it is evident that these groups can be shaped into a source of business revenue. According to McGracken (2010), “The digital space is an economy after all. People are creating, exchanging and capturing value, as they would in any marketplace. But this is a gift economy, where the transactions are shot through with cultural content and creation. In a gift economy, value tends to move not in little "tit for tat" transactions, but in long loops, moving between consumers before returning, augmented, to the corporation” (¶ 8).

Prior to the introduction of the World Wide Web, community feedback to individuals and companies flowed one way. “The popularity of the Internet enables communication – both positive and negative – to flow continuously from an individual to its community of customers and then back again” (Powell, 2009, p. 69).  This is made even more seamless with the rich set of Web 2.0 technologies available.

This change in community-based communication and feedback presents enormous business opportunities and threats. Throughout this course students will explore the characteristics of online communities, discuss the issues surrounding online communities and evaluate the best practices in participating and managing online communities.


By the end of the course students will be able to


Course Pre-Requisites



Course Outline

 All readings and assignments are due at the beginning of the class for which they are assigned. The course outline is subject to change. All changes will be announced in class.

Week 1: January 24 & 26 - Introduction to the course and elements of online communities

Class 1



  • Course overview
  • Syllabus review
  • An introduction to online communities for business

Class 2



  • Channels, forms, and types of electronic communities

In class activity (computer required)

  • Pick a product, service, or brand. Find it's direct, managed, and participating communities. 



Week 2: January 31 & February 2: People and engagement in Online Communities

Class 3



  • Types of users in online communities and their activities
  • Use cases of typical interactions in online communities
  • Measures of interaction (e.g. impressions, CTR, etc.)


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 3 – The social technographics profile
  • Dr. Antell case study

Assignment 1 Due - It's about people

In class activity

  • In class activity: Advice for Dr. Antell

Class 4



  • Course client presentations and selections
  • Client selection due before midnight on Feb 2

Week 3: February 7 & 9: Managed online community platforms

Class 5



  • Managed communities: Social Networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+), Blogs (Tumblr, Blogger, Wordpress), Microblogs (Twitter), and GeoLocation networks (FourSquare)
  • Managed rich content communities: Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Quora
  • Discussion of the power of mobile in community activities
  • Topical apps (e.g. MyFitnessPal, Nike + iPod, etc.)

In class activity (computer required)

  • Analysis and metrics for media rich managed communities. Work with your team to determine the baseline social media presence for your client. 


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 2 – Jujitsu and the technologies of the groundswell

Assignment 2 Due - Brand Observation

Class 6



  • Facebook for companies
  • Guest speaker, Helen Todd (Sociality Squared) and Cristian Ernhardt (Lieca) will speak about social media from an agency and a client persepective. Helen will also talk about advance strategies for using Facebook for business.


Week 4: February 14 & 16 – More on Managed Communities and Participating Communities

Class 7


  • Participating communities: Collaborative informational websites, Forums/bulletin boards (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon Reviews)

In class activity (computer required)

  • Each group selects a participating site and analyzes the types of responses possible. 

Assignment 3 Due - Technology try out

Class 8


  • Google + for companies
  • Guest speaker, Judith David, Senior Strategist and Social Specialist @ Google

Week 5: February 21  & February 23 – POST method and strategies for planning and creating online communities

Class 9 & 10


  • POST Method
  • An introduction to strategies for listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing

In class activity (computer required)

  • In your team, apply the POST method to your client's business.



  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 4 – Strategies for tapping the groundswell

Week 6: February 28 & March 1 – Strategies for listening and talking within online communities

Class 11


  • Monitoring managed and participating communities for your company and your competitors


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 5 – Listening to the groundswell

Class 12


  • How businesses interact with their communities


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 6 – Talking to the groundswell

Week 7: March 6 & 8 – Project presentations and how to energize the groundswell

Class 13


  • Team project presentations: Community site analysis

Team project 1, presentation, and peer assessment due: March 6

Class 14


  • Energizing the groundswell. Examples from several industries.


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 7 – Energizing the groundswell

Week 8: Spring Break: March 12 -18

Week 9: March 20 & 22 – Supporting and embracing the groundswell

Class 15


  • Supporting as a groundswell activity
In class activity (computers required)
  • Mid-semester course evaluation


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 8 – Helping the groundswell support itself

Class 16


  • Embracing as a groundswell activity
  • Examples of embracing online communities by sector


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 9 – Embracing the groundswell

Week 10: March 27 & 29 – Groundswell customer service

Class 17


  • Online customer service. Examples from BestBuy, Dell, and JetBlue

Assignment 4 due


Class 18


  • Using Highly Empowered Resourceful Operatives (HEROS) to deliver groundswell customer service.


  • Review Luke Lobster's and Mountain Dew's online communities and post questions for Lauren Drell and Angie Gentile on our Facebook Group.

Week 11: April 3 & 5 – Online community management

Class 19


  • The community manager
  • Identity and membership
  • Developing purpose
  • Building and maintaining community

Guest speakers

  • Angie Gentile, Mountain Dew
  • Lauren Drell, Mashable & Luke’s Lobster

Individual reading practicum due: April 3

Class 20


  • Managing growth
  • Developing an editorial calendar and content strategy

In class activity

  • Identify and define the tools, resources, and time needed to manage your client’s community. Draft a content calendar.


Week 12: April 10 & 12 – Analytics, metrics, and ROI

Class 21


  • Monitoring the conversation
  • Listening Tools (Google Alerts, Social Mention, Technorati, etc).

Class 22


  • Metrics and tools for measuring engagement (Facebook insights, Google Analytics)
  • Calculating ROI



Week 13: April 17 & April 19 – Social Operations

Class 23


  • Online community rules
  • Governance (user-generated content)
  • Developing a social media policy
  • Social media etiquette


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 10: How connecting with the groundswell transforms your company

Class 24


  • Beyond a marketing focus. Social media as a company wide endeavor.

In class activity (computers required)

  • Draft a social media policy for your client based on the examples shown in class


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 11: The groundswell inside your company

Assignment 5 due

Week 14: April 24 & April 26 – Building Communities for B2B companies and Social Issues/Causes and final project presentations

Class 25


  • Social media for business to business
  • Social media for social issue or causes (fundraising, raising awareness)


Class 26


  • Team project presentations - Online community design/redesign


Week 15: May 1 – The future of the groundswell - OPTIONAL SESSION



  • Synthesis and wrap-up


  • (Li & Bernoff) Chapter 12: The future of groundswell


Required Course Materials


All books are available for purchase in the NYU Bookstore

Li, C. and Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
$29.95 @ Amazon.
Also available for purchase in the NYU Bookstore

Select one of the following books to review:

  1. Aaker, J. & Smith, A. (2010). The dragonfly effect: Quick, effective, and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change. San Francisco: Jossey-     Bass.
  2. Bernoff, J. & Schadler, T. (2010). Empowered: Unleash your employees, energize your customers, transform your business. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
  3. Israel, S. (2009). Twitterville: How businesses can thrive in the new global neighborhoods. New York: Penguin Group.
  4. Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: Penguin Group.
  5. Weinberg, T. (2009). The new community rules:  Marketing on the social web. Sebastopol: O’Reilly.

Articles and Case Studies

Articles and case studies will be assigned for specific weeks. Articles and case studies will be posted on Blackboard for the week they are assigned).  Examples include: 

Facebook Group

For news and events relevant to social media, please post on our Facebook Academic Group. To join, login to facebook and go to: http://www.facebook.com/groups/sternec/


Course materials will be available via Blackboard. All assignments are to submitted via Blackboard.

Your Computer

During the dates indicated in the syllabus, please bring your computer to class to complete the in class activities.


Assessment Components


Class Participation and Attendance


Team Projects and Presentations 


Individual Reading Practicum       


Assignments (5)



All grades are posted in the online course grade book in Blackboard. Students will lose ten points off their assignment grade for any assignment submitted late. Late assignments must be submitted directly to me via email.

 Class Participation and Attendance (10%)

Class attendance is essential to your success in this course.  Under the guidelines of the Stern School, class attendance is part of a student’s grade.  If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to make it up. Attending class is defined as being present and on time during class meetings, actively contributing to class discussions, and fully participating in class activities. This requires that students read the assigned readings due for each class. This is to ensure that the student contributions are informed and expand the discussion. Students are encouraged to share their experiences relevant to the class topic.

An excused absence can only be granted in cases of serious illness, grave family emergencies, or religious observance and must be documented. Job interviews and incompatible travel plans are considered unexcused absences. Where possible, please notify me in advance of an excused absence.

In-class contribution is a significant part of your grade and an important part of our shared learning experience. Your active participation helps me to evaluate your overall performance.

You can excel in this area if you come to class on time and contribute to the course by:


Team Projects and Presentations (50%)

Each student is assigned to work with a single team throughout the semester. Each team works on two projects and presentations together. Team assignments are made during the second week of the course.

Each team of 3 to 4 students will work on a real project for a client. The course clients are typically small business owners, director's of programs or organizations.  During the semester, teams will work with their clients to identify opportunities for their businesses within the world of social technologies. You’ll work with your client to develop a strategy for online community development. Next, you’ll provide their client with a set of approaches, examples, and next steps that are actionable. The goal is to present the client with several ways to leverage social media/eCommunities to listen, connect, and talk with customers/business people to reach business objectives. 

Individual Reading Practicum(15%) – Due 4/3

Write a 4 to 6 page paper critiquing any of the books (from the optional reading list) and applying the book to an online community issue, problem, or opportunity.

The critique must include:

  1. An abstract, summary, or synopsis to summarize the essential contents and main ideas.
  2. A thorough discussion of the author's theme (main underlying idea), purpose, and methods of development;
  3. A discussion of the relationship between the work being reviewed and other works in the field and those readings discussed in class.
  4. Evaluation of the work, clearly presented and well-supported
  5. Application to an online community issue, problem, or opportunity

The paper must meet the following requirements:

Upload your paper to Blackboard > Assignments > Reading Practicum. Please name the file with your lastname_firstname.doc or .docx.


Assignments (25%)

There are five graded assignments for this course. Details will be provided in class and assignment descriptions will be posted to Blackboard. All assignments must be submitted via Blackboard. Ten points will be deducted for late assignments.

1/31: Assignment 1 due (before class) - It’s about people

2/7:  Assignment 2 due (before class) - Brand Observation

2/14: Assignment 3 due (before class) - Technology Try out

3/27: Assignment 4 due (before class) - Building a Social Media Toolkit

4/19: Assignment 5 due (before class) - Social Media ROI


Group Projects

Guidelines for Group Projects

Business activities involve group effort. Consequently, learning how to work effectively in a group is a critical part of your business education.

Every member is expected to carry an equal share of the group’s workload. As such, it is in your interest to be involved in all aspects of the project. Even if you divide the work rather than work on each piece together, you are still responsible for each part. The group project will be graded as a whole:   its different components will not be graded separately.

It is recommended that each group establish ground rules early in the process to facilitate your joint work including a problem-solving process for handling conflicts. In the infrequent case where you believe that a group member is not carrying out his or her fair share of work, you are urged not to permit problems to develop to a point where they become serious. If you cannot resolve conflicts internally after your best efforts, they should be brought to my attention and I will work with you to find a resolution.

You will be asked to complete a peer evaluation form to evaluate the contribution of each of your group members (including your own contribution) at the conclusion of each project. If there is consensus that a group member did not contribute a fair share of work to the project, I will consider this feedback during grading.



At NYU Stern we seek to teach challenging courses that allow students to demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter.  In general, students in undergraduate core courses can expect a grading distribution where: 

Note that while the School uses these ranges  as a guide, the actual distribution for this course and your own grade will depend upon how well  you actually perform in this course.



The process of assigning grades is intended to be one of unbiased evaluation. Students are encouraged to respect the integrity and authority of the professor’s grading system and are discouraged from pursuing arbitrary challenges to it.

If you believe an inadvertent error has been made in the grading of an individual assignment or in assessing an overall course grade, a request to have the grade re-evaluated may be submitted. You must submit such requests in writing to me within 7 days of receiving the grade, including a brief written statement of why you believe that an error in grading has been made.


Professional Responsibilities For This Course




In-class contribution is a significant part of your grade and an important part of our shared learning experience. Your active participation helps me to evaluate your overall performance.
You can excel in this area if you come to class on time and contribute to the course by:




Classroom Norms


Stern Policies

General Behavior
The School expects that students will conduct themselves with respect and professionalism toward faculty, students, and others present in class and will follow the rules laid down by the instructor for classroom behavior.  Students who fail to do so may be asked to leave the classroom. 


Collaboration on Graded Assignments
Students may not work together on graded assignment unless the instructor gives express permission. 


Course Evaluations
Course evaluations are important to us and to students who come after you.  Please complete them thoughtfully.


Academic Integrity

Integrity is critical to the learning process and to all that we do here at NYU Stern. As members of our community, all students agree to abide by the NYU Stern Student Code of Conduct, which includes a commitment to:

The entire Stern Student Code of Conduct applies to all students enrolled in Stern courses and can be found here:

Undergraduate College: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/uc/codeofconduct
Graduate Programs: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/studentactivities/involved.cfm?doc_id=102505

To help ensure the integrity of our learning community, prose assignments you submit to Blackboard will be submitted to Turnitin.  Turnitin will compare your submission to a database of prior submissions to Turnitin, current and archived Web pages, periodicals, journals, and publications.  Additionally, your document will become part of the Turnitin database.


Recording of Classes

Your class may be recorded for educational purposes


Students with Disabilities

If you have a qualified disability and will require academic accommodation of any kind during this course, you must notify me at the beginning of the course and provide a letter from the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD, 998-4980, www.nyu.edu/csd) verifying your registration and outlining the accommodations they recommend.  If you will need to take an exam at the CSD, you must submit a completed Exam Accommodations Form to them at least one week prior to the scheduled exam time to be guaranteed accommodation.


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