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Follow 50+ MBA Level Case Studies in Content and Inbound Marketing


I, Bill Belew, wondered to myself, what if I could get a bunch of, say 50+ MBA-level students together in a classroom setting and have them take content and inbound marketing serious? Could I learn something? What would I learn?

More prone to acting than just sitting around and thinking about things, I approached a university in the Bay Area of Silicon Valley about offering a course on content and inbound marketing in their MBA program. They hopped right on it and a class called – Marketing with Social Media – was born.

On the first day of class 65, count ’em, of  74 enrolled students showed up. The other nine students missed class for one reason or the other and are playing catch up.

There were some 16 hours of instructions over two days on the first of three weekends for a full 48-hour course.

The university allows that students be given two hours of outside-the-classroom, I think that’s called homework, for every one hour in the class room

Think big smile! I gave my students 96 hours of work EACH to do on their web sites.

Calculator says – 96 hours x 74 students = 7,200 hours of dedicated effort to creating good, meaningful, original content on brand spanking new web sites.

Give or take a few dropped students and some overachievers and I am reasonably expecting at least some 5,000-6000+ hours of, ahem, quality (more on the challenges in future articles) work to be done in a variety of niches on different blogs by business-minded content creators who have a vested interest in their sites. Vested interest = they will fail the class if they don’t do what I require or they really want to launch a business idea that they have been mulling over and they are using the class to do that.

15 questions I want answered:

  1. Are short articles better than longer ones? And for whom or for what?
  2. How long should articles be?
  3. Is it better to post once a day, multiple times a day, weekly?
  4. What about linking internally to one’s own site?
  5. What about linking externally to other quality sites?
  6. What’s a good reasonable strategy for acquiring back links from other sites?
  7. Can my students get mojo if they link to each other and there is a relevance to the sites that are linked together?
  8. What about images? Captions? Descriptions?
  9. Do some niches perform better than others when starting out? When already established?
  10. What about traffic from the other social networks?
  11.  Inbound traffic – is it better coming from search, referrals, direct, paid or the social networks?
  12.  What are some of the challenges, lessons learned when going from zero to 65 people online working on creating quality content for marketing purposes?
  13.  Is content marketing a good strategy to generate revenue from impressions, for selling affiliate products, for offering services, for local, national or global traffic?
  14.  Is getting a group like this together to create a network even copacetic?
  15. And what about plugins? Are some better than others? Are there some that are more important than others? Are there some that are essential?

I expect to KNOW as oppose to guess at the answers to many of these questions above as well as to questions I haven’t even thought to ask yet, which is why I’ll end this article with some questions for the reader.

5 questions I want to ask you:

  1. What if you were me?
  2. What would you do with this class?
  3. Where would you start?
  4. What would you teach?
  5. What kinds of requirements would you make of them?

Please meet me in the comments and let me know your answers.

Consider following this series as I provide insights, lessons learned, victories and failures (if you promise not to judge) from the case studies generated in and out of this class.

3 Steps for those who want in on the content marketing discussion:

Step 1 -Subscribe to this NMX blog to get updates when they come out here.


Step 2 – Subscribe to the Bill Belew.com/blog to get more immediate updates from me at my home site.

Step 3 – Read the inbound and content marketing students experiences first hand. The students are giving weekly updates in the Guest Writer category. Oftentimes, you might read about their experiences BEFORE I do. That’s right. My editors might push them through before I see them.

PLEASE: If my students blast me in one of their posts before I see it, let me know. 😎


  • Maria Peagler

    Bill – as a social media trainer, this experiment is fascinating to me. Here’s my input:

    What if you were me?

    I would give each student the same specifications, and allow them to choose one variable. That way, you’ll get more scientific results. For example, each one should create a blog using WordPress, offer both RSS and email subscriptions, post x times weekly, post 5 types of content (I would specify what), and measure results. Within those parameters, students could change one variable to see what kind of results they get.

    What would you do with this class?

    I wouldn’t expect hugely measureable results over 3 weekends. It takes a long time to see results from blogging and three weekends just isn’t enough. I would experiment with blogs that combine social media and those that don’t, and see the different results.

    Where would you start?

    Content, inbound marketing, and social media are really 3 completely separate topics. So you first need to decide what the priority is. I would focus on content first (since all results hinge on content quality), social media second, and inbound marketing third.

    What would you teach?

    3 weekends isn’t a lot (I know I keep saying that, but if you try to cover everything you’ll overwhelm your students. Ask me how I know this!) I would teach using existing case studies to show what type of content performs best, what quality inbound links are and how to get them, and how to formulate a solid social media strategy.

    What kinds of requirements would you make of them?

    Create a simple blog using WordPress.
    Offer email subscriptions and RSS
    Blog 3x per week.
    Post using different content types: articles, video, infographics, interviews.
    Set up a social media strategy and identify which social network offers your best wins.
    Link to your blog posts on that social network.
    Identify a strategic network of 5-10 contacts who can help achieve your business goals, and create relationships with them so they’ll link to your content.

    Measure your results using social media insights and Google Analytics.

    Good luck Bill. I look forward to hearing your results.

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