Social media has taken the business world by storm for those that understand how to use it to benefit their organisation. While many people have a Facebook or Twitter account, it seems that using social media effectively for business is much harder. Writing for Social Media Today, Cory Edwards (2015) explains that: “Many look to hire millennials to build and run a new social media programme.”
They do this because millennials appear to have a better natural understanding of social media than the rest of us. However, it is also argued that using social media for business is very different than for personal use. This has led to the growth of social media degrees. However, there is still much debate over the value (or not) of doing such a degree.
It may be argued that people who are going to work in social media marketing can benefit from an understanding in depth of wider concepts of marketing and communications, as well as how to strategize for social media use. Nonetheless, there are a variety of arguments against getting such a degree. As explained, one of the main one of these is that real world experience is given to be of greater use. This may be true, but developing an understanding social media strategy can also be achieved through a degree level of teaching. Some universities are already showing how this is the case. For example, at the University of Michigan it is possible to learn the key concepts behind creating a marketing campaign which includes various aspects of social media management, such as analytics, paid content, social content writing, earned media and social measurement, among others. Additionally Brigham Young University has created social media classes for both undergraduate and MBA programmes. With these classes the emphasis is on how to engage customers and achieve social listening. It is believed that where both of these options add value is in enabling students to gain real-world experience through simulating a situation they might find themselves in at work.
Another common argument against social media courses at the university level is that social media changes extremely regularly. This makes it harder to teach and harder for programmes to keep right up to date. However, the fact of the matter is that technology is changing the face of pretty much all industry. This is not a good reason to not offer social media as a degree subject. For any subject curriculum developers have to keep up with change these days, and the focus should be on the need for the changes that are happening in social media.
Others argue that social media will at some stage not be a job in its own right but will become a part of the organisation as a whole. The proponents of this theory argue that social media will no longer be what is described as a “bolt on” task for marketing teams. It is argued that organisations should be “social by design” with everyone in the organisation, including the CEO being involved in these types of activities. This is explained to require driving the workforce to become ambassadors for the organisation’s brand who help to encourage sales and make others feel positive about the brand.
Nonetheless there is still the need for people who have special social media skills that can create strategy or measure, analyse and implement campaigns.The programmes that have already been described are not the only ones available for social media. There are other options available, including one at the Austin Community College in Texas which allows students to study for a certificate in social media communication, or alternatively a two year degree course. There is also an option at Rutgers University which describes itself as a mini MBA. This is focused intensively on social media marketing, and costs almost $5,000 for nine classes. The following video explains how this mini MBA works:
Additionally, students at the University of Florida are able to secure a master’s degree in mass communication and can specialise in social media studies. At the same university there is also the option to take a four course graduate certificate programme in social media. By focusing on the fundamentals of tracking, measurement and content, students of these degree courses are setting themselves up for the future.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.