Similar to the computer revolution in the early 90s, social media and digital marketing have become common practice in businesses around the world.
With the rapid rise of companies developing social media campaigns and initiatives in order to effectively vie against their competitors; social media skills have become an unofficial prerequisite for many jobs across many industries and professions. A recent study found that while U.S. unemployment was around 8%, job postings requiring social media skills rose 87% from 2011 to 2012. Moreover, 73% of Fortune 500 companies now have company Twitter accounts and 66% have Facebook Pages.
Although these companies know that their success partly depends on the development and execution of use of social media strategies and tactics, many of them lack the capability to do so. In a survey conducted by The Harvard Business Review, surveyed 2,100 companies and 79% said they are utilizing social media in some capacity, but only 12% of those companies feel they are using it effectively.
As a direct result of the shift in business goals and culture, many academic institutions have acknowledged the importance of social media by creating programs and courses designed to educate students seeking to attain these valuable skills. While social media classes and programs are often scrutinized for being broad and not effective or thorough, some universities are leading the way by offering dynamic course offerings that address the ever-growing social media industry.
Syracuse University is a trailblazer in the digital meets academia trend and offers several social media courses such as “Social Media U Need 2 Know” and “Social Media Theory and Practice.” “Students with social media certification are getting better jobs and internships,” says Dr. William Ward, professor at Syracuse University. “Those who harness social communications are in high demand and have an advantage.” In conjunction with Dr. Ward, the social media courses are geared to place students at an advantage when competing for jobs.
Other leading universities have also embraced the need for social education. New York University, Georgetown and the University of Washington all have undergraduate and graduate courses available for enhancing the online knowledge of their students to help them succeed in the workforce. Social media marketing is a top course studied at Columbia Business School. The course familiarizes students with best social media practices and strategies for business and entrepreneurship.
Winner of the PR Week “Education Program of the Year” award, the Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University incorporates digital and social media practices throughout the program. The school offers over eight classes that focus on the practical application of digital practices in public relations and include Content Creation Management: Digital Storytelling, Social Media for Social Causes, Advanced Digital Communication Strategies and Global Communication in Social Media. The university also completed a cause marketing study, in partnership with Ogilvy PR, suggesting best practices for integrating digital and traditional tools to effectively reach audiences.
University of Washington
The University of Washington offers a Certificate in Social Media Technologies and Implementation which allows students to gain hands-on experience with a range of social media tools and platforms, and discover the benefits and challenges of user-driven content and technologies. The nine-month program helps both unfamiliar and somewhat savvy students learn the fundamentals of social media with the course Social Media Platform and Tools, by learning the history of social media and basics of using various platforms. The university also offers programs in online marketing, digital publishing, mobile business strategy and editing social media.
Columbia Business School
The Business school offers a class called “Social Media and Entrepreneurship” explores the growth potential, revenue models, marketing methods, funding strategies and product design of social technology. Based on the course syllabus, students spend time examining the online successes and mishaps of social media startups, consumer behaviors and industry shifts, as well as studying social media measurement tools and marketing tactics. The course allows students to test course theories with practical applications in the real world as they develop and execute social marketing strategies, interact with startup founders and venture capitalists, and ultimately create a digital presentation that analyzes their experience.
The numbers clearly show that social media is more than just a trend. The merger of digital practices into a company’s integrated marketing strategy is fundamental to their overall success and most certainly has an impact on their bottom line. More and more companies are seeking social media savvy applicants, job seekers are looking to attain such skills to remain competitive and colleges and universities are capitalizing on this trend by offering innovative programs and courses that seek to develop and produce first-in-class social media professionals.