The New York Times recently reported on a study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.” The NYT summarizes the report by stating that “improved communication and collaboration from social media in four major business sectors could add $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value to the economy.”

Regardless of whatever future economic impact social media may represent, no one can deny that widespread adoption has occurred across virtually every industry. While many non-marketers are carving out successful careers in internet marketing, colleges and universities have begun offering undergraduate degrees in social media marketing specifically – creating excitement among undergrads who wish to pursue careers that will allow them to create content, deploy digital campaigns and measure analytics.

Empty ClassroomCurrent Offerings

Southern New Hampshire University offers a Social Media Marketing degree that boasts “access to the theory, history and application of using social media in a marketing context.” Their course listing includes: Marketing Research, Consumer Behavior, Advertising Copy and Design and Introduction to Supply Chain Management.

The School of Informatics at the University of Michigan offers a unique “Social Computing” program that includes: Introduction to Social Psychology, Models of Social Information Processing, Evaluation of Systems and Services and eCommunities: Analysis & Design of Online Interaction Environments.

Finally, Lewis University offers a bachelor’s degree in social media. On their website, they claim the degree will prepare students for the following roles:

  • Social Media Managers
  • Facebook Community Manager
  • Digital Marketing Strategist
  • Social and Search Engine Marketing Specialist

What Skills Are Really Needed?

Muhammad Yasin, Director of Marketing for HCC Medical Insurance Services, manages a team of social media workers – full-time, part-time and interns – and frequently interviews new candidates.

“I look for PR and Communications classes. Even more importantly, I want to see actual experience writing web copy and managing social communities (even if it is for a student organization).”

“I have repeatedly found that the copywriting taught in schools simply doesn’t translate well to online. It is verbose and stiff. I spend half of my on-boarding time breaking new interns if what they learned in school.”

It should be no surprise that a traditional marketing, journalism or PR/communications degree may not be ideal for a job strictly focused on social media marketing, as Muhammad points out. Ideally, a well-rounded social media professional should understand all three of those concentrations, as well as business, psychology and sociology (think: customer service), creative writing and computer science (coding/programming) to succeed.

Mark Schaefer, in his blog post “Three careers that will dominate social media (and it’s not what you think)” branches out even further to state that skills in HR/Change Management and Statistics will be integral to social media success.

This begs the question: what curriculum would adequately prepare a graduate for a career in social media marketing?

If I could suspend time and put together an ideal course listing for a degree in social media marketing, here’s what I would include:

120 semester hours total:

  • 18 hours general education requirements
  • 9 hours journalism
  • 12 hours computer science
  • 12 hours public relations
  • 15 hours creative writing
  • 9 hours sociology
  • 9 hours psychology
  • 12 hours statistics
  • 12 business
  • 12 hours of electives
  • mandatory internship

If you were hiring someone to manage your company’s social media marketing efforts, or join an existing team, what skill-sets or coursework would you find desirable?

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