It’s a question posed by the Sprout Social folks the other day.
It’s an interesting question, actually. As a full-time social media marketing consultant to mid-sized and large companies AND an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota, I have a unique perspective on this topic.
On one hand, requiring social media folks to get an MBA would add serious business legitimacy to the position, and the discipline.
It would help senior-level executives take us a bit more seriously. And, depending on the curriculum (assuming it would have a number of business-focused classes), it would also help add a level of business acumen severely lacking in many social media pros backgrounds right now.
And that’s a big issue, actually. Because over the years, social media marketing has attracted people from all walks of life. It’s attracted people from marketing and comms (although we could use more business acumen, too!). It’s attracted former journalists. It’s attracted people from HR. It’s attracted people with history majors. Biology majors. Bottom line–people in social media marketing come from a whole host of backgrounds.
So that extra business knowledge would be extremely valuable.
HOWEVER, I see a host of issues that would lead me to say “no, I don’t think an MBA should be required for social media marketers in the future.”
First, just like it does in the marketing field, it would exclude a ton of people who are immensely creative and talented. I’ve said it for years, but some of the best marketers I know don’t have MBAs. As a result, they’d be excluded from senior-level jobs at places like General Mills and Fairview, where I once worked. This seems completely insane to me. You’re going to say Greg Swan, one of the leaders in our social media and digital marketing field locally here in the Twin Cities, couldn’t hold a senior-level marketing job at Mills because he doesn’t have an MBA?
Second, social and digital marketing changes so fast, I’m not sure a public or private university is the best place to get an education on the subject. It’s not necessarily academia’s fault, either. It’s the culture. It doesn’t reward profs who are forward-thinking and those who want to bring in real-world and outside examples and people. It rewards research. Plain and simple. And until that changes, I don’t see an MBA in social media marketing helping anyone. It will always be 3-5 years (AT LEAST) behind the current times.
Finally, most universities and colleges just aren’t equipped to build a curriculum that would support an MBA in social media marketing. Many of these institutions are having a tough time finding professors for the social media classes they have now–let alone the 4-6 they’d have to add to complete such a program. Again, I don’t see that changing in the years ahead.
So, my answer: No, we shouldn’t require an MBA for social media marketers to do their jobs, or get to a senior-level in their profession.
Got a different take? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!