The University Communication Department introduced a new course this semester, Advanced Social Media, allowing students to learn to brand and professionally manage social media platforms for a company successfully.
Mary Harris, creator and professor of the Advanced Social Media course, saw a need to expand the original social media course to better prepare students for a job in social media. The advanced class will allow students to surpass the basics of managing social media and learn to confidently pitch their social media skills to potential employers, Harris explained.
“Social media is not just a fun thing to do,” said Chad Dell, Chair of the Communication Department. “It’s also a really important tool that businesses and organizations use to communicate with their customers and with the public.”
LinkedIn, a social media platform used for job searching, conducted a study based on user information and found that social media professions increased 1,300 percent from 2010 to 2013. The study also found that over five million people included “social media” to their list of skills on their LinkedIn profiles.
The use of social media has not only increased among adults and children, but also among businesses owners. A full range of small and large businesses are increasingly making use of social media platforms, LinkedIn determined in a recent study reported by Mashable.com. “Roughly 81 percent of small to medium businesses are using social media … and of those that use social media, 94 percent do so for marketing purposes,” Mashable.com reported.
There are many reasons companies are choosing social media sites to increase business. Kelly Brockett, a senior communication major currently in the Advanced Social Media course, explained that companies use social media to share information and updates about their business, engage with their customers while also seeking to reach a larger audience.
Community Coffee, a small company founded in Baton Rouge, LA in 1919, increased their exposure dramatically using their social media presence. Community Coffee was selected as Inc.com’s top 20 best company Facebook pages.
Due to the rise in social media use among businesses, Brockett believes students must be educated on how to effectively manage their accounts, while confidently improving their business function through social media. “Many job descriptions nowadays are including knowledge of social media and digital media as skill requirements,” said Brockett. “You have to know how to promote a business or a brand via several social media platforms from a business perspective. This takes a lot of training and creativity.”
When Harris recognized the potential for marketing businesses through social media and the many occupations developing in the field, she realized that University needed a more advanced class. “I couldn’t cover everything I needed to cover [in the Social Media in Public Relations course] with only a 15-week class,” said Harris.
Throughout the class students are asked to manage social media for a company or organization, they are also given the opportunity to brand themselves as a marketable social media consultant or professional. Harris explained that the objective of the course is to act as if it were a real job and to manage the company or organization’s social media, to learn all that goes into the profession.
The new course is offered through the Communication Department, although it is available to students of all majors. The one prerequisite is the introductory social media course, Social Media in Public Relations. Of the students currently taking the Advanced Social Media course one is a business major and one is a psychology major, Harris said.
Brockett explained that the class is beneficial to University students involved in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) because social media is a commonly used strategy to promote businesses and companies. Brockett said she is using the information she learned from her social media class to promote an upcoming event that PRSSA is presenting.
“I have a small team helping me craft social media posts to promote our dance-a-thon, Hawks Dance Together, event coming up in April,” said Brockett. “All students that have taken [the Social Media in Public Relations], have created posts that receive much more engagement versus posts that are created by students that have not yet taken the class.”
Social media courses taught in college are nothing new, although Harris explained that the setup of her class is what sets it apart. “A lot of schools teach courses like this, but not in a lab, there’s no hands-on component,” said Harris.
The Advanced Social Media class was designed to teach students in a small environment, allowing them to actively engage with one another, ask questions and learn together, Harris said.
Harris explained that it is important for students to experience both platforms in the classroom “because if you’re not actively engaging online, you’re not really getting that experience, you’re not figuring out where all of the functions are and how to use it,” she said.
Dell, who approved the course, explained that knowledge of social media is especially important for public relations students who are using it as an important tool. “It makes absolute sense to have courses in social media, to know how to best leverage that tool,” said Dell.
Dell continued to explain that social media is another form of language in the communication field, similar to broadcast, radio and print. “I want students who come out with a communication degree to be adept at speaking a range of languages,” he added.
The Advanced Social Media class is currently a trial run. Harris said it is classified as a special topics course until it is approved as a regular course.
The objectives of the course listed in the description include analyzing a company’s social media presence holistically, creating a professional analysis and strategic social media plan for a company, understanding audience engagement, learning to use multiple platform capabilities and building a virtual following through organic and paid strategies.
“Hopefully we will have more classes like this so that people can look to Monmouth for advice and they will want to hire our students because they know that our students will know what is current and know what is really going on in the industry,” said Harris.