Last week, the University of Florida announced that it’s now offering an 18-month Master’s Degree Program in social media. This announcement is just the latest in the trend of colleges adding degree programs related to social media.
I can see why colleges are adding social media to their curriculum, but do marketers really need an entire degree devoted to social media?
Personally, I think the answer is no.
To be successful in social media (or more importantly, digital marketing), marketers must learn how to incorporate social media into overall business and marketing strategies. Learning how to use the tools is far less important than determining the “why” behind using social media for your company.
Additionally, social media moves at a breakneck pace. The tools are constantly changing. Today’s social media landscape will likely look dramatically different even a year from now. For social media degree programs to be relevant to marketers, they must be agnostic to the tools and teach practices that can be applied to the ever-changing digital marketplace.
If I work at a company or agency looking to hire someone in digital marketing, I would rather have someone with strong communications and strategy skills, not someone who knows how to use Twitter properly.
Good Social Media Degree Programs
Don’t get me wrong – there are some good digital marketing degree programs out there and I have friends who teach at them.
For instance, Mark Schaefer, teaches digital marketing as part of the Rutgers mini MBA program and Kerry Gorgone teaches new media marketing as part of the Marketing Master of Science at Full Sail University.
These programs are great because they focus more on overall digital marketing strategy and how it can be applied in the digital landscape. They also take a comprehensive approach that looks at everything from search engine marketing, mobile marketing, website analytics and yes, social media.
This type of curriculum is far more relevant to today’s marketer than one that narrowly looks at social media.
Traits of Successful Digital Marketers
Look at the many social media thought leaders of today. Social media degree programs didn’t exist until recently and few, if any, of today’s leading digital marketing have degrees in those areas.
What do today’s digital marketing experts have instead? Here are some of the traits of successful digital marketers:
- Strategic thinking
- Critical analysis
- Media relations
- Public speaking
- Business acumen
- Project management
Most of these traits can be learned through other degree programs. For instance, my journalism degree has equipped me with much of the marketing skills I need to be successful on the social web.
And, journalism isn’t the only degree that can be valuable in today’s digital marketing world. Business, marketing, advertising, statistics, sociology and many other degree programs can help you with many of these concepts and traits listed above.
For everything else you need, the web is ripe with blogs, podcasts, eBooks and online courses that can help you learn the concepts around social media marketing.
The bottom line is that a degree is certainly not the only path to obtaining the knowledge you need.
Hiring a Digital Marketer or Digital Marketing Firm
Instead, you need to do some digging to find out the people and firms that have the expertise you need.
Here are some things to consider as you’re looking to hire digital marketing help:
- Experience – How are they using social media personally? How have they used it for others (clients, their company, etc.)?
- Content - Are they publishing their own content online? Are they a good writer? Do they practice what they preach?
- Results & case studies - Can they point to successes they’ve achieved (both for themselves and others) thanks to their social media efforts?
- Measurement – How do they measure results? What metrics matter to them?
The Bottom Line
If you’re a marketer looking to expand your social media knowledge, you don’t need a degree program to get it.
But, if you decide that getting a degree is the right path for you, make sure you find one that focuses on comprehensive digital marketing strategy. That will make you far more marketable in the long run.
What do you think? Do social media degree programs hold water? Do you think marketers with social media degrees are more credible?
Image credit: mkhmarketing