Should Aspiring PR and Marketing Pros Major in Social Media?

Every budding PR/marketing professional aims to master social media, both technically and strategically. But is it really time for social to go academic?

It’s probably too late to ask that question: two schools now offer MBAs in social media, and they certainly won’t be the last.

Southern New Hampshire University‘s Social Media Marketing MBA program promises to help aspiring marketers “embrace the revolution” while students who receive an MBA in Social Media Management from New York’s Excelsior College will be able to “get a head start in a fast-growing sector that’s bursting with opportunities” after finishing a program “designed with direct input from industry experts.”


Here’s what strikes us as odd: social is not in any way a static discipline. Every week brings news of a brand new app that will supposedly change the social marketing/messaging game, not to mention the endless tweaks affecting the biggest names in social like Twitter and Facebook. What, exactly, do these degrees mean? One Ohio professor who is in the process of creating such a program tells USA Today that her courses will not focus on case studies and specifics as much as “ask[ing] students to think critically and understand the environment is constantly changing”. She also says that the courses will be relevant to students outside the communications program since every business is now social.

So it’s all about learning to follow trends, then?

We shouldn’t mistake this for a groundbreaking development per se. The University of Florida already offers a basic degree in Social Media that may, of course, be completed online. Nothing sketchy about that.

It’s worth noting that some industry insiders treat the idea as something of a joke. In this op-ed, a Silicon Valley vet dismisses the concept of formal social media education, arguing that mastering social is all about immersing yourself in the daily conversation and that employers prefer real-world experience to sitting in a class and learning how to organize a Facebook campaign. He also writes that “Social Media [blank]” won’t be a valid job title for too much longer, so students may limit their own career options by choosing a related major.

At the same time, social isn’t quite as easy as it looks, and quite a few businesses and organizations have embarrassed themselves on Facebook and Twitter by making easily avoidable mistakes.

What do we think: is majoring in social media a smart move or a waste of time?