Social media and the university consciousness

As big as social media currently is (and is rapidly becoming), I was somewhat surprised last week on a recent trip to a university-run seminar to learn that some universities and colleges are not teaching social media as part of their marketing syllabus . What’s more, some senior lecturers do not fully understand what social media is and how it can be used as an integral part of the marketing mix.

It seems that in some academic circles, social media and its various tools are still considered relatively new and un-tested, especially compared with the more established mainstream mass marketing communication tools such as advertising, direct mail and public relations, for example. Social media may still be considered by some as a ‘fad’ and not a serious marketing communications tool that can be leveraged to increase brand awareness, build trust and ultimately lead to sales in the long-term. However, although social media cannot be considered to be a genuine revenue generator, as a tool for building confidence, trust and credibility it is proving itself time and again for many types of organisations.

Perhaps the reason for the slow uptake in the teaching of social media at universities and colleges is the rapid nature in which social media has taken off. Corporate marketing and communication through Facebook has increased exponentially over the past few years and it is becoming rare to find a company that doesn’t have a presence on Twitter to keep customers and other stakeholders up-to-date with what’s going on.  Even goverments are utilising social media to spread their messages.

As social media continues to grow, I’m sure the academic world will begin to take more notice and we will see lectures and classes on what social media is and how it is being used by both multinational corporations and SMEs as part of their marketing strategies.

But is it a good thing that graduates are leaving university grounded only in the practices of traditional marketing communications? Or does this grounding give them the skills to learn and adapt to changes in marketing by themselves once they have left higher education?

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