Social media. Web 2.0. You know what these things are and you take advantage of them every day on the net. Whether you're socializing on Facebook, updating Twitter, or just adding a new bookmark to Ma.gnolia, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. However, that doesn't mean that it's something that everyone innately understands or knows how to use - especially when it comes to using it for marketing, PR, or other business-related purposes. That's why many of today's colleges and universities are now offering "social media" classes as an option for their students.
Welcome to Social Media U
For those of us who missed this boat during our college days, maybe because we majored in some other area, or because people still took notes with pen and paper during our university years (cough, cough), or maybe some of us didn't go the college route, there are some interesting things going on in universities today when it comes to learning the ins and outs of social media.
Today, you will find Communications and Marketing majors heavily involved in learning to use new media to their advantage. The end result of these classes is going to be a wide range of young professionals entering the business world with tricks up their sleeve that some of the the old pros have no idea (or only a vague idea) about.
So, what's on the curriculum? To get a feel for what students are studying in Social Media U, you only need to do a web search because many of the students aren't just learning how to, they're blogging about it too.
Of course, the entirety of social media can't be summed up in one blog post, so these are just a handful of subjects listed below.
Lesson # 1 Personal Branding
Dan Schawbel, EMC's first social media specialist, returned to Bentley College to do a presentation about personal branding and social media. This is a concept that is a direct result of the internet age we live in today. Among other things, personal branding involves an understanding that you have a public image (whether you want to or not). If you're googleable, you have a brand, so you should learn to control it.
Branding is a result of many things including your blog, your social network profile, your online resume, and how good you are at reputation management, to name a few.
Advice for students: buy yourname.com to secure your brand, make a video resume, start a Wordpress blog, use Google Reader, participate (comment on blogs and link to them), get on Facebook and LinkedIn, network, and more (see slideshow below):
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Lesson # 2 Know What Web 2.0 Is And How To Use It
Dean Whitney, an executive with global digital marketing agency Digitas, also taught a class at Bentley (a hip school?) on the subject of understanding Web 2.0. One of the interesting things they did in this lesson was to learn about tagging and how other people's opinion can shape our perception of both individuals and brands. In the PowerPoint shown during the class, Whitney also took on the big task of defining Web 2.0:
Lesson # 3 : Learn To Use YouTube To Convey a Message
Michael Wesch, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University is best known on the net for that video, The Machine is Us/ing Us, which is a great example of how to use the medium to convey a message that's more than just scripted rhetoric, but that has meaning. (Side note: great interview with Wesch here).
What you may not have seen, though, is the video his students made: A Vision of Students Today, a video which summarizes how students learn today. (I think they've got it!)
Lesson #4: Learn to Blog
What better way to learn to blog than to begin with blogs in the classroom? You can find numerous examples of this on the net, like the What is Fair Use? blog, maintained by Peter Friedman and the students in his Legal Analysis & Writing classes at Case Western Reserve University of Law.
Soon-to-be sophomore and official Yale blogger, Sam Jackson, puts this concept to work on his own site, where he blogs about higher education marketing trends. He points us to a useful resource called The College Blog Network, where college students can blog. Think of it as Facebook for bloggers (well, before Facebook was for everyone.) Speaking of Facebook, the site makes it easy to be private - you must have a .edu email address to blog here. And they mean it, too, saying "At TCBN we respect your privacy. No jumping through hoops to keep your information private. Thanks Facebook." Another resource for finding student blogs is at StudentBloggers.org.
Lesson # 5 Use Social Networks
Be it MySpace or Facebook or whatever network works for your target demographic, companies and individuals interested in maintaining their personal brand need to establish and maintain a presence on social networks - especially if you're looking to connect with the younger crowd. For old-school businesses, this may seem like a mysterious world, but not learning to navigate it will be at their own expense.
In fact, social network use is so ubiquitous these days that students are even using them to apply to colleges via a Facebook app called The College Planner. Talk about College 2.0.
Lesson #6 Master Wikis
Bentley is just all over the web when it comes to social media tools because they're not shy to put their knowledge into action for their own use. Take for example, their WetPaint wiki for marketing students looking for career guidance.
Like Marshall recently mentioned in his post Wikis Are Now Serious Business, Wikis are not just for internal use, but can be used for many things...things like teaching, for example. He pointed to Liz B. Davis's wiki called Integrating 21st Century Tools into Your Teaching, which shows you how to use Del.icio.us, GMail, Ning, Google Docs and more.
Lesson #7 Learn to Twitter
For the Twitter holdouts, take heed: As far away as Singapore, where Daryl Tay attends Singapore Management University, social media classes are being held. Here they learn about social media tools like RSS, Delicious, podcasting, videocasting, blogs, wikis, and yes, even Twitter.
He recently told me that every week they have a mini-presentation on one aspect of social media (past topics included ethics, social networks, and social bookmarking). One of the topics was microblogging, and Twitter was discussed. Since then, the students have formed their own vibrant community on Twitter. (Now if it could only stay up, we would be in business).
Lesson # 8 Learn To Podcast
Panela Seiple, about to graduate from Boston University this month, learned how to make a podcast in her New Media and PR class. Her tools? Audacity and Utterz. Her subject? The Social Media Release.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, one blog post can't possibly cover all that is social media. Other topics (or "lessons") could include the following: RSS, flickr, Wikipedia, social bookmarking, search engines/blog search engines, virtual worlds, VoIP/Skype, mobile media, interactive gaming, and other tools that can be found on this nice list on the Teaching PR blog.
Extra Credit: OPML for Social Media U
For those of you interested in continuing to follow the subject of "Social Media U," we've compiled an OPML file that contains most of the sites mentioned in this post.
You can download it from here. Alternately, you can just subscribe to a "best of" RSS feed here.
Congratulations! You graduated!
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