An increasing number of colleges and universities are updating their business school curricula to include social media training. These changes are reflected both in undergraduate programs, such as a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), and graduate-level programs such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA). It seems that those in charge of preparing the next generation for success in the business world at large are formally acknowledging the growing importance of social media. It’s not just something that would be good to know, or a field of specialty–it’s necessary for all grads going forward into the modern business world.
According to BusinessWeek, Columbia and Harvard are among the prestigious schools strengthening their social media agendas. This, of course, is in response to the growing demand by employers that their incoming hires have social media backgrounds. Harvard University’s program cuts straight to the chase, offering a course called “Competing with Social Networks”–after all, it’s all about standing out in a viral crowd. Students not only learn the basics about social media–they find out how to do it better than the guy sitting next to them. This also helps those who expect to compete in a global market. And the U.S. isn’t the only one with this bright idea–leading business schools in such competitive markets as London and Paris are also developing social media business school plans.
Schools don’t just teach Facebook and Twitter. Students prepare to use emerging digital tools to stay at the forefront. Throughout their studies, they complete co-ops and internships wherein they work with leading businesses–ranging from Coca-Cola to Google–to analyze and implement social media ventures and gain real-world experience. They also study how people think about social media, how it affects decision-making and its changing role in society. They analyze psychological and historical perspectives as well as simply mastering what one INSEAD professor called ‘the new media landscape.’
What does this mean for business?
First of all, it means that a bulk of pressure is being taken off 20-something interns, upon whom the heft of social media helming often falls. “They’re young, they must know technology, right?” Instead, more businesses will have in-house specialists who understand the basics to launch a comprehensive social media platform. Major corporations like Sears, AT&T, Panasonic and Citigroup have already hired full-time social media directors. Another important benefit is that businesses will be interacting more with their clients and prospective customer base. They’ll have greater access to the thoughts and wishes of their audience, without only reaching out in order to sell. Building relationships and securing long-term involvements is easier than ever—and based on responses from worldwide business schools, it’s also simply status quo. That’s why the single most important value in learning about social media in business school is the fact that it introduces tomorrow’s leaders to foundational terminology and techniques to keep up with technology as it continues to evolve. This is a clear-cut message that social media is no longer considered the cutting edge—it’s the baseline to professional survival.