It has become common knowledge that social media is transforming today’s business communications landscape. But the $100 billion question is: Well, how, exactly? That is a question MBA graduates will need to be able to answer, intelligently if not definitively. And while the vast majority of MBA students begin using social media long before entering business school, they aren’t formally taught much about it. Of MBA applicants, 85 percent use social media to research their prospective schools, according to U.S. News & World Report — but few schools offer more than a cursory elective on social media for MBAs, leaving students to figure out this complex and quickly changing technology on their own.
Who Teaches Social Media?
The need for social media education has become increasingly apparent to MBA students, but professors and administrators have been slow to catch on. Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, UCLA’s Social Media Executive Education Program Director, recently told Forbes that MBAs need to leave business school with three things: 1. experience with social media, 2. an understanding of social media’s impact on organizations and 3. knowledge of how social media has changed the relationship between customers and corporations. But, according to the same Forbes article, even the top 25 MBA programs offer relatively scant social media education (Georgetown and UCLA excepted).
Social Media Self-Education
So, if your program is not one of the few which offer a full range of courses on social media for MBAs, what do you do? There are two excellent ways to learn more. One is to make the best use of social media that you can as a student. Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to socialize and network with your cohort. Take responsibility for social media with a campus organization or internship. Tweet at your professors and prominent figures in your field. The other way to learn about social media is to do good old fashioned research on its history, current uses and recent innovations in the field.
Strategic Thinking for Social Media
Understanding the role of social media in business means more than knowing how to create a Facebook event or amassing a few hundred followers on Twitter (although that isn’t a bad place to start). Skills or accomplishments that are specific to a single social network may have limited impact in our quickly changing technological landscape. What will make an MBA graduate truly attractive to employers is the ability to think strategically about integrating social media with other marketing strategies and organizational processes. This kind of thinking requires time and experience to learn, in addition to a broad engagement with social media and other areas of business study.
Though the available options for comprehensive social media education in business school are less than ideal, it is likely that the gap between students and educators will soon be closed. The current generation of MBA graduates will be producing professors of its own before long, and these will be the professionals who have worked and studied most or all of their lives in a socially networked world. In the meantime, the best thing for MBA students to do is to engage with social media actively on their own. After all, the lack of widespread social media education means that those students with highly developed skills will be even more of a commodity in the marketplace. Why not become one of them?