Why Social Media Should Be On the University Curriculum

By Ryan Holmes | 3 years ago | 21 Comments

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By HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes

First it was dot-com. Then real estate. Is higher education the next big bubble set to burst?

In the US, average higher education costs have risen approximately 440% in the past 25 years. Grads are coming out of school saddled with debt, with training that doesn’t match the demands of a volatile economy.

The challenges of rebooting the university system are enormous. But an important part of the solution may well lie in equipping students to function in an increasingly digital and socially savvy environment.

That’s exactly what’s happening across the country as a growing number of universities embrace social media education in the classroom. For the 2013 Spring semester, HootSuite University has enrolled over 2000 students through 75 universities in our Higher Education Program, including MBA classes from Columbia and NYU,  along with undergraduate classes from Boston University, Syracuse University, Quinnipiac, and many other institutions.

Enrolled students learn how to best use social media through video-based courseware, access to an extensive library of tactical tips from industry thought leaders, an interactive social media job board and more. HootSuite University is a concrete example of an educational experience that can empower people with the skills that today’s careers require and even help them find the right job.

schools linkedin

And there’s no doubt that social media skills are in growing demand from the planet’s biggest enterprises. 73% of Fortune 500 companies now have active corporate Twitter accounts, while 66% have Facebook pages, according to a new University of Massachusetts Dartmouth report.  Jobs boards are rife with postings for skilled social media managers and related positions across all industries. Social media gurus who can help their companies make a mark on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest will get noticed.

Universities and their students ignore these trends at their peril.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 18,000 parking lot attendants in the US with college degrees and 5,000 janitors with PhDs. In total, 17 million college-educated Americans have jobs that don’t require their level of education. In this climate, doesn’t it make sense to equip the next generation of grads with the social media skills demanded by the contemporary economy?  Social media education on university and college curriculums could be one way to start decompressing the higher-ed bubble.

This post was originally published on the LinkedIn Influencer blog, a new resource that brings together regular insights from hundreds of thought-leaders around the globe. To find out how you can follow world leaders, educators, industry experts and others (including HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes), read this post: “How to Follow Richard Branson, Barack Obama and…Ryan Holmes on LinkedIn

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Nacho1982 5pts

I think you're right, but what if Internet was (again) the bubble? Maybe I am too traditional but I freak out when I see that Apple has a higher value than General Electric.

What would happen if tomorrow Apple closes? Nothing.

What would happen if tomorrow GE closes? Probably there would be a huge chaos because of the lack of "commodity" material.

Perry Drake
Perry Drake 5pts

At the University of Missouri - St. Louis we have just rolled out in the Spring '13 semester a "Digital Media Marketing Strategies" class for both undergrads and grads. And I am most excited that we are about to be rolling out with another new class in the Fall of this year titled none other than..."Social Media Strategy." Awesome. We are tying to be on the forefront here in St. Louis. I have also just implemented a new Digital Media Marketing Advisory Board. Too cool.

Jorge Creixel
Jorge Creixel 5pts

I totally agree with you Sebastian.

I think that most useful things are learned in practice.


Courtney Hunt
Courtney Hunt 5pts

Marketing and the use of public social media platforms are just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more that business schools and other university programs need to do to prepare their students for successful Digital Era careers. I first wrote about this need in a blog post in June 2011, and I've been banging the drum ever since!


We still have a long way to go, in spite of how critical the need is...

Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Louis H
Louis H 5pts

We have spotted this trend long ago and are now offering university students SEM simulation games. We see even greater potential for a similar module but for Social Media Marketing. Hopefully we'll soon find the resources to develop a high quality, intricate experience that will allow social media marketing scenarios to unfold in a safe, permissive and risk-free environment.

Christine 5pts

I think universities are slow to respond to innovation, but schools like Radford University are offering social media courses already. It's not that unheard of.

Ernest Burnett
Ernest Burnett 5pts

It should it be taught in universities, but before anything meaningful can be done industry leaders need to develop a practicing standard for web roles and usage, as well as protection. Hopefully this past president's day really highlighted the need to harden information systems as well as adopting usage policy, legal ramifications that could possibly ensue from copyright infringement, and most of all a clear understanding of which social media services are vulnerable, why, and if so what's the continuity or response plan when something goes wrong. @eb_p1

Niall 5pts

I agree that unis are expensive and not always teaching the relevant things. I also believe that education is about improving yourself, finding more about what interests and fascinates you and not always about preparing yourself for the jobs market.

Maybe those janitors with PhDs are the happiest guys alive. There's far more to life than a career.

Carolina 5pts

Is incredible when any teacher refused to use social media to make the class easier...

It should be a must for them too...

Mike 5pts

Business: accounting, finance, management philosophies, critical analysis, marketing, skill set, and vision. That is the core of business. Question is what makes up each fundamental. Social Media is a new form of socializing. Which falls under which of those categories? Is your success at social media is based on the framework you received in school? Undergrad you received how many out of the 40 courses, required to graduate, on business? 8? How about 12? Tell me who failed who? In a little more than one year you got the answer to life, universe, and everything. But did you ever to ask yourself the ultimate question? At my state university you can, and should, pay off your student debt with a successful start in two to four years. Question is where are you going to tighten up at?

Sebastian 5pts

I Totally agree!

It is incredible how universities don´t really teach you the right skills you need for the real world. I my self studied business administration and it feels somehow like a waste as what makes me money are my online marketing skills, which I acquired on my own, not at uni.

It is a similar case all around the globe but I am sure it will change, we just have to wait a bit more.