“Following a Social Media Degree, who would ever do that?” Hooray! #MarketingTwitter has found a new topic to discuss about! “What even is the purpose of following a Social Media Degree? Is following a degree even necessary? Can’t we all understand Social Media? This Degree is ridiculous!”
Well, here are the takes from a student who followed a Communication and Media Bachelor’s Degree and a Media and Business Master’s Degree. Following a Media degree is more than fine.
Background of the topic:
During a beautiful Monday, Marketing Twitter was made aware of a University that launched a new Social Media Degree. The news was received with some (or a lot of) criticism. Some people asked whether or not it was useful to follow a Social Media Degree. Some people consider the idea of having a Social Media Degree as hilarious. “By the time you’ve obtained your degree, everything has changed.”
As a fresh Communication and Media, and Media and business graduate, I can understand their reasoning in some way. But with my own, very recent experiences, I can tell you that a Media Degree is not only about learning how to use Social Media. The Degree goes beyond that, and is far more critical and complex than we would suggest.
Check your curriculum
Look at what courses the University teaches. Are they all about Social Media, or do they go beyond that? Or do Universities offer classes about a specific topic? Check the course guide. Because a ‘Social Media Degree’ might sound like it only covers Social Media, but it can in fact go beyond that.
When I did my Bachelor’s in International Communication and Media at the Erasmus University, I expected to follow a lot of courses that would teach me how to use Social and Digital Media. Well — here are some courses I took that had little to nothing to do with Media
- Introduction to Sociology
- Consumer Behaviour and Marketing Actions
- Organizational Communication and Behaviour
- Communication Ethics
- Social Media Campaigns
- Introduction to Linguistics (Exchange, Calgary)
- Rhetorical Communication (Exchange, Calgary)
- International Communication
- Global Advertising
- Cinema and Society
- Digital media and businesses
Neither of these courses taught me how to use Social Media. But:
- Sociology taught me about the cultures, societies, inequalities and discrimination which happen both online and offline
- Consumer Behaviour and Marketing Actions taught me about the psychology behind our attitudes towards products, brands and advertisements.
- Organizational Behaviour taught me about internal corporate communication and power inequalities that may exist on the work floor
- Communication Ethics taught me to be wary of what you do. Something might be legally right but not ethically correct.
- Social media Campaigns taught me to critically analyze how and why online campaigns succeed or fail. For instance, we analyzed the Pepsi Commercial featuring Kendal Jenner, by looking at the brand message, the visuals, and the cultural context.
- Introduction to Linguistics taught me more about semantics and semiotics
- Rhetorical Communication taught me how to persuade
- International Communication taught me to not generalize offline and online cultures onto a while
- Global Advertising taught me to always analyze your audience first before you do something.
- Cinema and Society taught me about how television movies and series reflect our societal thoughts, and how and why propaganda was effective during periods such as WWII and the Cold War.
- Digital Media and businesses learned us how to set up a business model (that includes our corporate values, the benefits of the company’s product, and the needs of the audience), and how to execute that business model.
Then, we also had a mandatory course that taught us about the history of traditional and social media, and a mandatory course that taught us to be wary of the ever-changing media environment.
The Bachelor’s Degree also offered topics like these:
- Political Communication
- Public Relations
- The role of race and gender in communication
- Media and sustainability
Most Universities know that teaching us about Social Media isn’t enough. Therefore, their curriculum goes beyond just Social Media. My Bachelor’s course was Media, Marketing, Psychology, Sociology and Culture combined. Even during the courses about Media, we always examined the development and use of media from a critical Cultural, Sociological or Historical perspective.
So don’t worry, a Social Media Degree is so much more than Social Media.
Tip to future students: Always ask Universities to share a course guide. This way, you can see which courses you can follow, and if they are in line with the things you want to learn. Make sure that your University offers seminars and electives too. This way, you can follow courses from a different Degree, like Business Administration, Economics or Philosophy. For instance, I followed Linguistics and Canadian Studies courses during my exchange in Calgary.
A Media Degree learns you to do research and think critically too
The two main skills that a University should teach you are 1) Research and 2) Critical Thinking. You need these two skills if you want to learn more about anything in the corporate field. This way, when “Social Media becomes outdated,” you can still critically examine media developments and analyze consumer behaviour.
Both my Bachelor’s and my Master’s Degree were 50% Research and Critical Thinking and 50% Learning about Media and Communication.
During my first 8 weeks as a student, I had to follow an intense Academic Skills workshop that taught me how to access, reference and interpret sources. This workshop also taught me how to make a statement while carefully weighing all academic sources.
Then, I had multiple Quantitative and Qualitative Research workshops during my four years of study. These courses taught me how to:
- Set up and execute surveys, experiments, focus groups and interviews
- Use tools like the Qualtrics to analyze quantitative surveys, use Atlas.ti to conduct content analysis, and use Tableau and Gephi to gather and analyze Online data.
- To interpret the data carefully and see whether or not they were in line with former research
- To then come with a conclusion
- To then interpret how your conclusion affects scientific research and corporate behaviour.
During my other courses, we had to write papers in order to pass a course. During these papers, we always had to interpret and refer to academic sources and then give evidence, by either mentioning a case study, doing a survey, performing interviews or doing a qualitative content analysis. If your paper wasn’t critical enough, you’d fail your paper.
My bachelor’s and Master’s were concluded with a Thesis where I
- Had to dive deeply into a specific research topic
- Had to interpret former
- Had to conduct a questionnaire or an interview
- Had to analyze the data and interpret them
Seriously, even a Social Media Degree is way more than ‘Learn how Twitter works.’
Tips for students: You’re going to hate quantitative and qualitative research as a student. But you’ll be thankful for having followed these classes when you’re old!
Start taking Social Media seriously.
As Marketers, we often talk about how Social Media should be taken seriously. That a Social media employee isn’t an intern. That you can’t just expect to become a Social Media Expert by just posting online. That Online Marketing requires knowledge and experience.
Well, I’m sure that a University is exactly teaching that to students by offering these Degrees. My degree taught me that Media systems, Consumer Behaviour and Communication all are far more complex and flexible than we think it is. And I’m sure that a Social Media Degree will do the same. University professors know that Social Media are always changing.
If we want to take Social Media seriously, we have to start taking Social Media Degrees seriously too.
Of course, we can’t learn everything
And of course, a university degree doesn’t teach you everything. I had to learn Copywriting, SEO, setting up Advertisements on my own. I am not a good at creating Marketing content because I followed a Degree. But my degrees did help me to think critically and to assess the right sources when learning these skills. Thanks to research and critical thinking, I am becoming a Marketing professional.