Facebook 101: Schools Offer Social Media Classes to the Next Generation of Marketers

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The views some high school and college students have of social media may be changing as they break this month for the holidays. Before Davis High School junior Breanna Barton took Jeff McCauley’s new social media marketing class, Facebook and YouTube were merely means for wasting time. Now Barton sees things a little differently.

“There’s so much more to [social media] than people think,” Barton said. “I didn’t really think you could market with them, but it’s amazing how much potential there is for it.”

Growth rates in social media marketing are expected to increase about 33 percent each year, from $400 million in 2010 to $2.3 billion in 2015, according to a forecast by BIA/Kelsey. Companies are no longer just dabbling in social media, but fully investing in it.

These developments are changing marketing curricula, both in high schools and colleges, McCauley said.

“I [do it] because it’s now and it’s happening,” he said. “Chances are these kids will be working a lot with social media in the future. I’m not trying to make good high school students; I’m trying to shape the next generation of marketing professionals.”

Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said the school’s marketing program is also actively adjusting to the changes.

“The school as a whole is extremely interested in these issues and I think that points to the importance of it,” he said.

But Berger also said that social media is simply another weapon in the marketing arsenal.

“These are technologies, not strategies,” he said. “To be effective, you have to understand the motivations for people’s interactions on those pages.”

He said he focuses much of his teaching on how to understand people’s behavior in social media so his students can better target their audiences.

The change to social media marketing has been gradual until recently, according to Ash Buckles, president of SEO.com, a Utah-based search marketing company that offers social media to its clients.

“When companies execute a social media campaign well, communication is maximized and open,” he said. “Social media allows businesses to receive direct feedback as a listening platform as well as introduce new product ideas.”

Berger said the power of the word of mouth is unequaled by any other tool in the marketing field, and social media is but the online version of “spreading the word.”

“I believe we will continue to see a rapid shift in marketing strategy as recent graduates enter the workforce and bring their own insights on the technology they have grown up with,” Buckles said. “I am excited to see how they will revolutionize the industry.”

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