I am a graduate student at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) finishing up the second semester toward my MBA in Social Media Marketing. I am very happy with the program thus far. The curriculum is just what I was hoping for—the core of a traditional Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis on marketing and, more specifically, social media. I didn’t choose this program simply because the term “social media” was in its title, nor did I assume that a social media marketing concentration negated the kind of work that an MBA typically carries with it. I chose to pursue an MBA because I wanted to learn about the operations of business and build a foundation for leadership down the road, as well as understand more about the science behind marketing. I chose to pursue this MBA, one that focuses on social media marketing, because I am very interested in learning more about how the two (business and social media) work together. It’s right there on the SNHU website: “A social media MBA provides business leaders a platform to learn the best ways to leverage this medium for business success.”
A recent article from U.S. News & World Report titled “Avoid Social Media M.B.A.s, Some Students Say” struck a few nerves with me. Of course I’m going to be defensive when an article warns me against something I’m already doing. But then this article mentioned my school, Southern New Hampshire University. Then a quote from a social media professional the article referenced confused me. And then the SNHU student quoted in the article puzzled me. I read the article and then stewed about it for an entire weekend. Boiled down, my issues are as follows.
First, this statement about graduate programs with social media concentrations from someone who manages social media for a university: “…most students already know how to use social media. ‘The spin would be how to use it in a business setting. I don’t think you would have three classes worth of material for that,’ she says.”
I understand the skepticism. My own skepticism pushed me to do my research before I chose my program. What I don’t understand is this reasoning behind the skepticism. “Students already know how to use social media?” Surely someone who “handles social media” professionally understands that students and businesses might—and most definitely should—use social media in different ways. I do think that students understand the mechanics of using Facebook and Twitter, but those students (I’m including myself here) might have much to learn about strategy, measurement, and marketing campaigns. I’d like to think that if anyone is convinced of the wealth there is to learn about social media, it’s the person engaging in social media professionally.
Second, and most vexing, was the perspective of the SNHU student that was quoted in the article.
[The student] says she was required to take 14 classes before she could take a social media course. She was also disappointed to learn there were only three courses in social media in the program. ”A year ago, social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—was more exciting than it is today. I have started to feel like it is a fad and that next year there will be something else new and exciting to help people communicate. I really wish that I had gotten a global M.B.A. and then just shadowed or interned with someone in the [social media] field,” she says. “I would not recommend [the social media M.B.A.]—at least at SNHU.”
Okay. Does this not lead us to believe that the student didn’t know how the SNHU program was structured until she was in the midst of it? Having just gone through the process of enrolling in this very program, I just don’t understand how that’s possible. Before signing up for my first class, I was well aware of the program requirements and class offerings. In fact, the courses are outlined very neatly on the SNHU website. Meanwhile, this MBA in Social Media Marketing program is still an MBA. Isn’t that the point? Why would someone seek out an MBA program without an interest in, say, business or administration?
And this? “A year ago, social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—was more exciting than it is today. I have started to feel like it is a fad and that next year there will be something else new and exciting to help people communicate. I really wish that I had gotten a global M.B.A….” A program concentration or even an entire degree in social media is never going to be about keeping Facebook or Twitter exciting, or about whichever specific social network will be next. Social media are tools that can help us build communities, engage audiences, and strengthen the brands of our businesses. Social media work with all of the other tools available to us. We need to know how to use them all. Together. At least that’s how this MBA student sees it.
All in all, some of the points in the U.S. News & World Report article are fair. Social media as a field is relatively new, and I agree that we should be wary of “experts.” That said, the denouncers of social media MBAs in this article were less than convincing. Perhaps the title of the article should be updated to read, “Some Students Should Avoid Social Media M.B.A.s.” Perhaps a social media MBA isn’t for everyone.