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Upasana Gupta -

Social Media : A Profession in Demand

Academic Social Media Programs Shape New Leaders

Social media is no longer a fad or tool; it is becoming a profession and a way of how business is conducted today. Given the number of social platforms- from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn to Instagram and Pinterest, there is a greater need to establish an internal and external social media strategy, policy and culture to keep pace with digital technology impacting an organization. As such, many universities are offering social media as an official academic degree.

Excelsior College, Rutgers University, Lewis University, Southern New Hampshire University are among the few offering an MBA in Social Media Management and/or Marketing. Also, about 700 colleges and universities in the US offer bachelors in social media programs. Majority of the master-level programs are offered online and target adult, working students seeking career advancement.

"Social media can directly impact so many organizational areas from brand and marketing to customer service and corporate governance," says Dr. Eric Harter, faculty program director for the School of Business and Technology at New York's Excelsior College. " That aspiring and contemporary leaders can no longer rely on merely the judgment of their technology experts."

A 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, shows that marketers place very high value on social media: A significant 86 percent of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business, up from 83 percent in 2012. The report with more than 3,000 resondents also show that 88 percent of marketers want to know the most effective social tactics and the best ways to engage their audience with social media.

I personally think that colleges are going in the right direction by developing social media major programs because today businesses need to have social media expertise, who can create strategies to understand its practical aspects and applications. Majoring in social media will better prepare and specialize students to handle different aspects of this field like- personal branding, customer engagement, audience behavior, marketing and regulatory issues around the use of social media. It will help them leverage social media communication strategies, no matter what type of career they look to get into. Also, it is an excellent opportunity for adult workers to transition into a new, growing professional field. 


Social media academic programs essentially aim to help students develop  hands-on social media skills to achieve business goals.  For example, Excelsior’s MBA (Social Media Management) graduates learn to use contemporary social media tools to:

• Create and implement effective social media marketing campaigns;
• Integrate social media tools with traditional marketing strategies;
• Identify and market  targeted audiences;
• Effectively manage online communities;
• Measure and analyze audience behavior;

"Our MBA program offers the knowledge and skills to navigate the 21st century boardroom and remain competitive with the younger generation," Harter says.


Formal academic social media training provided by colleges is on the rise and attracts people from all walks of life. For example,
in 2012 there were 20 enrolled students for it's first social media management program at Excelsior College. Today, the program boasts of 513 students. What's interesting to note is that nearly half of  the 513 enrolled students comprise of either active-duty military or veterans.

Again, Northeastern University offers a social media concentration in both its Digital Media and Organizational Communication Master’s programs, and Dr. Carl Zangerl, academic director of the Master’s in Corporate and Organizational Communication degree at the College of Professional Studies in Northeastern University, claim "quadruple enrollments" since the programs were introduced in 2011. Student profile range from nurses, healthcare providers, entreprenuers to engineers. ( View our College Major List offering 500 + specialization areas.)


Apart from being in demand, social media has become a field with positive return-on-investment (ROI). The average starting salary for social media professionals can range from $45-55k per year (depending on location, type of position, expertise levels, etc,) and can lead to salaries ranging as high as $170k/year at tier -1 social media consulting firms or advertising agencies.

"For those who both love social media and who master the materials from our program and from their on-going career challenges, the financial rewards can be that rivaling top professions lawyers, doctors, and judges," says Steve Jeffes, an adjunct faculty member at Excelsior and social media thought leader. "For those that have social media as a passion and love the profession – the rewards are immeasurable."

Social Media career opportunities are one of the fastest growing areas for employment.

The top 5 social media job roles include:

1. Social Media Strategist and/or Digital Strategist – These social professionals understand how to create social-media marketing, public relations or community relations campaigns and implement strategies to measure the campaign’s success. These social media professionals are usually found at larger companies (i.e. Fortune 500’s).

2. Social Media Community Manager – Social community managers manage company blogs and social forums, keeping social community members and visitors returning to the social communities through marketing and public outreach, and moderating the ongoing conversations to ensure social conversations are constructive and positive.

3. Social Blogger or Advertiser – These social professionals develop articles and advertisements to inform, engage and sell to the social communities and social web visitors. These professionals usually have interest in journalism and/or public relations.

4. Social Media Customer Support Manager – These social professionals use the social media channels like Twitter and Facebook to respond to customer/consumer complaints, concerns, feedback in order to address product/service issues in near real-time as well as helping to maintain a positive corporate brand image by addressing public perception issues.

5. Social Media Marketing Manager/Director - These social professionals develop social channel specific company marketing materials and distribute them in a manner that is optimized for the various social-media channels. Their goal is to turn social channels into corporate advantage: Boost company/brand perceptions; generate product/service awareness, sell products/services, etc.

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