College students majoring in social media? 5 reasons this is really bad.

College students are now declaring majors in social media.

I haven’t looked over the curriculum for a major like this, but I have concerns. Why should you care about my concerns?

  • I’m a social media dork and work in digital marketing.
  • I’ve co-founded a course on social media for MBA candidates.
  • I only write about things I do. I’m not great at pontificating.

It’s a blended major of graphic design, communications, business and marketing, psychology and statistics.

I agree with this approach. I’ve blogged about it recently. Marketing requires a diverse set of skills. But, I think this is a bad move.

1. There are already too many marketers that don’t understand marketing.

Social media is a marketing tactic. You can’t only do social media. A social media strategy without a solid marketing strategy around it is doomed to fail. It’s like ordering salad dressing without the salad.

Marketing is already watered down.

73% of CEOs think marketers don’t understand basic business terminology and objectives.

Scary, right? (data is here)

Why in the world would we continue to stretch our profession even thinner when we are dealing with a perception problem?

2. Social media does not work by itself.

You can’t make a rock sexy. If your product doesn’t meet customer needs, social media won’t help you. Marketers need an understanding of the functions of product management, sales, customer service and operations. Silos aren’t very successful.

The primary goal of marketing is to drive sales.

Period. Exclamation point. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. There are millions of ways to do this and they don’t all involve spamming promo codes and limited time deals. You can drive sales by being customer focused (Zappos, Gary V, etc.). You can drive sales through content marketing (Hubspot).

But, if you think for a second that bringing in dollars doesn’t matter, keep collecting those LinkedIn endorsements for your pending job search.

3. The bread slicer wasn’t a huge success.

The sliced bread was. You’re majoring in the usage of tools and tactics deployed on those tools. Tools change. You need to understand the core concepts of marketing and how to apply them to any medium.

Understanding and execution trump knowledge of the networks.

The best SEO / SEM guys understand content and storytelling better than you do. Mastering the tools by which they deliver content is secondary to the mastery of manipulating the content to be user-focused.

4. Many executives will always fear social media.

This isn’t changing. No matter how many books, keynotes, studies, or infographics are created. There is an inherent fear of entering a world where there appears to be a greater loss of control for many folks. The way to overcome this is by having a thorough understanding of traditional marketing and being a change agent within an organization. By establishing that comfort level and shared knowledge, you can gradually do more with social media.

For most organizations, it isn’t either / or. It requires a tactful mix of old and new.

5. There will be another social media.

The .com bubble happened. Everyone loved Web 2.0. Social media is the latest darling. The biggest shift has already happened though. Surprisingly, not a ton of folks are paying attention to it.

You are defined by your product and your people.

Revolutionary? Nah, common sense. But, if your product sucks, customers think you suck. If your people suck, customers know you suck.

Who you hitch your career to is extremely important. More than ever, I’d argue. You’re defined by the experiences you have. You can do something you consider to be exciting and sexy for ACME, Inc. or you can bust your hump showing that you drive value and try to start doing more exciting and sexy things at a great company.

Communication is a constant. Social media is changing at a rapid pace. Something better will come along. It will become more and more seamless. Soon, you’ll be naked. People will know who you are. They’ll know what you’re capable of. They’ll know the warts of your product. You’ll be standing in front of the classroom naked. Tweeting. Sharing. And, eventually crying when you are asked to show the value you’re adding.

This isn’t new stuff. A class in social media should be required at every major university. I’d argue that a major is the wrong approach though. If we had mastered our output of great marketers and the business world was saturated – sure, go ahead and make them social media majors. But, most marketers still don’t get it.

Can we fix that first?

It may not dramatically increase applicants as fast. It may not bring in the immediate tuition dollars. But, if companies see that you’re producing results-driven marketers, that’s the boat you want to be in.

Who is even hiring these social media “experts” without solid business or marketing experience?

Image: mindaugasdanys