Brian Solis has written some great books (several I list for my students as part of their recommended reading list for social media) and has generously shared his expertise and insights with businesses, professionals, and even professors. I have followed Brian and his blog for many years, and when I saw he was doing a video series for Hootsuite, I wanted to definitely check them out.
One video that did capture my attention was his thoughts on social media education and what businesses need to be aware of. Solis primarily talked about what were the skills people had and what were some of the skills brands needed. This appears to be the growing issue and trend we are seeing not only in the business side of PR and other related fields, but also as professors.
What does it take to be a social media professor? What we are seeing is definitely two groups here when teaching a social media class. We have professionals who are actively engaged in the profession still, may have their own consulting business and practice, and are focused on designing and teaching a class that is built on giving students practical and applied assignments and skills to enter the workplace. On the other side, we have professors who teach the theory and undermining principles and concepts going on behind the scenes of social media through research and theory driven exercises.
So, which one is the best approach to take? In my opinion, that’s the wrong question – it really should be – how can we bridge both of these approaches in one class? Some may say it can’t be done, and others argue for one side of the coin is better than the other. I say you can bridge both and be able to be part of these two perspectives. You can share what has been done before and tie in theory and previous work to have in-depth conversations about the growing changes we are seeing that are linked to behavior, attitude formation, and perception. Exploring and tying in principles and perspectives from related fields (ex. psychology, anthropology, marketing) are all key here. We talk about building a foundation for research before we initiate a campaign, but we first have to build a foundation for our strategic mindset.
However, I will say we also need more opportunities for our students when it comes to applying what we are discussing. Yes, it’s key to have the tactical assignments for how to create a tweet, write a blog post, etc – however, we also need to raise our expectations and demands to the next level to prepare them for what to expect. Anticipate the roles they are going to be asked to do for these businesses as Solis mentioned in his video interview with Hootsuite.
Specifically, he mentioned that these roles in some cases for brands are as he said “invented” – which puts professors in the position to be part of the equation and look from their perspective – what are some of the roles that are needed for PR firms, brands, and others in the area of social media? This question allows the professors also be part of the equation and consider what they can do in terms of assignments, projects, and roles for their students in their classes. The creative opportunity here is huge for professors in this area, and we should jump at this with both feet and run with it in our classes.
In essence, what we as professors are facing here is a reinvention of some of the traditional approaches and ways not only are we teaching our students when it comes to social media classes, but also our role as well. We as professors may need to “see things differently” as Solis has mentioned and be open to these new possibilities and opportunities. Along with how we do research and teach, our roles and what we do as professors is also evolving along with the changes we are seeing in the business and professional sector. It’s indeed an exciting time right now for our profession and a glimpse into the future of teaching and our role in it as professors. Bring it on.
Hope you all are having a great day!