I started teaching a course called Social Media & Mobile Marketing in Fall 2013. At this time we were working on developing our MS in Social Media & Mobile Marketing program and coming up with new courses to enhance the digital offering. We chose the title Social Media & Mobile Marketing rather than digital marketing because it was frankly, sexier.
Now it is 2016 and teaching social media has really changed. Here are some of the things that are different than they were in 2012 that marketing faculty should consider. These days teaching social media is about evolving and continuously learning new elements of digital strategy. The same old graying notes just don’t work anymore.
What has Changed about Social Media Marketing
1. Reduction of organic reach, but not gone
There was so much initial excitement over reaching people for free on social media platforms that teaching social media was about how to create beautiful Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. The focus was on getting new followers or ‘likes,’ which meant that people were opting-in to see your content. And, they were seeing your content. In the early years your video could ‘go viral’ and get attention without paid media. Today there is so much clutter it sometimes become necessary to consider traditional media – imagine that. As a result faculty should be prepared to include a discussion of traditional media and how they fit with a total integrated marketing communications strategy.
There is still some organic reach, but now marketers have to think about how to build reach by encouraging others to share content or using paid media. Getting your stuff in front of eyeballs is now more important than matching the right platform with the right message. Content management tools can really help.
2. Importance of content sharing for SEO -no more gaming Google
The wild west of the internet is over. In 2012 we taught students about black hat tactics and white hat tactics for gaming Google’s algorithm to get to the top of the results page. Now, the algorithm is set to give preference to companies that create great content that is shared, emphasize links that get a lot of clicks and prefers stuff on Google+. SEO is a very important part of teaching social and I recommend using Search Metric’s Rankings Factors:
3. More B2C brands using social
Back in 2012 the biggest users of social media were B2B firms. Today, 84% of B2B firms still use social media (http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics). What is different is that B2C firms have increased their spending in social. According to the Content Marketing Institute:
B2C marketers have made impressive progress over the past year with documenting their content marketing strategy (37% have a documented content marketing strategy vs. 27% last year).
4. Growth of new platforms- teaching the specifics of any one site is useless
As the demand for social media grows so do the market entrants. In 2012 we had Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Pinterest was just coming onto the scene and Instagram was a baby. Now we have a whole host of newer social media applications that surprise, are harder to manipulate as they are less public. Teens are moving to sites that allow them to share privately and away from marketers. Sure there is Snapchat, but kids also use text-message services.
Facebook may have reach, but it just isn’t as cool. What is a marketing prof to do? First, do not teach the details of using any social media platform. The students already know how to post on any site. You have to teach 360 degree communications strategy and how to integrate.
Another key to teaching social media is to teach students about goal setting. They should always ask: what are the goals I want to achieve and how will I get there? Of course, these should be measurable, reachable and time specific.
What has NOT Changed about Social Media Marketing
1. Marketer still say they do not know how to measure results from social media
According to Social Media Examiner’s 2015 study, 88% of marketers still want to know how to measure their social strategies.
This is the real opportunity for teaching social. Marketing professors should teach analytics to students so they know how to track and manage social media strategies. These include: return on investment, key performance indicators, goal setting, A/B testing and Google Analytics. And, for some platforms marketers have to build in methods for tracking success prior to executing the campaign. For example, using coupon codes. That is the real value of a social media course in 2016.
We marketing professors no longer have a free ride when it comes to teaching marketing. Digital media evolves so quickly that we have to stay on top of current tools to keep up with the times.