Go ahead, try to “teach” today’s typical college or graduate student how to use Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Reddit. As Forbes’ Mark Fidelman reported last year, many graduate programs aren’t even trying – perhaps because of ossified course approval processes, which often take years to get new material into the curriculum, and perhaps because most millennials are already far more conversant with the technologies than their professors.
But one Canadian graduate program is taking on the challenge. Bhupesh Shah, a professor at Seneca College in Toronto, recently helped to launch a new one-year Social Media Graduate Certificate. What’s the pitch? “This program isn’t about developing talent who will just execute your social media tactics without critically thinking about how they can impact business objectives,” said Shah. “We’re shaping a new generation of social media elites [who will deploy] clear metrics to track how they’ve helped your business grow.”
Implicit in this is the fact that millennials don’t have an innate ability to use social media strategically, and just because they can launch a Facebook page blindfolded or create Vine videos in their sleep doesn’t mean they understand business ROI. What tools should they be using? What will advance the interests of their company? What will resonate most with their target audience?
The program will feature courses in topics like web mining and analytics, Internet writing and content strategy, and a mandatory 100 hour field placement. One constant, says Shah, will be a focus on analyzing social media tools and how they’re deployed, including “their appropriateness for use in B2B, B2C, for-profit, and non-profit business models.”
Shah and Seneca College are betting that their Social Media program’s “strategic curriculum” will be the differentiator that students (and employers) are looking for. “We don’t just want to have students familiar with current tools, we want to teach them how to critically evaluate any tool, current or future, to ensure that it fits in with an organization’s objectives,” says Shah. “Instagram or Vine video are all the rage right now, and you see organizations using them in quite creative ways. But just because it’s cool doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for all businesses. Our grads will have the discipline to see it for its potential – to act as innovators and leaders instead of following the masses. That’s what industry wants.”
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on August 6, 2013.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.