I’ve been visiting college and trade-school websites and looking at their business and communication courses, and I’ve discovered that only a handful of schools present comprehensive social media courses that directly connect with real-world business strategies.

Most curricula offer classes that emphasize confident handshakes and e-mail etiquette. Certainly, these are necessary as students seek quality employment in a lagging economy and competitive job market. But why is there such a disparity in course innovation?

A trajectory for student success

For years, faculty and administrators have been criticized for their reluctance to accept change. Career counselors are providing students with résumé templates that are 10 years old. As social media converge with sales and business, it’s clear that archaic mindsets and tools are interfering with the trajectory of student success.

Instructor Carie Statz at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers sage advice: “Bring the real world into the classroom as much as possible.”

What skills do graduates think they are lacking? According to a poll asking, “If you could go back to school, which class would help you most in your job today?” nearly 3 in 10 of 554 respondents selected “advanced social media skills.” Social media offer vast opportunities to those who understand the driving power behind them.

Five reasons digital can no longer be ignored:

  1. Blogging. Business professionals and educators complain that millennials are weak in writing and communication. Blogging can have a significant impact. Management consultant, Internet marketer and author Tom Peters: “I will simply say my first post was in August of 2004. No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging. It has changed my life, it has changed my perspective, it has changed my intellectual outlook, it’s changed my emotional outlook (and it is the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude that I’ve ever had). And it’s free.” When done right, posting regularly brings credibility, influence and business.
  2. Relationship-based selling on the Web. In sales, connecting with prospects and nurturing relationships help determine success. Trainers and educators with hands-on sales and social media experience must be better utilized to teach students about online networking and the value of digital communities. This includes concepts such as e-mail marketing, landing pages, list building, e-commerce and affiliate programs.
  3. Accessibility to decision-makers. Social channels have given us access to CEOs, decision-makers, thought leaders and prospects like never before. The days of trying to score an appointment with a decision-maker, only to be turned away by the snarky “rejectionist,” or receptionist, are waning. In business, our point of entry is social media.
  4. Branding and reputation management. Online conversations about consumer experience are taking place all of the time, regardless of whether a business is present for damage control. Students must know how to mitigate these situations.
  5. Leadership. As students and graduates become immersed in the business of social channels, they will have an opportunity to learn from top thought leaders worldwide. Whether it’s a Twitter chat, a LinkedIn group or a YouTube video, experiential learning will prove priceless. A generation of creative and bold talent will emerge.

Are you serving your students or doing them a disservice by downplaying how social media work in business?

Susan Young works with college students who want to integrate social media and business skills to achieve communication, sales and leadership success. She is the president of Get in Front Communications, has been named one of Twitter’s Top 75 Badass Women and tweets @sueyoungmedia.

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