I graduated in Journalism in 2011. I’m sure we can all agree, it is not that far back. It hasn’t even been a decade, but what does that mean in an industry moving this fast?
Social Media Marketing was barely a thing when I finished my university studies. Today, it has infiltrated nearly every sector of the communications field. It leaked into PR activities, marketing strategies and customer support services, in addition to being used by reporters as a research tool for news stories and quotes. Yes, quotes. Tweets from verified accounts are taken as official, mini press releases. Flashback to a not-so-distant past when I was quite literally knocking on office doors for just a sentence or two to add to my feature piece.
The integration of social networks to the marketing mix set in motion an accelerated sequence of changes to the field, the majority of which are not reflected in recent bachelor degrees. Brian Solis, from research company Altimeter Group, dubbed it “Digital Darwinism”- when technology and consumer habits move faster than our ability to adapt. That is not to say that recent graduates cannot match up to the changes, it simply means that those coming from majors like Journalism, Marketing and Advertising have studied a curriculum that does not cover the full scope of the industry anymore.
“Traditional” communication roles, and by this I mean pre-social media boom ones, have splintered. Companies are looking for hybrids. A marketer able to compile social media reports, a brand manager who also tailor-makes content for social platforms or a PR executive able to spot a crisis risk from Twitter insights. Required skill sets are graphed from different sectors but the mix-and-match is not yet accurately reflected in university programs.
I am a firm believer in that we learn much more from hands-on experience than from peering over books. Practical will always trump theoretical for me, but ultimately these changes are becoming too big to be overlooked precisely because of the lack of clarity or guidelines.
Social media marketing is at an “in-between” stage, still fusing with different departments. Until the field manages to find its place within communications as a whole, practitioners making a living out of it seem to also be stuck at an in-between phase where there is always an extra set of skills that need to be acquired from scratch to meet market demands. A social media executive is no longer just a social media executive, they are a medley of different responsibilities pertaining to different departments. Personally I do not see social media carrying on as a stand-alone entity, rather I see traditional roles expanding to integrate the fusion until social media is fully dissolved within them.