Let’s talk about teaching Social Media in our Schools.

When I came up with the idea for this blog, my first thought was that there must be tons of blogs written around this subject. And there probably are, although they didn’t immediately jump out at me.

My second thought was that the wheels are probably already in motion for this. After a quick google search, a few things did pop up — the odd university offering a course here and there, and a few articles on the subject that made for an interesting read. However, it doesn’t look like it’s something that will be going mainstream in our schools / colleges in the immediate future. So here is my take;

Social Media is so deeply embedded into all of our lives, especially the lives of the youth market. It is part of every aspect of modern life, which comes with a whole host of both opportunities and threats. A recent Pew report (an internet, science and tech Centre) stated that;

92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly,” More than half (56%) of teens — defined in this report as those ages 13 to 17 — go online several times a day. ‘ This will come as no surprise to most, especially those in the industry. However, it does beg the question what exactly are these young people spending all of this time doing. Should we be putting measures in place to teach them applicable skills, as well as educating them to use this time to be more productive, successful or most importantly, aiding them to be safe online?

I didn’t want to spend too long on the subject of safety online, as it is well documented, but a few things worth noting; we should be ensuring that all teens are aware of how to use privacy settings, potential dangers, such as stalking or cyber-bulling, the danger of taking explicit photos and so on.

I remember reading a pretty shocking headline in the Independent last year about the correlation between too much time spent on social media and depression — I dug it out, and it states:

The more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to become depressed, a study has found.

Of the 19 to 32-year-olds who took part in the research, those who checked social media most frequently throughout the week were 2.7 times more likely to develop depression than those who checked less often.

The 1,787 participants used social media for an average 61 minutes every day, visiting accounts 30 times per week. Of them, a quarter where found to have high indicators of depression.’ How applicable this is to the wider population, I don’t know, but certainly something that needs to be addressed.

Perhaps our schools are a good place to start.

Moving onto opportunities within the industry and pay associated with these opportunities.

Social Media Management salaries:

The first thing I noticed when I searched ‘social media’ on PayScale.com was the fact that Social Media Managers can earn just as much, if not a larger annual salary than Marketing Coordinators, Marketing Executives and Marketing assistants. These are all jobs that would typically require a related degree to apply. Social Media Managers, however, in most cases simply required knowledge of Social Media and the platforms that the individual would be working on. If more young people who are genuinely passionate about Social Media knew of this opportunity, they may decide that they don’t need to rack up huge amounts of debt at University. Additionally, given that it’s an industry that values youth over experience in many cases, getting into a career earlier will consequently allow them to begin establishing themselves in the right communities and with the right people, early on. We should also be encouraging them to connect with all of their classmates and teammates as they may become valuable connections further down the line.

We should be ensuring that as they become older and start looking for employment in any industry, they are maintaining a professional public appearance online. This ensures that when their potential employers are looking them up, there are no embarrassing photos that might give them the wrong impression.

I completely appreciate that there are arguments to include a whole host of topics that are not covered nearly enough in schools; economics or politics for instance, maybe they take priority, but I really don’t know enough about this to comment in any great detail. Another issue with including Social Media in our primary / secondary school curriculum is who will teach the lessons? No disrespect to our teaching professionals, but they are on the whole, not going to be experts in this field, plus, it is not really what they signed up for.

I discussed this topic with a friend of mine, James Smith, a social media manager who has done the job for a range of large companies; Kopparberg, New Look and currently Deliveroo, about whether or not he feels that our schools, colleges and Universities should be including more classes or degrees around Social Media.

I asked him ‘what are your thoughts on teaching social media in our primary & secondary school or perhaps our colleges, and do you think more Universities should be adding Social Media courses?’

Here’s what he had to say:

More and more I’m convinced that modern marketing degrees are not fit for purpose when it comes to social media. The digital revolution has turned things upside down for marketeers and the techniques for success and the flow of ideas is constantly shifting within the social space.

How can you write a chapter of a textbook explaining the latest change to Facebook’s algorithm with any guarantee that the information won’t be useless a month later? Social media moves too fast and I’d encourage any budding social media marketeers to get out into the business world, get their hands dirty and learn that way instead. It’s certainly cheaper than a £36,000 slip of paper.

James Smith, Social Media Manager, Deliveroo.

Twitter: @JamesHadouken

Ok, so it’s looking like there are lots of arguments supporting teaching some lessons in late primary / secondary school or offering Social media courses at colleges, firstly for safety reasons, but also because they are FREE, as opposed to spending 3 years and x thousand pounds at University, as this may be unnecessary.

It is also beneficial that young people are aware that they don’t have to study marketing degrees that contain social media modules in order to apply for a job within the social media marketing industry. I would say at the moment too many students are racking up debts taking this route into the industry, when they just need to know earlier that jobs in Social Media do exist and they are very credible and absolutely viable to anybody who is passionate about the industry, with or without a degree.

For me, ultimately the answer is let the professionals come into our schools and colleges to teach lessons and take workshops on the opportunities and risks associated with social media ( I know of some great companies offering this) and this can be done after school, or in college free periods, so it doesn’t disrupt lessons. If you are intent on going to University but would like to end up with a job in Social Media, I think personally, I would still recommend taking a general Business / marketing / PR course that includes a module on Social Media, and do your best to gain some experience alongside this, maybe build some social communities of your own, as ultimately this is what the employers will focus on.

If you are passionate about social media at a young age, reach out to agencies or professionals to ask some advice — it’s a thriving industry, we want to keep it that way. We’re always happy to help.