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Marketing in the Facebook Age: B-Schools Tackle Social Media with Innovative New Courses

Social Media MarketingSocial media is the new word of mouth. It can make or break businesses today. That's why companies are on the hunt for talent that knows how to take advantage of social media's potential to help products and services soar. While many of today's MBA students grew up on the Internet, they don't know how to employ marketing tactics on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.

Being able to understand this quickly changing landscape, and the never-ending reams of data produced about everything from consumer consumption to the types of messages that draw attention, is a challenge. So, business schools have begun offering courses designed to help students navigate this new way of life.

Ultimately, educators want to teach future leaders how to use the information, not only to build a brand, but also to make decisions about their long-term strategy, says Anindya Ghose, a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, where he teaches Social Media and Digital marketing Analytics.

"The topic is cutting edge," he adds. "Every company is either in digital marketing or trying to wrap its head around it."

In the right hands, a company's social media presence can be a powerful marketing tool. Here's a look at how three schools are preparing students for this new frontier in advertising and analytics:

Social Media and Digital Marketing Analytics -- NYU Stern School of Business

The Stern school began offering this course solely to full-time MBA students in fall 2012. It was so popular that it is now available in seven different degree programs on campus, including the part-time, executive, and global MBA programs. Ghose has students analyze data sets composed of real data from real companies. They cover a range of topics, including user content, crowdfunding, and social networking. Business consulting assignments that have students analyzing data to come up with, for example, a statistical model and its interpretation, are the highlight of the course, says Ghose.

The takeaways are learning what measurements from social media to use, and seeing the relationship between the actions you take on this platform and their results. "The causal relationship is more useful and reliable than mere prediction," says Ghose. All this, he adds, can improve one's management skills because they teach you how to use data to drive decisions.

Digital and Social Media Strategy -- Emory University Goizueta Business School

David Schweidel, associate professor of marketing at Goizueta, thinks this course, which he teaches, will eventually become obsolete. "We might not need a stand-alone course in the future," he says. "Social media and data may become so embedded in the marketing of an organization that it will be part of every course." In the meantime, Schweidel also aims to teach students how to effectively analyze data garnered from social media to make better decisions. But this course also has students tackle e-commerce with serious attention paid to online consumer consumption. In the first year the course was offered, students used Topsy, a social media dashboard to analyze real data. Since Apple acquired Topsy, Schweidel says he is looking for a new dashboard. Regardless, students can look forward to learning the value of social networking tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, and how to make them part of an organization's communications strategy and the spark for creativity in other departments.

Concentration in Social Media -- Excelsior College School of Business and technology

Students in this online program complete a nine-credit concentration in social media, which includes three required courses on social media principles and community management, social media marketing, and social media metrics. Assignments incorporate written, audio, and visual components, as well as case studies and online discussions. They cover topics such as content creation, measurement, and community management and governance, writes Excelsior spokesperson Mike Lesczinski in an e-mail. "The MBA program focuses on fostering the development of effective leaders," he adds. "Our graduates can apply strategic management principles, integrate and manage technology, and assess the global business environment."

There is no question that social media has become a part of everyday life. If businesses want to connect with consumers, then they have to learn how to best do that online. While some business schools have been reluctant to embrace the new technology with new courses, they all have to find a way to address this new component of marketing if they want to develop tomorrow's c-suite executives.