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Social Media and the Next Generation

August 2, 2009

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My four years at Bethany College will always stick in my mind as some of the best times of my life.  Professionally, this is where I learned the fundamentals of communications, from public relations to advertising to writing for the media. Personally, this is where I formed many of the relationships that have made me the person that I am today.  This period of professional and personal growth has had a tremendous impact on everything that I do and I’m extraordinarily grateful for the relationships, experiences, and knowledge that I gained while I was in college.  It was here that I first learned the differences in writing a feature story and a news story, where I learned how to give a public presentation, where I first experienced what it was like to work with an actual client, where I began to understand that all the knowledge in the world isn’t going to cut it in the “real world” unless I had people skills too.  Disappointingly though, I didn’t learn a single thing about social media, Web 2.0, and especially not Government 2.0.  It wasn’t just that this terminology didn’t exist, it was that the principles of methods of open, transparent communications didn’t exist either.

We had a “Mass Communications 101” class where we learned how broadcast, communications had evolved over the years.  We had a “Communication Theory” class where we learned the Magic Bullet theory and the Mean World theory.  But, we never had a class where we learned the many-to-many communications model of social media.  We never had a class where we discussed the differences in writing for a blog versus writing for a newspaper.  Media relations 101 didn’t even mention bloggers.  We were learning communications for the past and the present but were unprepared for communications in the future.  How would communications evolve over time?  What new tools would change the way organizations communicated?  What new communications methodologies would be embraced?

Since I graduated, I’ve spoken to many students, professors, and alumni, and I’ve been consistently disappointed in the lack of formal (or informal) education around social media at the collegiate level.  Despite what you may have heard from the Baby Boomer generation, today’s college students aren’t out there creating blogs, tweeting, or using wikis on a regular basis.  Sure, they are most likely on Facebook or MySpace for personal reasons, but using Facebook to organize your next Edward Forty-hands mixer is a lot different than using a blog to change public opinion and organize an online community.  I’ve met just as many 24-year-olds who are as completely befuddled by Twitter as 42-year-olds.

Enter the Social Media Club Education Connection.  Ever since I started working as a consultant at Booz Allen, I’ve loved mentoring my colleagues, giving presentations at college campuses, and coaching junior team members on projects.  I’ve always gotten a lot of satisfaction from helping others reach their potential while still showing them that they can have fun doing it too. For these reasons, I’ve also been very interested in the opportunities for improvement in higher education and communications. Then one day in April, while attending the SNCR New Communications Forum, surrounded by people like Shel Israel, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Jeremiah Owyang, Katie Paine, and many other luminaries in the social media community, I thought to myself, “This is EXACTLY the type of conference that a college student should be attending.”  Further inspired by the next generation of social media leaders – people like Dana Lewis, Sydney Owen, and Dena Olyaie, and professors like Mihaela Vorvoreanu and Howard Rheingold – I tweeted that I thought there should be collegiate chapters of Social Media Club.  Shortly thereafter, I had a lengthy conversation with Chris Heuer, founder of the Social Media Club, about how to turn this idea into action and formally establish something.

Just a few months later, we’ve officially established the Social Media Education Connection (almost 150 members deep already!). I’m extremely excited to start working with George Washington University, one of our founding #SMCEDU chapters, right here in Washington DC.  In cooperation with student representatives, Dena Olyaie and Cathryn Sitterding, and faculty representative, Sean Aday, I’m looking forward to cultivating the relationship between the students of George Washington University, the DC Chapter of Social Media Club, and Booz Allen Hamilton.  When I first talked with Chris about establishing the Social Media Club Education Connection, we discussed our goals for this new initiative:

  • Connect the local Social Media Club groups more closely with their local universities
  • Co-create a combination of mentoring programs, internships, professional development opportunities to benefit both the university and professional chapters
  • Co-create a repository of Creative Commons licensed Social Media curriculum

Over the coming months, I will be working with Dena and Cathryn to create an SMCEDU GW chapter charter, work with the university to become an officially recognized organization, secure meeting space, identify additional interested students, create a strategic plan, and work with the SMCDC chapter leadership to identify professional development opportunities.  I hope this is the start of something much bigger, something that will spread throughout colleges and universities across the country, and I hope that you’ll be a part of it too.

Who knows what social media will be like in 5 or 10 years?  Who will be tomorrow’s communications leaders?  You now have the opportunity to help shape the future of the communications industry by helping shape the careers of the next generation. If you want to be part of the effort to improve the quality of social media education being offered in schools, please join our new SMCEDU Project Community on Ning.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user CLF*

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