A Tipping Point for Social Media Marketing Education

Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point is one of my favorites. It examines how ideas, practices, and products gain traction and acceptance. The catalyst to adoption is a tipping point, a trend or development that "tips" behavior. When I first read the book I thought to myself that it would be great to witness a tipping point and recognize it as such. I had such an experience last Friday when a blog post written by a recent college graduate became the tipping point for advancing social media marketing as a distinct sub-discipline in marketing education.

Cathryn Sloane, a recent University of Iowa graduate, suggested in a post on the blog NextGen Journal that every social media manager should be under 25. Her premise was that people her age have grown up using social media and because of their familiarity with Facebook, Twitter, and other sites from an early age they are best equipped to work in the social media industry. Sloane's position is summarized by saying:

"No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do."

Reaction to Sloane's post from the marketing community was swift, generally negative, and in some cases, vicious. Critics dismissed the post as ill-informed and showing a lack of understanding how social media is used for business purposes. Some people painted with a broader brush, saying that Ms. Sloane's view was representative of a sense of entitlement held by many Millennials. Of course, much of the castigation of Ms. Sloane was coming from the over-25 crowd she suggested was less qualified to work in social media.

Add me to the list of over-25s that disagreed with Ms. Sloane's take that people her age are best qualified to be social media managers. I see where she is coming from, but using similar logic I would make a great general manager for the Atlanta Braves because I watched a lot of Braves games on WTBS in my high school and college years. Despite my differing opinion, I see a positive arising from the flames thrown Ms. Sloane's way. Her view of what it takes to work in social media marketing brings out the need to develop curriculum to prepare future social media managers. 

Like most cutting-edge business practices, academia lags behind industry when it comes to social media marketing. The time has come to give social media its rightful place alongside other marketing platforms studied in business school: Advertising, public relations, professional selling, and direct marketing. Academics must collaborate with the professional community to identify the skill sets needed to train social media marketers. Sloane's post and the immense response it elicited are evidence of the need to integrate social media in the marketing curriculum.

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