Social Media: Millenials’ Next Expected Skills Set

As recently discussed on Social Media NZ in an article titled, Social Media – the new school Curricula, social media is becoming more ubiquitous to our every day lives. We use it to connect to others, to share thoughts and ideas, and to influence others. But social media has come along way in the last half a decade, and our actions and communications on social media platforms are no longer viewed as mere “online socialising.” Tweeting it seems, is becoming not only big business, but also a necessary skill for the next generation. Businesses are now leveraging social media for advertising, marketing, and screening applicants.

And business is not alone. Non-profits are building awareness and engaging citizens for causes. Higher education is letting students ask questions in class using Twitter, promoting and monitoring clubs and activities through Foursquare, and building alumni networks on social platforms. Even government is using social media to communicate their message and reach out to constituents in what is being dubbed “Government 2.0.”

It’s obvious that social media has made its mark and is here to stay in one form or another. While we’ve witnessed the repercussions of Technological Darwinism on people’s social and work life over the last two decades, another chasm is beginning to grow as Social Media Darwinism could leave other companies and organizations on the short branch of the evolutionary tree. As William Edwards Deming once said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Smart companies are making sure they won’t be left behind.

Social media is here, and like the rise of personal computers roughly 20 years ago, one could hardly imagine how far we would come. The question is, how will social media be influencing our lives twenty years from now, and how are we preparing future leaders to utilise it?


I’ve watched the social media rise from a unique perspective. I was smack in the middle of my undergraduate work when Facebook was released to at the University of Idaho. Overnight, social interaction, study habits, and attention spans completely changed. Parties were announced on Facebook (as well as how police found them), studying took twice as long due to constantly checking updates, and classes became that much harder to pay attention to.

Teachers took notice. They began banning Facebook use in class, and assistants would sit in the back of the class to enforce the new rules. For a while in the early beginnings of Facebook, faculty was drastically losing the battle for their students’ attention.

But in the last few years, we’ve seen the all-out resistance of social media I experienced in the classroom change course. Higher education has begun to realise the power of Facebook and other social media’s hot triggers and influence as a potential learning and recruiting tool. And while that’s not to say social media is still not a distraction in classrooms, most schools are now in some respect reaching their students, faculty, and alumni through some social network to capture back some of that attention. With this new continued trend, we are seeing not only an effort by colleges and universities to reach students through their social networks, we are seeing things like the launch of the first fully accredited MBA program hosted exclusively on Facebook.  Welcome to Education 2.0.

And while these adoptions and changes are representative of how social media has changed the interaction between stakeholders, the most significant change is not the adoption of social media into the administrative side of higher education, but the adoption of social media into the curricular side of colleges and universities. Social media has transferred from being a way for universities to stay savvy to a taught business skill.


Today as the our professional and personal lives blur, creating more of a work life integration than a work life balance, more than ever do we need professional training on personal branding, social media utilisation, and network leveraging as a professional tool. Higher education is beginning to reflect this need not only as an obscure elective course, but also as core curriculum for a growing number of colleges and universities.

Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Seattle, Washington, is a graduate program that has already began infusing social media education into its curriculum. BGI, a business school focusing on environmental and social responsibility, recently named by Business Week as “One of the Top Design and Innovation Schools in the World”, hosts a semester long course titled “Using the Social Web for Social Change” as part of their MBA in Sustainable Business.

Students go through a series of different weeklong modules, learning the ins and outs of the social web, and how it can best be utilised for initiating desired actions. Module examples range from topics such as The Social Web Online vs. Offline: Identity, Reputation & Privacy, Personal Branding, Participatory Media, Memetics, Analytics, and Social Psychology.

The semester cumulates with a study of the student’s choice, utilising their skills to initiate a project that will affect some sort of positive change. For instance, one student group is currently working to use time-synchronous triggers, game dynamics, and mobile social networks to get large groups of people to donate small amounts of money instantly over their mobile devices using mobile payment systems. Titled “One Small Act”, the individual giving a donation can instantly see their small donation being used to influence change within the larger system of crowd-sourced donations. Charities could ask directly for specific things they need, and the crowd can choose to fulfill the request together in real time.

Coursework like this, that can teach students how to manage their own social networks and leverage them for outcomes, can help students with two things.

First, it helps potential employees to not sabotage themselves with potentially embarrassing photos, posts, etc. during the recruitment process, when current employers are increasingly doing “social media background checks.” This is a huge employee skill in the newly-formed social media jungle considering that in a recent survey of companies, 35% of survey respondents did not hire an employee because of what they uncovered online. Once hired, an employee’s ability to manage their social networks will also be a skill they will need to continue to practice. As always, we are all 24/7 representatives of our companies, the difference now is that our lives are increasingly becoming public, accessible, and recorded.

Secondly, learning about social media utilisation gives potential employees a leg up in the hiring process. Leveraging the social web to create a company benefit is a new and rare skill set. Most employers understand that social media will be valuable to them, but very few know how to utilise it. Even fewer companies have someone on staff capable of actually creating the value.

By default, companies will be looking to the new, young hires out of college to help them utilise these tools, whether these employees know how to or not. The more higher education can work to provide the skills sets that employers will be looking for, the more valuable those new hires will be.

As most Millennials entering the workforce can attest, many employers assume that Millennials know how to use current technology before they begin an interview. As we move forward, Millennials and the following “Facebook Generation” can get used to being expected to know how to leverage social media for business objectives as well. It’s now up to higher education to provide more of the social media course work that students need, and companies want.

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

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