What if you could go to school to become famous? Where a curriculum was built around your individuality! Where you were measured and graded on your sphere of influence? Today, in the Age of the Individual, we are all learning to market our own brand. In this new world of commerce, both online and off, your reputation is indeed becoming an accepted form of currency. If you ever thought you were too cool for school before, think again... you just might be able to enroll in an institution of higher learning that puts a whole new spin on socializing!
Is there any doubt that social media has transfixed the Internet landscape for the foreseeable future? The astounding growth of Twitter and Facebook alone forced everyone – not just marketers, but corporations, investors, media and even Barack Obama to pay attention to social media as a serious business and cultural phenomenon. Now even academia is taking a swipe at the golden ring to teach and engage students in social media.
An actual course entitled "Internet Famous" is currently being taught at Parsons New School for Design in NYC and is based on the premise that just because you are involved in social media doesn’t make you special. However, it could make you famous — Internet Famous, that is. The curriculum prompts students to blog, facebook, twitter, and digg their way to online fame and hopefully an A.
In this webcast that talks with the professors that developed the course, one can easily see why today's socially media-conscious students think "getting famo" can distinguish your persona and create highly contagious viral campaigns.
Jamie WilkinsonJamie Wilkinson, one of professors featured in the video helped designed the Internet Famo engine, which mines the online attention economy to determine students' grades. The software called Famotron is an algorithmic construct that actually measures the online attention stats of an individual's online hits, view counts, blog links, social media activity,tweets, followers and their influence — and awards students their final letter grade accordingly.
Bill Handy is a visiting assistant professor who has taught public relations and journalism. He also Bill Handy & Chaseteaches social media at Oklahoma State University, one of only a dozen US universities offering this type of course work. With more than 15 years experience in PR, Bill comes from the school of quantifiable results generated from media initiatives. He notes that while public relations is evolving into social media, the goals are the same in "creating measurable objectives and defining strategies" that will in turn create a solid foundation for "evaluating all tactics used."
When asked about individual branding, Bill was candid about what he feels social media can and cannot do to help develop online personalities. "If your brand is legit, social media will enhance it - offering more transparency, and allowing your audience to trust and speak highly of you or carry your message forward."
However, "if your brand is a facade, made up, part of a marketing scheme to create something out of nothing, social media will tear it down rapidly. In my opinion, users of social media have little regard or time for gimmicks or stunts, especially the second time they have been duped (fool me once...)."
Bill also warned that we all need to be "aware of the echo chamber social media offers. SM isn't an island of world beliefs and opinions. Before one makes a significant change to one's business model based on feedback from social media sites such as Twitter, one needs to make sure this information is trackable...outside the SM sphere."
Here Bill Handy talks more about the Social Media course taught at OSU.
Additional instructional videos pertaining to the social media course taught at OSU can be found at the School of Journalism and Broadcasting's social network, aptly called Socially Orange.
Alice MarwickStudents who have devoted their field of study to social media are as few as the number of colleges and universities that include the course work in a curriculum. However, Alice Marwick (aka alicetiara), PHD candidate at NYU is doing just that. She's studying the concept of becoming "Internet famous." Interviewer Jon Gordon of public radio's "Future Tense" talked with Marwick at the 2008 South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. Here she defines the sphere of "micro-celebrity" influence as a variation on the old Warholian concept of 15 minutes of fame.
So, at the time of this posting, it appears that while social media is prevalent in our everyday lives, it still has not reached the critical mass tipping point to spill over into academia. Will it ever? I am sure! Growth in social media is not confined to the US. Nielsen charted comparable or higher growth for Australia, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. At the Birmingham City University in the UK, a Masters Degree program in Social Media is offered that focuses on the social networking sites of Twitter, Facebook and Bebo as communications and marketing tools.
Online, SocialMediaSchools.com assists with the integration of Internet and
social media technologies into the public and private school systems. It's currently working to create a series
of how-to videos that will give school administrators a step-by-step
break down of how to set up social media profiles and use social
networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to connect with, educate, and inspire teachers, students, parents, staff and community members.
The rise of social media is creating a new form of marketing altogether, which is also being termed "social influence marketing." Social influence marketing is about employing social media as part of the entire life-cycle of a marketing campaign, even beyond the initial campaign itself. How this will all play out will depend on how universities, colleges and specialized schools develop future curriculum to transition from Web 2.0 to 3.0, or Semantic Technology. That's when things will really start to get interesting. And, hopefully when we do evolve into that space, today's social media students will become tomorrow's teachers.