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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Social+Media
Photo by Photo by Henry M
Social Media

Starting this semester, the Department of Communication is offering a new certificate program in the study of social media. 
The department had previously been offering only upper-level courses on social media, according to academic advisor Valerie Wilson. However, the demand and interest among students and faculty for expanded options led to the addition of the new courses and the certificate program.
“We felt like it was an obvious need that students were showing for a social media certificate,” Wilson said. “The industry of social media is fast-growing, and a lot of our students from the department of communication are going into that anyway. We wanted to make sure our students were prepared by offering them two specific social media courses as well as a social media certificate.”
The new courses are COMM 275: Introduction to Social Media and COMM 476: Advanced Social Media — each worth three credit hours.
Wilson emphasized that the certificate recognizes social media as a distinct communication area apart from the traditional public speaking and public relations focused programs already offered by the department.
“A lot of our students are interested in marketing or in advertising or in public relations,” Wilson said. “That’s another certificate in strategic communication that prepares students for that world. This one is just slightly more focused on how you can use social media as a tool for marketing, public relations and sales.”
According to the department’s website, the program requires 15 hours of coursework. Eligible students are able to apply for the certificate on the communication department website.
The introductory COMM 275 is currently taught by instructional assistant professor Nancy Parish, whose research in the area focuses on media ecology — the study of how media, technology and communication affect social environments. This is in addition to other social media-related research being conducted by faculty across the department of communication.
“You need to know what social media is,” Parish said. “Personal social media is one way, but organizations use it as well. It could be sales, but it could also be helping and aiding crisis communication or other issues that come up.”
While designing the courses and the program, Parish said it was important to incorporate current research trends and topics into the curriculum.
“We’re talking and discussing [in class] the issues with Facebook and privacy and Cambridge Analytica,” Parish said. “But at the same time, I’ll bring some of the work that I’ve done and we’ll discuss it from that blurring of the private versus public, which is so interesting because of that social angle and the issues that arise from it.”
Many students have an interest in the ethical issues surrounding many of the controversies involving social media, Parish said.
“There’s no one way [to deal with these ethical issues] because we live in post-modernity,” Parish said. “There’s no excellent way to do that. My goal is just to put the information out there and have the students think about it and start analysing and understand the concepts and thoughts that they never thought before and they come to their own conclusion.”
In addition to teaching personal social media literacy skills, the courses and the program aim to equip students with professional skills which can assist them in areas such as business, Wilson said. One major focus is brand social media — how organizations use social media to distinguish themselves and their products to customers and clients.
“A person’s personal social media brand affects how they get a job,” Wilson said. “That’s going to affect anyone, even if they are not going into social media management.“
According to communication senior Aine Britton, the courses offer interweaving knowledge that enhances her previous course in strategic communication, which mainly focused on traditional public relations.
“I think there is a crossover because with strategic communication, you need to learn how to use social media,” Britton said. “I think the two play hand-in-hand because it’s important to know how to work social media and target different audiences when you’re using strategic communication.”

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