Teaching Digital Marketing to the Next Generation of Practitioners

Earning an accredited MBA online can expose you to the latest tools in digital marketing if you use the right resources. However, professors need to avoid assuming that their students who have grown up with the medium are also experts in how the Internet works. They also need to focus less on the tools for education and on the latest gadgets and more on how their functions relate to measurable business objectives.

As a professor at Bentley University, I have so much fun working with the next generation of digital marketers. Based on this experience, here are some tips for educators interested in designing dynamic digital marketing curriculum for their institutions.

1. Just because the students consider themselves “digital natives” doesn’t mean they know anything useful about the internet and how it works. Set up your teaching plan assuming you will need to educate your students on the basics. While all of them are outfitted with lots of devices, few of them have done anything but consume online content. They lack a real sense of the inner workings of the online environment and many have an over-confident view of their internet knowledge. A good grounding in the internet (infrastructure, data use, current tools and how they function, demographics, devices/delivery systems, SEO, social gaming, location-based marketing, etc) is essential if you want to prepare your students for successful social media careers.

2. Avoid text books. Use the content of the medium – blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. It helps familiarize your students with the environment and the thought leaders in the field. It also emphasizes the changeable nature of this world. Teaching your students to stay current is an essential part of their preparation.

3. Avoid focusing solely on the tools; emphasize the functions in relation to the desired business objectives. Everything in this field is moving at the speed of light. Tools come and go quickly…you will become acutely aware of the industry changes from semester to semester driven by device design, application innovation and creative use of the tools. Leave yourself open to take advantage of whatever is “hot” at the moment so your students get used to assessing new things quickly to determine viability for their business purposes. This is particularly important as early adoption can provide a distinct market advantage for savvy marketers who are comfortable taking educated risks.

4. Recruit a team. The world of digital marketing is about collaboration and community. The field is SO diverse that having a “team” of experts allows students exposure to many different points of view and a higher degree of expert knowledge; adding a much richer learning experience for everyone. This “collaboration” helps students build their professional network and it helps the practitioners scout talent and get fresh ideas. It also prepares students to examine their own discipline preferences as they look for jobs.

5. Apply the learning to real “clients”. Experimentation is an important component to social media marketing but it doesn’t have to be “theoretical”. There are plenty of small businesses willing to partner with your class in exchange for help designing digital marketing strategies for their organizations. When students work with real business people faced with real market challenges, it’s exciting. Tie the work to business objectives and budget requirements and it adds value to your business clients as well. This is a great way to build resume material and intern/job possibilities for the students while cultivating productive business relationships for you and your institutions.

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