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Social media: Reshaping the vision of marketing

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Marketing instructor Heidi Maurer Rottier ’98, MBA ’01 and Dr. Ed Bond, chair of Bradley’s marketing department, prepare students to market businesses via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Online

Visit the social media marketing Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/BUSMM

View a video of marketing professor Dr. Ed Bond discussing social media and the new social media marketing concentration at Bradley at bradley.edu/go/works-bond

By Nancy Ridgeway

As Facebook and Twitter revolutionize our culture, Bradley’s Foster College of Business Administration embraces the changing times to become a pioneer in offering social media marketing curriculum.

Social media has changed the way individuals interact with friends and family — and the way businesses communicate with customers. With Facebook users topping one billion last fall, social media has become an important component of corporate strategic plans and is the fastest growing area in marketing.

Bradley University has responded with a new social media marketing concentration. Marketing instructor Heidi Maurer Rottier ’98 MBA ’01 says Bradley’s marketing faculty noticed a shift in 2009, as the number of individuals using Facebook rose dramatically. About the same time, businesses and corporations began to promote their brands through Facebook pages. As users made personal connections, they also began to “like” their favorite brands.

“In the spring of 2010, we as a department recognized the growing influence social media was having on marketing and the impact our students could have if they were prepared in social media marketing,” Rottier says.

Dr. Ed Bond, chair of Bradley’s Department of Marketing, says, “This concentration prepares students and creates a buzz so more people are aware of the importance of social media marketing, whether they are directly involved with it or not.”

While students are familiar with Facebook and Twitter, most have used social networks for personal use only. The class introduces them to ways social media can be used in the business world.

 “Our students can prepare for careers that are really wide open,” Dr. Bond says. “Our graduates can get involved quickly and make an impact. They will have opportunities to do more and make their marks sooner.” 

Bradley’s social media marketing concentration has nine majors and 17 minors. Fourteen majors and three minors have graduated.

Most social media marketing graduates are involved in other aspects of marketing, as well, Rottier says, listing public relations, event planning, sales and market research.

“We have a few graduates whose responsibilities are entirely Web-based — social media, online advertising and database management,” she says. “We also have one alum who does freelance social media work for a promotional agency.”

Bradley is a pioneer in offering a social media marketing concentration. When the department began researching social media marketing at other universities, Rottier says they found few undergraduate classes and graduate programs.

The first social media marketing class was offered in spring 2011. With no textbooks available, Rottier created the primary course from scratch, implementing social media tools. Students are required to blog and use Facebook and Twitter for class credit.

“They have to interact with each other using those tools,” Rottier says. “We have a class Facebook page, and they must post at least once a week. It keeps students tuned into the world of social media. Students will talk about seeing a particular hashtag, and they post links to stories they think classmates might like.”

With social media marketing evolving, Rottier strives to keep the class current. “When Facebook announced its change to a ‘timeline’ format or when it reached 1 billion users, we talked about it. We often spend several minutes talking about the latest news in social media.”

To provide an experiential component to the course, students create social media marketing plans for Peoria-area companies. “Local businesses have an opportunity to connect and really make social media marketing work for them. If they are diligent, they can create a nice following,” Rottier says.

Looking to the future, she believes the growing popularity of mobile devices is going to be a “game changer.”

“Buyers who have smartphones visit and post on social media sites more often and are more likely to solicit feedback about brands and services,” Rottier says. “If they are at a restaurant, they may tweet, ask what’s good to eat and base their decisions on the responses. Smartphone saturation has a ways to go, but it will only grow from here.”

When Rottier began teaching in 2001, companies were discovering the intricacies of online marketing. Social media had not yet been born, with Facebook debuting in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. As the Internet and related technology evolve, companies strive to keep up with the latest trends.

“You don’t take away any online tools; you just keep adding,” she says. “Most companies realize today that people don’t just do a search online; they look on Facebook first. Companies have yet another way to reach out. They can respond to a Facebook comment or tweet, or they can have specials for those who check in on Foursquare.”

Rottier appreciates the opportunities the social media marketing class brings to her and her students. “They are learning how social behavior influences the way we buy and why that is amplified through social media.”

That awareness, in turn, will prepare students to contribute to their employers’ marketing plans in the future.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for me,” Rottier says. “I’m working with the latest technology and engaging marketing skills in a way I never have before. I took something I love to do and made it that much more enjoyable.”

Prerequisites for the social media marketing course are a consumer behavior course and an integrated marketing communication class. “We want students to understand the brand side and the buying side of marketing before they take a social media networking class,” Rottier says.

Dr. Bond adds, “We want students who are interested in how they can use social media as marketing tools, rather than students who enroll because they think social media is cool.”

 Just as social media is revolutionizing the culture, the class is changing how students view the medium. “This class is reshaping their visions for how social media can be used,” Rottier says.