Belfast Telegraph

Social media: should we study it or just sit down and tweet?

By Mark Nagurski

A few weeks ago I wrote about Birmingham City University’s MA course in social media.

In the article I took the position that for most people the best way to learn how to use social media in their businesses is by trial and error — not classroom learning.

A factual error in the original article notwithstanding (the course actually started in 2009, not 2011), I still feel that the majority of businesses — or individuals considering a career in social media — would benefit more from just getting stuck in.

However, after exchanging comments, e-mails, tweets and phone calls with teachers and students on the course, there seemed to be more to this debate than I had allowed for initially.

Specifically, as social media becomes ever more important in how we communicate, should we not also be considering how we bring ever more professionalism into the industry in the hope of raising standards?

Do we need to actively develop a group of people with both a practical and theoretical knowledge of social media or is this happening organically already? More importantly, could this kind of kind of course produce more effective social media professionals or even act as a primer for prospective entrepreneurs in the space?

So, with that in mind, I asked Dave Harte, award leader in the Social Media MA offered by Birmingham City University, to provide a little more perspective.

He provided me with a quick overview of the course and where the idea came from.

“The course is intended to support those who wish to have careers as social media professionals,” he said.

“So at its heart it is vocational. Along the way to becoming practitioners in this field they learn something about sociological aspects of social media and something about entrepreneurship in the creative industries.

“The former is there to support them to think deeply about how media creates audiences and about how audiences engage with media texts.

“Understanding this gives them a competitive advantage when it comes to developing and implementing social media solutions.

“Developing entrepreneurial skills is clearly essential in an era when graduates are competing for fewer full-time jobs and are far more likely to have portfolio careers or start their own enterprises.”

I then asked Mr Harte what kind of students the course was attracting, and what they were looking for.

“The course largely attracts international students so far — various European countries as well as US, African, Middle East, China,” he said.

“Their individual motives vary but they tend to share between them the experience of having done some work in this field and feeling that further study was needed to help them progress from a deliverer of social media communications.”

Mark Nagurski is the recently appointed digital champion for Derry. You can contact him via email to

Belfast Telegraph