Monday, May 4, 2009

My Social Media MBA

For many, an MBA is a symbol of power. Prestige. Even wealth. You won't meet many CMOs who don't have their MBA. There's no question how much time and effort it requires. No second-guessing the commitment and smarts it takes to complete something like that. No raising concerns over its value in the marketing and PR fields. Many higher-level opportunities in marketing and communications now require a MBA.

But what happens, now, as paradigms and models continue to shift? Do you really need an advanced academic degree to pursue a senior-level marketing, PR or social media role?

You know what I think? I've got your social media MBA right here.

My instructors? Chris Brogan. Amber Naslund. Jason Falls. Todd Defren. Danny Brown. Allan Schoenberg. Beth Harte. Scott Hepburn. Connie Bensen. And a host of others.

My required reading: Shannon Paul's Very Official Blog. Mack Collier's Viral Garden. Lisa Hoffmann's New Media Lisa blog. Shonali Burke's Waxing Unlyrical blog. Dave Fleet's blog. And David Mullen's Communications Catalyst blog. And many, many more (my new favorite required reading: Mengel's Musings by Amy Mengel)

My syllabus? Whatever is piquing my interest that particular day. Recent case studies. New e-books. Slide decks from recent conferences like SXSW or BlogPotomac. The choice is mine. I drive the cirriculum.

My homework? My blog. Every tweet I send. My 1 a.m. brainstorming sessions. Guest posts on other blogs. Uploading videos via Viddler. Trying different tools out (For me, it's been Seesmic Desktop and Netvibes)

Here's the great part: It's a lifelong process. It's not relegated to four years. Heck it's not relegated to the next 10 years. It's on my own time. My own schedule. And I get to apply my learnings in real time and test my ideas. It's the greatest kind of learning because it allows me to learn, implement, fail, dust myself off and try again.

It's been a little over a year since I started my MBA, but it's been one of the best year's of my professional life. It's been full of learning new skills, understanding new tools and forms of communication and best of all, you. My community. Without you, none of this is possible.

Enough about me. What classes are you taking in your social media MBA program? Who are your instructors? I'd love to hear your faves.


prdude said...

awesome post. still working on my social media GED so thanks for listing these social media profs. i will surely check out their stuff. do you ever get a diploma? :)

i did PR for a few top B-schools. through the years of speaking with profs who are experts in their field, i kinda felt i got my own version of an MBA.

@hotlotto said...

Arik, the enthusiasm and value behind posts like this reminds me very much of some of the most successful entrepreneurs in our city.

The truth is that many (most?) academic programs were built on truths uncovered in much the same way as how you're approaching your own MBA. You are going places, my friend!

George Condit said...

Great post. A take away from this is that learning of any kind should never cease. One of the great things about an actual classroom style MBA is the friendships one makes. This is another reason why doing your own virtually is awesome as well. One of the aspects that is important to an MBA and life beyond, is mentorship. A lot of professors are "theory" guys, but every now and then you'll find an "in practice" guy, and that is where some real on the ground, get your hands dirty, learning can happen because that person can guide you around the land mines and pitfalls. Again, great post!

Keith Burtis said...

Interesting post. I have been working on a series on my blog called "Skills of a social media Ninja" One of the things I am exploring is that there is MUCH more to social media than twitter, facebook and the like.

New tools for monitoring, engagement and marketing are popping up all the time, and I agree that the people here on the front lines are fit to earn their virtual MBA's quicker than those that try to 'retrofit' social media into a plan with no knowledge of the system, ethics, and structures.

It's interesting that you bring this all up because I have heard many talk about how it takes little skill to engage in social media channels and that is probably very true. However, when you utilize the space for business it can have a profound effect if done the right way. There are many skills to be learned!


Marc said...

I agree with keith, contrary to what the naysayers believe-social media is an ongoing educational labor intensive activity. wrap business challenges around it and there is no doubt that as much info and knowledge that you can garner from other, the better.

Danny Brown said...

Hey there Mr H.

First, sincere thanks for including me alongside people I learn from every day - really appreciate it and glad to know that I'm doing something right ;-)

My education comes from the conversations going on around me. I watch and read a lot - probably a lot more than I engage (and as people might think, I do that quite a bit!).

I like to think of it that "Listen" is the core learning tool for a simple reason. Break "listen" down into two parts:

1. "List"
2. "EN"

With the first part, listening allows you to make "LISTs" of where you're going wrong, what you can improve on, who you should look out for, etc.

Then, with that in mind, you switch to part two: "ENgage".

Engage the community. Engage your peers. Engage your contemporaries. Engage your listeners and those you're listening to.

Connections can only happen from engagement, which in turn can only come from listening - so that's where my education comes in every day.


David Mullen said...

A social media MBA? Great idea and I agree with where the post is going. Education used to be kept, for the most part, in buildings on campuses. Today, though, we have access to ridiculous amounts of information with which to get smarter.

And thanks for considering my blog worthy of your required reading. I'm humbled and honored.

Anonymous said...

This post was just what I've been looking for! I have been thinking about going back to school for a long time (for graphic design and web development), but have been considering just taking the "real world education" approach and I think I've made the right decision in deciding not to go back to school. I have been inspired to make a similar post (coming soon) to this with all the places I use as resources and tools in my new education. Thanks so much for making my web-based networking experience even better!


Scott Hepburn said...

Me? A social media professor? Ha! Maybe a graduate assistant! It'd be an honor to grade papers for the distinguished faculty of Social Media U.

This fine institution of higher learning is an equal-opportunity classroom. Here, we are all students.

Thanks for being part of the class!

Arik C. Hanson, APR said...

@PRdude--Love the GED reference. Wish I would have thought of that!

@hotlotto--Thanks for the shout. Are you saying I'm the new Vance Opperman? ;)

George--Good points. I might argue I've forged relationships closer than any classroom experience I've had. I just think about my conversations and experiences with folks like Jen Wilbur, Rachel Kay, David Mullen, Amy Mengel and David Mullen--wouldn't trade those for anything at this stage of the game. Just as good--if not better--than any relationship I can foster in the classroom (and I plan to meet all those folks in person in 2009)

Danny--I can always count on you for creative thinking. Love the "List" "EN" concept. The engage part is so important. After all, that's how we've come to meet and connect.

Keith--Interesting point about the "not taking much skill." I've heard the same. I might argue it's the opposite. In such an informal, nuanced space, it actually takes MORE insight and skill to navigate certain digital and social media channels. I think the routine blogger relations gaffes we see and hear about each day are a testament to that!

David, Scott, Marc, SaraKate--thanks for your comments. Hope to keep learning from you all!

Tim Jahn said...

Right on, Arik!

The learning never stops, in everything we do. Even if you get a traditional MBA, the learning continues after those initial four years.

I've never been a fan of the traditional MBA as I've always been a self learner and don't understand why (as you've suggested here) you can't just learn things on your own by doing.

Keep up the good work and I wish you well on your journey towards your MBA!

Shonali Burke, ABC said...

I have to admit it's quite a thrill to be called "Professor." :) Seriously, though - thank you, Arik. Learning from and sharing thoughts with smart people like you and so many others is hands down the best reward of all.

Heather Whaling said...


I recently had a veteran PR person tell me that they didn't see any value in this social media stuff, and that people who use it should get a life. That irked me on many levels. Aside from the opportunities for businesses to engage current and potential consumers, I think one of the best parts of social media is the ability to network with and learn from these incredibly smart people who you wouldn't have otherwise met. I love the notion that everyday, I turn on my computer knowing that I have access to this wealth of information being shared via tweets blog posts, comments, etc. This post hits the nail on the head. People who are quick to shun social media are limiting themselves by missing out on these important mentor/mentee opportunities. It's hard for me to understand how on one hand someone can claim to be a smart PR person, but on the other hand turn a blind eye to online world. Thanks for so clearly articulating what's been spinning in my head for the past few days.

Heather (@prtini)

Danny Brown said...

@Heather. Sadly that's just typical of so many of the "old school", and not just in PR.

Anything that takes away their ability to be the "masters" of those underneath them scares them. As does the idea that a 20-year old straight from PR uni might just know a little bit more than they do. Ironically, because of this "social media waste of time".

If "getting a life" means getting a lifetime's worth of education for free and with no catches in return, just that you want to help others, I'm all for that.

Connie Bensen said...

You are just too nice. I learned a good share from people online too. There are many awesome mentors - Brian Solis, Jeremiah Owyang, and the list goes on.
But truly it's about everyone. You're all inspirational & we are learning together.

Chief Community Officer, Techrigy

Ari Herzog said...

If you lived in an area where your only means to connect online was via a dial-up modem connection, would your social media education be as notable? Or would you be distracted by slow connections and intercepting telephone calls?

What if you lived in an area where dial-up was not an option; nay, where the government prevented you from connecting out.

I respect your thinking, Arik, but when you talk about shifting paradigms, consider those who want to be you so so bad but are either restricted or prohibited.

We have a long way to go until your education is for the masses.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog as for me. I'd like to read a bit more about this theme. The only thing that blog misses is a few photos of such devices as gps blocker.

MBA Dissertation said...

it's good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

MBA Dissertation Proposal