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Question: Are There Online Master's in Social Media Degree Programs?

Answer: Yes, there are various types of online master’s in social media programs, including online master’s in social media marketing programs, online master’s in communication programs with a concentration in social media, and online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs with a social media specialization. These programs may be offered through a university’s school of business, communication, journalism, or professional studies. They provide students with a curriculum that may include courses that focus on social media technologies, social media data, and the use of social media in branding and marketing operations. Students in these programs generally take classes in business, marketing, and/or communication theory as a foundation for advanced coursework in social media and other emerging digital technologies, and some master’s in social media programs offer courses that focus on functional aspects of social media technologies, digital design, and multimedia storytelling.

Just as the concept of social media is rather new, the emergence of academic programs that focus on the functions and uses of social media is a relatively recent development. The proliferation of social media platforms and the rapid growth of companies like Facebook and Twitter has intensified the interest of business professionals, market researchers, public relations specialists, data analysts, and academics in developing a theoretical framework for understanding the effects of social media and creating strategies for leveraging the power of social media platforms and the data they generate. Many schools now offer courses in social media, and there are an increasing number of graduate programs in several fields, including business, marketing, journalism, and communication, that have dedicated social media specializations.

What Is an Online Master’s in Social Media Degree Program?

A master’s in social media degree program is a graduate program that offers coursework in social media technologies, social media content, social media data, and/or the integration of social media into strategic marketing, business operations, public relations, academic research, and other endeavors. An online master’s in social media degree program is a master’s program with a well-defined social media specialization that offers all or most of its coursework online, using distance learning technologies to deliver lectures and other course materials to students via the Internet. This includes but is not limited to online Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) programs in Communication and Marketing and online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs with a designated social media specialization, as well as online MS in Social Media Management, Digital Social Media, and Social Media Marketing programs. While curricula may differ by type of program, all of these programs provide students with classes that explore unique features of social media and the emergence of social media as a significant factor in the cultural, political, and commercial spheres.

Types of Online Master’s in Social Media Degree Programs

As noted above, social media studies is a relatively new field with many facets. As a result, there are several types of online master’s in social media degree programs that differ based on their curricula and by the academic departments in which they are housed. Schools of business typically offer online master’s in social media marketing and social media management programs and may also offer online MBA programs with a social media specialization. Schools and departments of communication, media studies, and journalism are more likely to offer online master’s in digital media, mass media, or communication programs with a specialization in social media.

Online master’s in social media marketing and management programs offered through business schools are likely to offer foundational coursework in consumer behavior, marketing analytics, integrated marketing communications, and other core aspects of managing a organization’s marketing operations. This coursework serves as a base for instruction in technical aspects of social media marketing, social media data analytics, and the incorporation of social media into strategic marketing plans. MBA programs with a social media specialization provide general training in business administration, which typically includes coursework in accounting, finance, leadership, logistics, and marketing, as well as several courses in areas pertaining to the role of social media in business operations.

In contrast, online MS and MA in mass communication and digital social media programs offered through schools and departments of communication, media studies, and journalism tend to focus more deeply on theories of mass communication, communication science research methods, and the application of theory and research to understanding the role and function of social media in the cultural, commercial, and/or political spheres. These types of online master’s in social media programs may also include coursework in mobile and other emerging communication technologies, the design of social media applications, the creation of effective social media content, and the role of social media in shaping our culture.

Finally, there are online master’s in social media programs that provide a mix of communication theory and practical, business-oriented training in social media marketing, analytics, and management. These programs may include coursework in multimedia storytelling, personal branding, and social media advertising, as well as classes in mass media and communication theory.

Online Master’s in Social Media Program Courses

Online master’s in business and communication programs typically require students to complete between ten and 15 courses, which may include a capstone or research project and/or one or more practicums. This may be broken up into foundational courses within a discipline, such as business management or communication, and specialized social media courses. Some programs may also require students to choose two or three elective courses within their area of study. The table below provides an overview of the types of courses that may be part of a core online master’s in social media curriculum. The course titles and descriptions are drawn from actual online programs.

Course TitleCourse Description
Introduction to Digital MediaAn examination of the elements of multi-media content with a focus on how words, images, and video interact to create narratives that contribute to a broad media strategy.
Effective Social MediaAn overview of various social media platforms and their use to further the goals of individuals and organizations in the public sphere.
Trends in Strategic CommunicationCase studies in how companies and organizations are using new media technologies to develop strategies for more effective branding and messaging, including the integration of user-generated content to further strategic marketing and communication goals.
Theoretical Approaches to Multidisciplinary Design ProjectsA survey of current research and theory in digital communication as a framework for understanding people interact through social media and other Internet technologies.
Introduction to Digital Social MediaA critical examination of how social media affects political, commercial, and socio-cultural aspects of everyday life with a focus on how digital and social media products are created and consumed.
Digital Media ManagementAn examination of effective strategies for the development and management of online sites, mobile applications, and other aspects of an organization’s Internet presence.
Foundations of Social and Mobile TechnologiesAn examination of the technical foundations of social media platforms and mobile applications, their development, and their use in marketing, branding, and public relations.
Digital Media Law, Policy, and EthicsAn exploration of the laws, regulations, and policies that govern digital and social media, including intellectual property law, privacy concerns, liability for user-generated content, and other emerging concerns.
Online Marketing ChannelsAn examination of various channels for marketing online through websites, social media platforms, and email.
Social Media StrategyThe development and deployment of social media marketing campaigns with a focus on monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool.
Social Media Metrics and AnalyticsA technical examination of social media data and how it is collected, sorted, and analyzed for practical use in marketing, advertising, sales, public relations, and other data-driven endeavors.

Examples of Online Master’s in Social Media Programs

The following examples are meant to provide an overview of the different types of online master’s in social media programs that are currently offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.

  • Master of Science in Marketing with a concentration in Social Media Marketing: Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers a 36-credit online MS in Marketing with a Social Media Marketing concentration that requires students to complete eight general courses in marketing and four Social Media Marketing specialization courses. Students in the program learn about marketing strategies, marketing analytics, consumer behavior, and integrated marketing communication, and take concentration courses in online marketing channels, social media marketing campaigns, and social media marketing strategy.
  • Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Social Media Marketing: In addition to an online MS in Marketing with a Social Media Marketing concentration, SNHU also offers an online MBA with a concentration in Social Media Marketing. This is a 36-credit online MBA program that requires students to complete nine general business administration courses, as well as three courses in social media marketing.
  • Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a specialization in Social Media: The University of Florida has a 38-credit online MA in Mass Communication program with a specialization in Social Media. Students in the program are required to take two core mass communication research and theory courses in addition to a social media curriculum that includes required courses in multimedia communication, social media advertising, social media metrics, and social media branding. The program includes a social media practicum and capstone project.
  • Master of Science in Digital Social Media: The University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism offers a 32-unit online MS in Digital Social Media program that features four core courses that focus on foundational elements of digital media design, social media analytics, digital media technology management, and digital and social media legal and ethical issues. Students in the program also enroll in four elective courses in subjects related to social media and complete a capstone project.

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