At Emerson College’s Department of Professional Studies and Special Programs, for example, students can learn the ins and outs of blogging and writing effectively for Facebook, MySpace, and Web sites in the school’s “Web Writing and Social Media” professional communications course.
Trent Bagley, an Emerson Professional Studies adjunct professor of marketing (and the department’s marketing director), explains that the class — like its unique graphic-novel and performing-arts administration programs — was created in response to student demand. “These are things that people have been asking for and looking for, and there’s a need for it,” he says, noting that students won’t necessarily build these skills in a degree program.
The one-session “Web Writing and Social Media” module ($79), offered in the fall and spring, was created to help writers fully utilize Web tools as a corporate vehicle. The three-hour session, which runs this fall on Tuesday, October 20, covers Web-page content, style, and organization; blogs, banners, and buttons; and corporate social-network profiles.
“Basically, what this particular course is about is teaching people to communicate effectively by using some of the social-media tools that are available, as well as the Internet, which is still fairly new,” says Bagley. “A lot of people, even though they’re familiar with it, don’t really know how to write for the Internet.”
When it comes to using these tools in the corporate world, Bagley adds, “It’s not about using a one-way dialogue as a means to a sale; it’s about engaging people in that dialogue.” Attention spans shrink when viewing the Web, he says, making a concise and memorable message even more important than it would be in, say, a mailed brochure.
At the nearby, nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE), a similar course entitled “Marketing Your Business on the Web” ($52; $45/members) helps small-business owners reach the approximately 70 percent of consumers who use the Internet to buy or research products. A part of that is not only creating an effective, informative Web site, but also using social networks and blogs to build relationships and engage a customer base, claims the course description. The one-session course is scheduled for November 5.
According to BCAE External Affairs Manager Jennifer Scott, the emerging field of social networking and the Web are still dynamic — there’s no one how-to source, in a book or online, for Web marketing, for example — and so these classes attract a much more diverse group than one may think.
“These are not tools that a whole group of people have grown up with and utilized in a full capacity, and I think there’s a generation of people where the use of the Internet still has a stigma attached,” says Scott, referring to perceptions of the Web as intimidating, dangerous, difficult, or “creepy.”
To see what all the dot-com fuss is about, curious newbies seeking a change can take “An Introduction to Social Media” ($50; $40/members), BCAE’s new, 90-minute evening course on September 21 geared toward “the average user” just getting started with MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Digg, Wikis, Flickr, Xing, and other popular sites. Students will learn how to set up their profiles, what an avatar is, how to separate your personal and professional online personas and protect your brand, and the importance of privacy settings, among other skills.