Turning Students into Social Media Superstars

Ball State Offers students the ability to earn digital marketing certification.
Turning Students into Social Media Superstars

JUST BECAUSE TODAY’S undergraduates have grown up using social media platforms doesn’t mean they know how to use them effectively. To turn marketing students from social media users to social media pros, Ball State University’s Miller College of Business in Muncie, Indiana, recently opened an interactive social media lab within the Miller College’s Center for Advancement of Digital Marketing and Analytics (CADMA).

Opened in 2016, CADMA immerses students in hands-on social media projects as they complete courses in marketing research, marketing communications, social media marketing, and brand management. Seating up to 35 students, its 750-square-foot lab is equipped with mobile seating, mobile whiteboards, and five large displays, two of which employ touchscreen technology.

The lab serves as a “command center” where students work on a range of projects. For instance, students have managed social media marketing platforms—such as Facebook fan pages—for local businesses and campus organizations. This spring’s class took over the social media activity for the Miller College of Business and its departments. They completed a social media audit, designed a platform management strategy, and provided the school with analytics and weekly updates.

CADMA also offers a social media certification, as a way for students to show employers that they’re ready to handle digital marketing. To receive the credential, students must earn at least three industry-recognized digital marketing certifications using platforms such as Hootsuite, Hubspot, or Google Analytics. So far, approximately 100 students have either earned their certifications or are working toward completion.

The certification grew out of a junior-level social media marketing course taught by Eric Harvey, CADMA’s director. Students in Harvey’s course always have been required to earn three industry certifications.

To fund the lab, the college used proceeds from a US$299,999 Academic Excellence Grant from the university. The award will be issued over three years; after that, the center will seek out future grants, donations, and sponsorships.

As part of the grant’s requirements, CADMA has opened a student-run social media marketing agency, has sponsored a social media competition, and plans to hold a digital marketing summit. The center also provides faculty with social media data they can use in their projects.

Through their work at CADMA, Miller students are developing a sought-after skill set to work in an evolving area of business, says Harvey. “Companies—from the largest Fortune 500 firms to small startups—are seeking well-educated, highly motivated people” to manage their digital marketing, he adds. “We will continue to evaluate the marketplace for changes in demand so we know how to shape our marketing students.”