This month, NISM is interviewing one of its more recent Certified Instructors and Social Media Strategist (SMS), Dr. Margaret Stewart. I had the pleasure to get to know Dr. Stewart during the Train-the-Trainer program and I was consistently impressed with her knowledge, experience, passion and approach to teaching. NISM is excited to have her as a part of the Instructor community and look forward to seeing her in action during the upcoming course offered by Neumann University.
We hope you enjoy the interview:
Dr. Stewart, please tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in Social Media Strategy.
“My name is Margaret Stewart. I have a Ph.D. in Communications Media and Instructional Technology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). My dissertation examined the use of new media by military spouses to communicate during wartime deployment. The idea for this project was inspired by my brother’s deployment to Afghanistan and our use of ICTs (Internet and communication technologies) to stay in touch while he was gone. Currently, I teach as an Assistant Professor of Communication Media Arts at Neumann University in the greater Philadelphia area. I teach courses across the areas of new media, mass media, digital media production, and a variety of generalist, human communication courses (i.e. public speaking, interpersonal, small group, and introduction to communication). Most recently, I developed two original courses entitled Professional Uses of New Media and Globalization, New Media, and the Internet, which have been integrated into the curriculum over the past two semesters. My ongoing research agenda focuses on how new/social media, mobile technology, and emerging communication technologies impact interpersonal, strategic, and mass communication, as well as their role in teaching and learning for higher education. I’m committed to ongoing research that studies the military constituency and the use of social media by its members in relational and education contexts. Before transitioning into higher education, I spent six years in the radio broadcasting and music industries in the Philadelphia market. In addition to be a certified Social Media Strategist and Trainer for the National Institute for Social Media (NISM), I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Concentration: Mass Media) and a Master of Arts in Professional Communication from La Salle University in Philadelphia”.
Wow, what a fascinating dissertation topic. I am sure that your brother and family are impressed with your dedication to this very important topic. Social media can definitely be a great communication tool for family members, as well as a concern for military operations.
How has becoming SMS certified helped you?
“Becoming a certified social media strategist through NISM had helped me immensely as an educator in the field of communication and digital media. Participating in the social media strategist certification course allowed me to take my previous knowledge about social media and sharpen it into precise techniques and contemporary best practices. The knowledge presented and application provided through the course challenged me to work through the material outside of my comfort zone and areas of expertise, and, in doing so, made me a more agile and skilled professor and social media professional”.
Based on your teaching experience, what has been lacking in terms of social media education for future professionals?
“I think the greatest challenge to teaching and learning social media is how quickly and constantly it is changing. In any given amount of time, the features change, the volume of active users changes, the popularity of a given platform changes. For these reasons, information related to strategies and best practices is constantly innovating and reinventing. This makes it hard to firmly establish an industry standard or consistent approach to success. On the bright side, this affords for tremendous creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Appreciating dynamic procedures is necessary for individuals who work and study in social media”.
What excites you about the upcoming online course through Neumann University?
“I am excited about the upcoming online course at Neumann University because I am very eager to engage with a community of learners who are highly-motivated by the examination of social media, and who are ready to collaborate to explore the dynamic process of effective social media strategy. I look forward to facilitating creative discussions about trial-and-error learning, emerging platforms and functions, and innovative techniques, and all in a variety of different industries and fields”.
In your opinion, why is it important for individuals to obtain a certification in Social Media Strategy?
“It’s easy for any person with a large online following claim to be a social media expert. In reality, social media strategy incorporates knowledge about creating a following, with effective marketing and promotional strategies, foundation of knowledge of information and Internet communication technologies (ICTs), and the ability to foster engagement. Effective social media strategy is a highly complex and dynamic process that requires an ongoing commitment to professional development. Having the certification in social media strategy distinguishes best-trained, truly skilled, experienced social media professionals from the rest in a culture where using social media is ubiquitous”.
Who, in your opinion, should be taking the course starting at Neumann University?
“The great thing about this course is that its concepts and material are applicable to every single person or professional using social media for any marketing or strategic purposes, regardless of industry, size, scope, and mission. In my opinion, those who should pursue this certification and participate in this course are individuals who are performing social media tasks and functions in their present professional roles. This course also benefits those in supervisory positions who benefits from the overarching knowledge of social media strategy, even if they are not the actual practitioners”.
If you were to provide potential SMS certification students with one piece of advice, outside of the preparation course, what would it be?
“You must stay up on industry literature. Follow the thought and industry leaders on Twitter, read their blogs, experiment with their strategies, apply their recommendations, learn what works (and doesn’t) for your business, brand, and industry. Not only will doing this help you to master the necessary material to successfully complete the exam, it is a necessary growth measure for any professional who desires to remain successful, and sustainable, in today’s ever-changing technological climate”.
We realize that the preparation course may not work for everyone. For those professionals not looking at taking the preparation course, what would you want them to know about preparing for the certification exam?
“Having taken the exam, I can share that the test was more difficult than I expected. I considered myself highly proficient in social media prior to taking the course, and an expert upon my completion. I studied the course material for several months diligently before sitting for the exam. Even with my extensive academic background in social media and my exhaustive preparation, I found the exam to be rigorous and challenging. I recommend carefully following all of the industry professional thought leaders online and in blogs to stay up on the most recent practices and techniques”.
Thank you, Dr. Stewart for your time and responses. We appreciate your feedback and approach to education others on social media strategy.