Academics: There's a difference between social business and social media

University professors discussed the hurdles of implementing social business at centers for higher learning.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Orlando: Social business has been frequently described as a game changer for industries such as retail and finance, but it's starting to play a role in academia too.

Speaking during a panel discussion at IBM Connect 2013 on Tuesday afternoon, a trio of social-media experts from universities in the United States and the United Kingdom highlighted where social business fits in--both as a way to teach as well as a subject being taught.

One of the biggest hurdles that all of the panelists agreed upon is understanding that there is a difference between social business and social media.

Peter Cardon, an associate professor at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, remarked that there is a "common misconception" that these two buzz phrases are the same.

Cardon specified that social business should really refer to a "broader umbrella" of tools and technologies--not just Facebook.

Simon Vaughan, deputy IT director at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, concurred, adding that by extension, many people don't understand "digital literacy," explaining that it's one thing to know how to use Twitter. Digital literacy, he continued, is knowing how to use these solutions in the right context at the right time.

After reviewing resume after resume, Michael Brito, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Jose State University, reflected that one of the reasons he wanted to start teaching social business is that he noticed there were some skill sets missing, making it difficult for him to find good talent.

Cardon argued that while it's easy to presume that younger generations now joining the workforce are often thought of as "digital natives," they still present a challenge.

Social media might come naturally to these employees, he explained, but they sometimes require coaching on the underlying principles of collaboration.

"The other hurdle is they expect things to be on one platform. As soon as you start fragmenting where all of these tools are, they get disenchanted," Cardon remarked.

Social-business concepts also have potential to improve learning environments, but there are some challenges there too. Yet in some of these cases, the legacy infrastructures have more to do with personnel than servers and applications.

"It's not easy for our professors to handle," Cardon admitted, explaining that quite simply, many of them just aren't aware of how quickly social business is developing.

He added that many American universities are also very bureaucratic, making it difficult to implement changes rapidly too.

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