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Development of Social Media Skills to Enhance Employability

Development of Social Media Skills to Enhance
Sofia Meacham1, Margaret Ross2
1DEC, Bournemouth University, UK,
2MarTec Faculty, Southampton Solent University, UK,
The paper discusses the need for students to develop social media
skills to enhance their future employability. It describes the
justification, using business examples, of assisting employability by
developing skills such as Dropbox, Google docs, Facebook and
Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Blogs and also
mobile apps. The justification is partly based on personal experience
and of personal contacts of the authors.
The introduction, teaching and assessment of these skills to
Foundation year students at Southampton Solent University are
described. The views of the students on computing courses are
analysed. The views of staff and of some local employers on the
inclusion of these skills to enhance employability are discussed.
1.0 Introduction
The social networking phenomenon, that has totally underscored the values that
fuel Web 2.0, continues to grow. With Facebook leading the way as a general
social networking site, LinkedIn leading the professional sites, and Twitter the
instant messaging sites, and Google+ slowly gaining ground, along with YouTube
getting something like 490 million users a month, there are very few countries
where there is not a massive increase each year in their usage.
Education cannot remain unaffected by this phenomenon as its major counterparts
(the learners) are the most engaged with this change. As Gorg Malia [1] says in his
recent book: The Social Classroom: Integrating Social Network Use in Education,
“educational practice cannot just sit still and expect to remain valid and effective
when its clients have changed and it has not”. Consequently, social media in
Higher Education are currently a very well discussed topic among researchers and
educators. The current research trends focuses on examining social networking
practices, their use (formal and informal) in teaching and learning [2], as well as
the challenges of their adoption [3]. From all these efforts, it is apparent that we are
moving towards a more formalised and widespread application of social media in
educational practice.
However, to the best of the knowledge of the authors, there isn’t much work done
taking into account the final users and therefore potential drivers of this process
such as the employers. This paper describes the impact of social media in
education from this different angle. It examines social media awareness as regards
to students’ employability and as a response to industry requirements. It
particularly emphasize students’ soft skills development, technology awareness
and developing a supporting professional network.
2.0 Social Media, Employability and Higher Education
The use of social media to enhance students’ employability in Higher Education is
an established issue. The main focus of these efforts has been the use of social
media as a networking tool that would assist job hunting, enabling students to
properly engage in the employment market. Several efforts have been done
towards that direction and almost all Higher Education employability departments
provide guidance to students in order to improve their online presence [4].
The main problem with this work is that input from the “final important user” of
this process (students made employable through attending Higher Education), the
employer, is not taken much into consideration. Most of the time, academic and
support staff make assumptions about what would make students more employable
and try to assist them towards that direction based on logical reasoning. However,
the voice of the employers and their needs is not actually properly understood and
Another interesting aspect that is not very well explored is that social media could
and would have to be more and more integral part to students’ continuous
professional development. This aspect has been explored from the teachers
perspective and the fact that it can be a means to provide a supportive professional
network to educators [5]. Among the same lines of thinking, the students could
benefit from peer advice and communication which will start from their education
years and extend to their professional practice [6].
3.0 Social Media Industry Requirements
After informal discussions and interviews with employers, the authors identified
some of the requirements regarding social media and employability.
First of all, the employers nowadays require that employees are latest technology
savvies. In any type of industry, use of latest technology is not only an advantage
but an absolute necessity. Many employees may be asked to maintain the company
website, a Blog with news and projects, a Twitter account, a Facebook page/group
for dissemination of results and networking and any other technology for business
development/dissemination. These tasks are most of the times in addition to their
normal job role (e.g. as a developer or manager). Needless to emphasize that
competence in these areas gives an advantage to an employee and adds to the
model of flexible and continuous professional development model (know new
technologies, learn from online communities) that our difficult economic times
Not only flexible employees, but flexible ways of working and collaborating are
also emerging [7,8]. The high cost of transport, necessity to outsource part of the
work, achievement through collaborative work and often multicultural
collaboration is a common industry situation. For example, collaborative projects
between different countries are not realistic unless effective communication takes
place. To this aid, technology such as Skype, Dropbox, Google docs, Facebook
groups, and any other type of online collaboration tool are essential to the survival
of these collaborative attempts. On the other hand, social media are there to assist
and complement the human communication aspect which is generally lacking from
the online collaboration tools. As it is apparent, this model of work requires
employees that are comfortable and trained to the use of these new models of
Various employers were asked to identify the non-technical skills they would look
for in a potential employee. The most popular were good communication skills,
both spoken and written, especially being able to express an idea clearly and
succinctly. These were felt to be important, as the employee was likely to be
required to deal with clients, suppliers in addition to other internal members of the
organisation, both above and below their own level of seniority during their career
with the organisation. Team working was seen to be very important, as few worked
in isolation. These teams could be geographically spread, so use of groupware and
conferencing, both video and telephone, were seen as useful skills. The use of
software such as Drop box and Google+ were viewed as useful for a potential
employee. On response to personal use of social media, the LinkedIn was seen to
be used for maintaining and extending their own networks, and possibly in
obtaining jobs and contracts.
Taking this one step further, there is a continual emerging strong requirement by
the industry for the “Soft skills” [9]. The successful and therefore “employable”
employees of the future need to be able to communicate and collaborate
effectively, and in most if not all situations to work as part of a team.
Knowledgeable employees that are productive working on their own cannot be
accepted as part of modern organizations. Team players is the number one
industry requirement as the benefits of effective collaboration cannot be
emphasized enough. Improved results as two minds are generally better than
one, flexibility and risk reduction as organisation can adjust more effectively to
change (become more agile) are among the advantages of collaborative work. And
as most of the communications have had to move to the “online” world these days
(e.g. distance, cost of commuting), we cannot ignore the role that social media
awareness can play.
4.0 Higher Education and Social Media Industry
Higher Education should embrace and embed social media in teaching and learning
to enhance peer communication and collaboration, establishment of professional
networks, preparing students for the modern world of work. All these should be in
response and in accordance to industry requirements.
Along these lines, one of the authors, Meacham, experimented with embedding
social media in the classroom mainly for the Foundation year students of the
Technology department in Southampton Solent University. The following sections
contain examples-case studies of our work towards that direction for the industry
requirements we achieved to gather so far as well as the corresponding student
response/feedback to the experience.
5.0 Case Study: Social Media for Degree Related
Project Unit
The Degree Related Project Unit was a Foundation Degree level 3 Unit designed to
give students the opportunity to study a topic area in depth that is specifically
related to their chosen degree programme. They had to define a project themselves,
plan, organize and implement it. In the end, they had to present and demonstrate a
working demo of their actual product. They had to learn to work in groups and
collaborate closely between them. They also had to report to the tutor in regular
project meetings. Summarizing, it can be said that Collaboration, Communication
and Planning were the most integral parts of this Unit”.
A variety of tools was adopted in order to enhance student-to-student and student-
to-tutor collaboration. We used Facebook page for tutor-student and student-
student communication, Facebook groups for their individual groups technical
discussions, Blogs for work diary, Google docs for online document collaboration,
Skype for communication off campus. Students also had to use this online
collaboration work as evidence for their group work assessment which gave more
purpose and motivation to the experiment. Overall, it was more efficient than using
one environment as we were able to use the most appropriate tool to any particular
situation which was a relatively easy process due to the nature of Technology
5.1 Facebook Page
Facebook page for tutor-students and student-to-student communication were used
[10]. Clearly, most academics do not want to invite their students into their private
online spaces, and so they do not want to become Facebook friends with their
students. The solution we used was to create a Facebook page which all of the
students had to ‘like’. In this way we did not have to become Facebook friends
with the students we remained administrators of the page (though we can also
invite students to become admin). This means that we could post messages. Once a
student had ‘liked’ the page, they could also post messages, and would get a
notification when the Facebook was visited by an author and a post had been
made. This successfully allowed the authors to keep their personal account
separate from the students’ work. The students all got similar messages whenever
postings were made on the page. It is worth noting that one of the reasons to create
a Facebook page for the Unit, rather than a second Facebook account for yourself
one that you could use with students is that according to Facebook guidance, it is
illegal to hold two Facebook accounts.
One important thing that happened was that the students started collaborating with
each other. For instance, when one student posted a question at the weekend, and if
the tutors were not responding outside of the working week, the students began to
answer each other’s questions, supporting and discussing the work that needed to
be done. Ultimately, the most interesting thing is that this started as a way to create
tutor to student communication, but it became very much about student to student
On one occasion the students were informed about a BCS event that was related to
their project/interests through this page. The notification happened the same
morning as the event was taking place and it resulted in student discussions and
increased participation in the event. This wouldn’t have been achieved if the
medium of communication was University forums or email.
In figure 1, the dialogue that took place can be seen, showing the students’
response were prompt and raised questions/discussion between them.
5.2 Student Views
The pilot survey of students on the Foundation Year to computing and games
degree courses at Southampton Solent University was undertaken. Over two-thirds
of the students felt that knowledge of social media skills would help them to
"obtained a job" as opposed to two students who hold the opposite views. The
remaining two were not sure. All but one of the fifteen students in the pilot "could
see the benefit of learning different social skills" and half felt that these skills
would be used in their future employment.
Figure 1: Tutor / Student Communication
The students identified Facebook, Google doc, LinkedIn, Twitter and Youtube as
possibly useful in their future life. The students were asked to consider if, in their
view, the various social media skills would be useful in their employment,
following successful completion of their degree. They were also asked to identify
if they had used them prior to starting this particular unit and also to identify if they
think that this was a useful skill to have learnt on the unit.
Prior to starting the unit, two thirds of the students had previously used Facebook,
sixty percent had prior experience with using mobile Apps and fifty percent had
used Google+ and Twitter. Prior to starting this unit, forty percent of the students
had used Dropbox and Google doc and one-third had used Blogs. Only one student
had any prior experience of LinkedIn.
The views of the students concerning potential usable skills were that two-thirds
felt Google doc could be useful skills, similarly sixty percent felt Dropbox and fifty
percent felt that Blogs could be useful skills. Less than half felt that Google+,
Facebook and Facebook groups (forty percent) could be useful and only one-third
felt that Twitter and mobile applications could be useful skills. The surprising
result was that only thirteen percent felt that the use of LinkedIn would be a useful
skill to learn, maybe because only one student had prior knowledge of LinkedIn.
The main social media skills to be useful in future employment was felt to be
Google doc by eighty per cent, with only one student who disagreed, Drop box by
over seventy percent with no disagreement and the use of mobile Apps by two-
thirds with only one disagreement. Approximately half the students identified as
useful in future employment, were Facebook and Facebook groups by fifty percent
with two disagreements, Blogs and Twitter by over forty five percent with twenty
per cent disagreement. Only one-third felt that LinkedIn could be useful to future
employment with two disagreeing but with about half of the students were not sure
whether LinkedIn could be useful for future employment.
These students' views were sought on the main advantages of learning different
social media skills. These divided into those related to the organisations’ benefit
such as advertising and those that related to both to the individuals and the
organisations' advantages such as updating their skills also and keeping up-to-date
with their particular specialisms, networking, and increasing their communication
The students were asked to identify the main disadvantages of learning social
media skills which was interpreted by the students as the disadvantages of social
media skills. Those related to the individual were that using some of the social
media skills could be extremely time-consuming and that there was particular risks
of misunderstanding comments from others and being misunderstood due to the
slightly abbreviated forms used and care not taken up to check for alternative
interpretations of statements being made. There was also potential feeling that
isolation could develop by lack of a face-to-face contact.
6.0 Conclusions Future work
Concluding, it can be said that the most important aspect of this work was the
“connectivity” that was formulated, and the immediateness of communication.
This created a strong network that promoted learning and collaboration, as well as
knowledge transfer (BCS events, peer and tutor communication). It was very
motivating for the students to know that particular ways they use in University will
have direct impact to their future career and employability. It gave them a sense of
achievement and a long term goal to aim for through smaller achievable steps.
However, although current evidence suggests that this work was very beneficial,
further research is required in this area. First of all, the requirements gathering for
the industry needs should be extended and properly formalised. A greater and more
diverse set of employers should be used for input in this process as well as several
methods for requirements analysis should be explored. The authors plan to explore
technical issues reported in this work such as using Facebook groups in order to
compare/contrast the results with the use of Facebook pages, and extend our work
on social media security issues.
Also the authors have been considering social media to embrace the use of
technology for communications. However, another very interesting angle would be
to consider the “virtual apprentiship” idea [11]. This is a relatively new concept
and it is based on using social media as an enabling platform for knowledge
transfer between industry and Higher Education with final aim to “train” future
employees according to industry needs. This extends the scope of our work with
promising potential, however requires more resources to implement.
Following the results of this work with the graduate students would be very
beneficial for the sustainability of these efforts. The authors plan to extend this
experiment through more courses in their institution as well as other Higher
Education organizations.
7.0 References
1 Mallia G, The Social Classroom: Integrating Social Network Use in Education.
IGI Global 2014, ISBN13: 9781466649040
2 Seaman J, Tinti-Kane H. (2013). Pearson Learning Solutions Report: Social
Media for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved February 26th, 2014,
3 Siakas K, Siakas E, Georgiadou E, Benefits and Challenges of Social Media in
Learning: Learners’ Viewpoints, proceedings of INSPIRE 2013, pp133-144,
London, 2013
4 Swan G. (2012). Using social media to boost student employability. Retrieved
February 26th, 2014, from theguardian:
5 Xerri D, Chapter 22: Teacher’s Use of Social Networking Sites for Continuing
Professional Development. In The Social Classroom: Integrating Social
Network Use in Education. IGI Global 2014,pp 441-464, ISBN13:
6 Ross M, Staples G, Udall M, Teaching Professional Issues using Activity
Based Learning, proceedings of INSPIRE 2009, pp109-119, Southampton,
7 Esposito R, Kraenzel C, Pepin C, Stein A. (2011). The new workplace: are
you ready? How to capture business value (White Paper). Retrieved February
28th, 2014, from IBM Global Technology Services Thought Leadership White
8 Pearson N, Lesser E, Sapp J. (2010). A new way of working Insights from
global leaders (White Paper). Retrieved February 28th, 2014, from IBM
Global Business Services Executive Report:
9 Faheem A, Luiz Fernando C, Salah B, Piers C (2013). Soft Skills and
Software Development: A Reflection from Software Industry, International
Journal of Information Processing and Management, Volume 4, Number3,
10 Petronzio M. (2012). The Teacher’s Guide to Facebook. Retrieved February
21th, 2014, from Mashable:
11 Jefferson J. (2013). Could social media bridge the divide between business and
education? Retrieved February 26th, 2014, from theguardian:
... The data retrieval technique was explicitly built for this study using Survey Monkey. The design was based on the strengths and limitations of past research and was informed by a literature search that identified essential areas of interest(Freberg & Kim, 2018;Meacham & Ross, 2019;Benson et al., 2014). The variables in this study include Social Media Skill in Public Relations and Customer Service for Employers the areas of knowledge and social media skills that are believed to be the most important. ...
Full-text available
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As technology is being integrated into educational processes, teachers are searching for new ways to enhance student motivation and learning. Through shared experiences and the results of empirical research, educators can ease social networking sites into instructional usage. The Social Classroom: Integrating Social Network Use in Education collates different viewpoints on how social networking sites can be integrated in education. Highlighting both formal and informal uses of social interaction tools as learning tools, this book will be very useful to all educators, trainers and academic researchers in all aspects of education looking for a theoretical/practical approach to resourceful teaching.
We review the literature relating to soft skills and the software engineering and information systems domain before describing a study based on 650 job advertisements posted on well-known recruitment sites from a range of geographical locations including, North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The study makes use of nine defined soft skills to assess the level of demand for each of these skills related to individual job roles within the software industry. This work reports some of the vital statistics from industry about the requirements of soft skills in various roles of software development phases. The work also highlights the variation in the types of skills required for each of the roles. We found that currently although the software industry is paying attention to soft skills up to some extent while hiring but there is a need to further acknowledge the role of these skills in software development. The objective of this paper is to analyze the software industry soft skills requirements for various software development positions, such as system analyst, designer, programmer, and tester. We pose two research questions, namely, (1) What soft skills are appropriate to different software development lifecycle roles, and (2) Up to what extend does the software industry consider soft skills when hiring an employee. The study suggests that there is a further need of acknowledgment of the significance of soft skills from employers in software industry.
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The aim of this paper is to investigate to what extent social networking media are utilised in Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), and to identify current practices. We discuss the benefits education can gain from the use of Web 2.0 technologies. In order to achieve deeper understanding of the phenomenon a survey instrument incorporating a detailed structured questionnaire was designed. Data was collected from a HEI in Greece in order to capture habits and viewpoints of students. The bottom-up integration of emerging Web 2.0 technologies into the changing landscape of European HEIs was revealed by mapping the level of current use, as well as benefits and challenges related to the learning experienced by students. In addition the students were asked about their opinion regarding how social media could provide added value to learning. Based on the results of the survey the ECQA Social Media Networker project was identified to fill the gap between the readiness of learners in adapting social media practices and the lack of skills by trainers/educators in using these contemporary tools that facilitate the pedagogical change towards student-centred trends that cater for bottom-up collaborative approaches supporting knowledge creation and knowledge sharing.
Pearson Learning Solutions Report: Social Media for Teaching and Learning
  • J Seaman
  • H Tinti-Kane
Seaman J, Tinti-Kane H. (2013). Pearson Learning Solutions Report: Social Media for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved February 26th, 2014,
Using social media to boost student employability
  • G Swan
Swan G. (2012). Using social media to boost student employability. Retrieved February 26th, 2014, from theguardian:
Teaching Professional Issues using Activity Based Learning
  • M Ross
  • G Staples
  • M Udall
Ross M, Staples G, Udall M, Teaching Professional Issues using Activity Based Learning, proceedings of INSPIRE 2009, pp109-119, Southampton, 2009
The new workplace: are you ready? How to capture business value (White Paper)
  • R Esposito
  • C Kraenzel
  • C Pepin
  • A Stein
Esposito R, Kraenzel C, Pepin C, Stein A. (2011). The new workplace: are you ready? How to capture business value (White Paper). Retrieved February 28th, 2014, from IBM Global Technology Services Thought Leadership White Paper:
A new way of working Insights from global leaders (White Paper)
  • N Pearson
  • E Lesser
  • J Sapp
Pearson N, Lesser E, Sapp J. (2010). A new way of working Insights from global leaders (White Paper). Retrieved February 28th, 2014, from IBM Global Business Services Executive Report:
The Teacher's Guide to Facebook
  • M Petronzio
Petronzio M. (2012). The Teacher's Guide to Facebook. Retrieved February 21th, 2014, from Mashable:
Could social media bridge the divide between business and education?
  • J Jefferson
Jefferson J. (2013). Could social media bridge the divide between business and education? Retrieved February 26th, 2014, from theguardian: