For the first time ever, the skill sets and resume building certifications that relate to the newest iteration of digital proficiencies are cheap, accessible, and increasingly credible. If your social media skills are behind the curve or if you are having trouble staying competitive in the job hunt -- you have no one to blame but yourself.
"Social media marketing is the way forward for companies," says Hazel Richardson, Director of Training at Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Richardson's company recites the mantra of nearly all social media management platforms: they are experiencing incredible growth both in the platform usage itself as well as training users to be effective in gathering social media generated content. Kirsten Bailey, Director of HootSuite University, unpacks one of the factors at play in the increasing emphasis on social media skills, and says, "Companies get it. They want to make sure the people they are hiring, to a certain degree, are very socially savvy and that they understand how to navigate the online network space in a professional capacity." Both Bailey and Richardson steer the educational components of two of the largest and most prestigious social media management systems.
HootSuite, used by 79 of the Fortune 100 companies, recently launched HootSuite University, which is paired with their HootSuite Pro membership for a cost of $30.99 a month. Since its launch, 19,000 people have enrolled in HootSuite University and 4,000 users have become HootSuite University Certified Professionals through courses tailored both to their platform as well as toward understanding social media analysis and trends in general. A great way to become competitive or digitally relevant in 2013 is by becoming a HootSuite University Certified Professional.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud, used by 55% of the Fortune 500 companies, also provides loads of educational opportunities for no cost to the user. Richardson says, "Across the week we have a wide range of live training sessions that anybody can go to our website and register for. People don't have to be customers to attend training - lots of students and people interested in the platform also take our classes. Anybody who goes through our training will get a very good insight into how the tools can be used." Free Salesforce Marketing Cloud training and real-time lectures are an asset for anyone wanting to gain or display knowledge of social media analytics and help boost their resume for future jobs.
Pay to Play
In addition to the social media management systems, many online providers are offering an educational experience on the social media landscape. Jessica Eule, Executive Director of Education at Mediabistro says, "enrolled students in our social media program doubled from 2011 to 2012 and we expect the same ratio for 2013." Mediabistro offers two certificate programs at $1650 for six courses and $3200 for a 12 course master class. In a similar vein, many universities around the country are using extension programs to tackle the task of educating on social media skills. Harvard Extension School offers Digital Marketing: Social Media and Online Strategies for $1950 and UCLA offers a detailed Marketing Certificate with a concentration in Social Media and Web Analytics for $5950. The University of Texas, Rutgers University, the University of San Francisco, and UC Irvine as well as 20 or more additional colleges are offering similar social media marketing training curriculum.
While the latter are great in namesake, and some programs are truly rigorous in their own right, some believe the broad university entrance into the social media arena may have been more profit driven than for actual academic merit. Dr. William Ward, Professor of Practice of Social Media at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, tells me, "I think one of the problems associated with some of the university programs is that some are not delivering on it. To me, it seems like the conversation was on how do we generate revenue on this rather than making sure the students are getting the skills."
Although there are varying options of certification credibility and value, it is hard to dismiss the acceptance of this educational tool as anything other than the changing of the guard. As someone who has witnessed all sorts of technological paradigm shifts, I feel the writing is on the wall. I worked in the music business when Napster knocked the wind out of the sails in 2001. I worked in a recording studio when everyone said digital recording would never replace analog. I studied journalism under the guise that print newspapers would always represent the utmost credibility. And I went to an elementary school where it was pounded in our head that computers would never replace card catalogs. As far as I am concerned online certification programs in general, and social media directed offerings in specific, are resume ready indicators that will continue to become increasingly competent and accepted. The opportunity for this sort of education riding the coattails of higher education is likely.
Brian Solis, author of The End of Business as Usual, and principle analyst at Altimeter Group tells me, "There is a sense of urgency--the more people who go through these certification programs, the more distance they create between themselves and their co-workers that don't. This is that disruptive time where the workforce itself has to change how it works."