Amongst high unemployment rates, a competitive job market and a shrinking global economy, the emerging social media industry only continues to grow. One of the newest positions for companies to adopt is the role of a social media manager -- and it's in high demand.
Social media job listings have increased 75% from 2010 according to Monster.com, with more than 10,000 jobs being posted each month requiring digital and social media skills. However, it's not just the independent manager and consulting positions that are now heavily sought after.
A social media skill set is valuable to anyone entering the job market or looking for career advancement, as August 2011 saw a 94% increase in jobs that required social media knowledge over the same month last year, according to WANTED Analytics. But is everyone who uses Twitter or Facebook a pro? Not even close.
The Myth of the Digital Native
"Using digital and social media to connect with friends and family is worlds apart from the professional social skills, digital brand savvy, and integrated marketing strategic thinking demanded by employers today," said Dr. William J. Ward, a social media professor at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, who is known on Twitter as @DR4WARD.
So if using social media strategically for business is different than personal use, how do you learn these skills to get ahead in your career?
Certification programs for social media are blossoming as a response to the demand for more social media training. Both industry professionals and recent graduates are tapping into tactical training programs to help them stay up to date as the industry grows.
There's no better time for individuals to invest in their professional development than now, with tens of thousands of opportunities for those with the right digital and social media skills. Yet, for every one job opening, there remain four individuals who are unemployed. Why is that?
Social media is the future, with employers recognizing they need to start hiring people with the right skills. However, a Manpower Group study shows that over 52% of companies are finding difficulty filling positions, due to a lack of "hard" technical job skills from candidates.
While social media skills were once a "nice-to-have," accreditation in the space is becoming a requirement for many of these job titles. Hiring managers and job seekers are realizing that printing stacks of resumes is turning passe, and social media is rising as the new way of generating real-time networking opportunities.
While hiring managers attempt to determine a candidate's social media experience, the biggest struggle they encounter is knowing which of the candidates that claim they're "social media experts" or "consultants," actually are. How can they determine credibility and ascertain their level of skill with certain social media tools?
To say that you've completed training is to admit you've finished learning. And in a space that changes as quickly as this, you've already fallen behind.
Dr. Ward insists that it is up to employees to be proactive with their social media training. "Mastery of the digital and social media skills needed for the future will be beneficial to those looking to find a job and for employers looking to fill these positions today and tomorrow," he said.
Dr. Ward agrees with the 4A's and Arnold Worldwide March 2011 study that found "higher education is failing to prepare students with the needed digital and social skill set in any meaningful way, yet at the same time -- employers are failing to train their own employees. 90% of employers provide no training to staff, and 50% of talent feel under-trained."
Individuals that demonstrate their expertise through professional social media training programs not only have a way of differentiating themselves from their peers, they feel the confidence that comes with credibility.
Social Media Education
By staying ahead of peers, forward-thinking individuals take part in personal development opportunities, one of which is offered through HootSuite University. "The value of Hootsuite University has been immeasurable for us, as it keeps our services above the rest in performance and productivity," said Bonnie Cranmer, a Business Marketing Strategist at New Media Strategy Team and a recent graduate of the program.
HootSuite's Certified Professional Program doesn't break the bank either, offering graduating students the ability to continually develop with new courseware releases. Their video-based learning modules educate students on how new announcements, such as Facebook Timeline, may impact their business' social media activity.
Working for many years in nonprofit and tourism, Cranmer understood the importance of communicating with her customers using social media. When deciding to further her social media education, Cranmer's primary goal was to provide her customers with the most comprehensive level of service. Staying up to date with constantly evolving world of social media can be a challenge, but certification programs like HootSuite University are looking to change that.
Besides offering accreditation in social media through courses and tests, there is a constantly updated library of webinars, called Lecture Series, from top educators in the industry. These social media leaders teach students tactical, hands on strategy for leveraging their business with the latest feature releases.
When it comes to personal development for 2012, perhaps Dr. Seuss said it best: "Oh, the things you can find, if you don't stay behind!" Having the ability to keep up in this rapidly-moving space is a vital skill set, and education is the easiest way to turn your passion into your position, now.
Follow Ryan Holmes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/invoker