I’ve been asked this a few times recently, so writing this blog post to summarise my take on it, along with my personal recommendation.
Social media management is a relatively new field, but one that is highly in demand. I’ve been a social media trainer and consultant for 8 years now. When I started, there were very few people who knew what opportunities social media offered for business, let alone taught this subject. Most of us that were early adopters of this upward trend simply “learnt on the job”. We experimented with our own brands and businesses, with varying degrees of success. Several friends and I collaborated by discussing things behind the scenes of what worked and what didn’t – but the problem was that social media was – and still is – so incredibly unique that it’s really tough to capture the essence of this, let alone truly understand it and teach it.
My experiences with social media training
After speaking at various events in Australia and then in the Netherlands and becoming known as a “social media expert”, I am often asked to teach others. I first responded to this need by launching the Zestee Social Media School in 2011. This was a mix of face to face workshops, held near where I was living (Queensland, Australia), combined with online activities. Starting out, I ran Facebook group Q&A sessions and then built this into a more structured elearning course. This went well for a while – until I was hacked in late 2014 and simply never had the time to rebuild. Now, I’m actually really keen to get a new course up and running but am focussing right now on teaching at a university and getting my Masters….but more to come here – so if you’re interested in going on a waitlist and being kept up to date, please contact me.
The main issue is that social media changes at such a fast pace, that no matter what you teach, or what materials you put together (very time consuming) things will change – fast. To deal with that, I’ve always taught at a strategic level, which remains relatively constant. This means that I’ve focussed on connecting to business goals and marketing objectives – which are fairly consistent – and figuring out which social media tools are suitable. These tools may well change, but there are a few big ones that have remained popular (which I’m sure you can name – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube etc). I also review and recommend other resources instead of building everything myself from scratch, I just don’t have the time and can’t compete with industry leaders that are growing in this space as below.
Industry leaders in social media training
Several high profile digital organisations have tried to “claim” this social media space in offering “qualifications”. It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to analyse these but will pull together a list below of different places you may like to check out.
- Hubspot Academy
- Hootsuite Academy
- Social Media Examiner (free podcasts and articles, a paid “society” and paid online and live conferences)
- Google Digital Garage (free online course with “certification”)
The advantage to doing one of these courses is that these names are likely to be recognised by anyone in social media. I’d love your feedback in a comment or contact me if you have experience with these.
With the growth of elearning (something else I am passionate about, check out my blog posts about elearning here), there are an abundance of online courses available promising to make you a social media manager, some offering “qualifications”, however the value of these is debatable. Well worth doing some research though. A tip is that price does not always reflect quality. There are some awesome, very cheap courses you can follow, and some very expensive ones that are average. A few places to start:
- FutureLearn: Free online courses from top universities and specialist organisations
- Udemy: over 7 million students and 30,000 courses on a very wide range of topics
- Skillshare: Learn real world practical skills
- CreativeLive: Free live online creative classes
- Coursera: Free Online courses from top universities
- edX: Free online courses from the world’s best universities
- Khan Academy: learn math, biology, chemistry, economics, art history and almost anything for free
- Lynda: Online video tutorials and training
- Alison: 750+ Free online courses
- Teachable: Create and sell online courses (used to be called Fedora)
- Sensei: A WordPress Plugin that allows you to build and sell courses on your website
- Pluralsight: Tech and Creative Training Library
- Open Learn: Free learning from The Open University UK
- Have one to add? Please comment below or contact me
Another way to learn is simply see who is doing an awesome job on social media and watch and learn. Some big brands and/or smaller brands have created their own courses to share the secrets behind their own success. Below I will list some that others have recommended:
- Digital Mums (recommended in the Amsterdam Business Mamas group)
I was part of a great initiative in Australia to help small businesses learn to master digital marketing, and this course is also still online I believe:
There are probably many other programmes and courses around the world, let me know in a comment if you find one you recommend.
What exactly do you want to learn?
Something else to keep in mind is that related concepts have become intwined with social media management and in some cases have become fields of their own accord, some being:
- Content creation and management
- Social Media Strategy
- Community Management
- Inbound Marketing
- Online Marketing
- Digital Marketing
So before you decide exactly which course and even qualification to follow, you need to really understand exactly why and what you are studying for.
What do employers want?
The main goal of gaining a qualification is often to “prove” to an employer that you have certain skills. A major challenge in the field of social media is that as far as I’m aware, there is no agreed-upon qualification which is accepted in one country, let alone worldwide. Employers essentially have a position to fill or task they need done, but rarely will know EXACTLY what skills they need their potential employee to have (as per above), let alone be aware of and familiar with a qualification that will represent the skills.
One recruitment agency I know of, Aquent, did a very clever thing and build the Gymnasium. As an agency, they are very up to date with what skills the companies are asking for – and they are, of course, motivated to try and place skilled, trained staff at these companies. So they determine and teach these skills – for free. Then, as I understand it, once you complete these courses/qualifications, they are in a much better position to place you in a company matching the skills you have learned. I’m keen to hear if anyone gives this a try.
To turn to the academic perspective, it seems that universities and colleges are starting to offer social media training and in fact, that is the premise on which I was offered a job at The Hague University of Applied Sciences more than 2 years ago. I’ve been teaching part time since – but not a social media qualification, instead social media is being integrated into subjects such as Marketing, Branding and EBusiness, as part of a Bachelor of Business, not a stand alone qualification. It does seem though that some universities are starting to offer actual qualifications, as this article shows in the UK.
My main recommendation is that if you want to work in social media or digital marketing then whatever company you want to work for is definitely going to research your own digital profile and footprint. In fact, if they want a really good social media manager, they will look for them – you guessed it – on social media. So start here. Create your own website and blog as a home base to showcase your personal brand – start now with the basics and grow this as you develop your skills. Build yourself a great LInkedIn profile. Start a Twitter account and begin sharing relevant news and information to build the perception others have of you as an expert. Share what you have learned with others. This will create great visibility and is ultimately your “social media qualification”.
I’d love your comments and feedback on this post! Share below or contact me.