Should you get a social media certification?
It’s difficult to assess what someone knows about social media.
You can shortlist candidates who possess a degree from a “good” university,
including communications, journalism or business graduates (although I’ve
seen some degrees in English and linguistics, too). The more desirable
candidates will also have a PR or marketing diploma, or a certificate from
a community college.
Almost all candidates claim to have knowledge and experience of social
media and, given the demographic, you’d expect them to. In truth though,
it’s nearly impossible to tell how much someone actually knows until they
are on the job.
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Often these young professionals come up wanting when it comes to social
Social media certification programs
Résumés that have
Hootsuite Academy or similar accreditation are much more likely to make the first cut for
It’s difficult to assess some candidates who are more than 10 or 15 years
into their careers because, despite their experience, you just don’t know
how hands-on they have been in social media. Social media certification—not
to mention anything internet-related—still isn’t on résumés of many
candidates regardless of what stage in their careers.
Why not? Is it because training is offered almost exclusively online?
Consider the findings of a 2017
IPSOS survey carried out on behalf of eCampus Ontario, which identified four barriers to online learning success:
: Around 37 percent of survey respondents said online education made
them feel anxious.
: Only half said they felt able to pursue online education.
- Life balance
: Forty-two percent said they felt work, family and social life would
make taking online courses challenging.
: Half said they would choose traditional training environments over
online learning because of the stigma associated with it.
These numbers tell a somewhat depressing story with half of the candidates
ruling out online training before giving it a try.
For the remaining half, there are other challenges to be met.
Top social media courses
When you Google “online social media courses,” you get 222 million choices.
Some courses are free. Some cost thousands of dollars. Colleges,
universities and other institutions are behind other programs. Still,
others come from social media agencies, bloggers, and eMarketers.
Choosing the right course depends on which particular skills you want to
develop, but starting with the basics is helpful. As a recruiter, I look
for certifications from those technology companies that drive the internet
(think Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Hootsuite). When I see
these on someone’s resume, I think, this person is probably current and
knows what they are doing.
The good news is most of the training and education for these
certifications is freely available online. However, not everyone is great
at independent study.
People learn in different ways, and
doesn’t usually support varied learning styles.
Some people can whip through an online course in a day and then write and
pass the test. Others may need to take a slower pace, do supplementary
research, projects and experiments.
What’s your learning style?
Learning Styles and Online Education, a joint study conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Marshall
University in West Virginia, researchers concluded an individual’s learning
style affects their training success.
Few online courses cater to all learning styles. They just can’t. It would
mean providing content in multiple formats and allowing for collaborative
interaction. It would also mean providing practical exercises and
participating in group work and discussions. These features are not easily
accommodated with social media certification online course curricula, which
tend towards independent, solitary study.
So, why not take a blended approach to address these challenges?
By forming learning groups to work through the online curriculum together,
professional communicators can address the limitations of online learning
and make the experience supportive, interactive, practical and
collaborative. Having an experienced, skilled social media expert to lead
the group through online materials rounds out the experience by providing
This approach allows for questions, discussions and expansions which aren’t
possible from a typical online course.
How are you deepening your knowledge of social media best practices, PR Daily readers?
Sherrilynne Starkie is an Independent Digital Marketing &
Communications Consultant. A version of this article appeared on the
Spin Sucks blog.