Nearly three-quarters of American adults now use at least one social networking site and it is no longer enough for businesses to rely on Google search to be found. Depending on the target demographic, most businesses need to consider a social media marketing strategy for one or more of the “big five” social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest or beyond. Even when a business has made a commitment to social media marketing – lack of know-how can be a huge stumbling block.
Simply figuring out how to use Google for business is tough enough. Double that for every social media platform used because each network is different and learning about what works on one platform still leaves huge gaps on the others. Few people can develop “self-taught” social media marketing expertise, and in fact, many social media “experts” don’t really have a good foundation. Most large marketing firms have internal training programs – but not everyone can or wants to work with a big agency.
If you need a social media marketing guru, how do you know that the person claiming expertise is really an expert? Alternatively, if you want to be validated and hired as a social media marketing expert, how do you prove that you are? Social media marketing training with certification might be the answer – if it is the right one.
Over the last half-decade or so, multiple training programs and courses have been developed for social media marketing, all of which are different. These range from academic institution mini-degrees, how-to blog series and online learning, for-profit businesses and individuals, and agency-based training programs. Some courses or training programs are terrific but don’t offer “certification” and not all certificates are equal.
Multiple universities are now offering social media management programs as certificates or “mini-degrees.” Though, there will always be a certain set of the population that banks on name recognition, most academic institutions are too bureaucratic to be well-suited to training programs in fast moving industries. They tend to be expensive, require restrictive enrollment periods and deadlines, and hire “out-to-pasture” professionals. Despite the name-prestige, many of these programs will be money wasted – even when a certificate is provided.
A social media marketing training certification from a program that is free or even cheap offers no real “credentials.” Either it is simply too easy to get or it is not recognized as valuable. In some cases, it may be a subsidized program which does not have up-to-date information or has poor quality control on instruction. It may also be a free blog series or inexpensive course written by an individual and offered by an online learning portal. The information may be valuable, but as there are no established standards or objective evaluation, there is no way to verify the completion or even validity of the information. If a training program and certification is valuable, it will not be free.
Programs and courses developed by industry professionals who are actively working in social media marketing are more likely to be up-to-date and based on real-world knowledge. Ideally, courses are written with the input of multiple professionals and the programs follow established educational standards and objectives with evaluation done by outside agencies. Quality training programs developed by those in the social media industry will almost never be free but certification offers real value for a reasonable price.
Though there are multiple certification programs within the social media marketing industry, Splash Media U is one of the only accredited programs. The programs offered by Splash Media U were initially developed as Splash Media’s internal training program. Courses are self-paced and based on 3 to 5-minute video lessons, taught by actively working social media professionals – many of whom are current or former marketing professionals of Splash Media. Certification is available for several focused areas or students can get the comprehensive, Master Social Media Certification. Splash Media U attained National Education Association-recognized SACS-CASI accreditation in 2013 and is one of the only social media marketing training programs to be accredited by any agency.
Social media marketing is complex, evolving – and necessary. Most people find it is too much to absorb on their own and need training to develop any sort of proficiency. For the learner, the knowledge itself may be enough but certification offers additional incentive for both the learner and employers, clients or outsiders who want to see proof of completed training.
In a young, rapid-moving, technology-based environment like social media – certification can help ensure that those who claim to be “experts” really are experts.