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Social media certifications prepare students, employees for social business

Kristin Burnham | April 3, 2013
Using social media to market your business or collaborate internally means more than having a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. To teach college students that lesson, Syracuse University adopted HootSuite University's certification program. Syracuse isn't alone: Social media certifications are a growing trend, but is a training course right for you?

"Social media came up so quickly and progressed so quickly it's hard for anyone to be an expert in it all," Ward says. "HootSuite's team of people keeps an eye on APIs and upgrades and makes sure we're always informed," Ward says.

The pilot program was so successful-with 80 percent of Newhouse students reporting it was "extremely helpful" in advancing their social media education and all reporting they feel better prepared to use social media professionally-that it has since been adopted by more than 80 colleges and universities worldwide, including the Columbia Journalism School, University of Washington and the University of Technology, Sydney.

"We talk about how digital and social are integrated into businesses' overall strategy; we talk about analytics and how to measure the effectiveness of our efforts," Ward says. "And just as much as it's external-facing, we also discuss how to use social within an organization to improve communication, because that's a skillset companies need."

And while the students complete the class and earn a certification that Ward hopes will help them land interviews, he says it's even more important for students to exhibit that they can execute with the new skills they've learned.

"Ultimately, what we want is for students to be comfortable with how quickly things change," Ward says. "We want them to look at these new tools as an adventure and not something stressful-that's what companies want. They want you to take the initiative and show that you can deliver on every part of social media."

Social Media Certifications Catch On in Business

While educators were the first to adopt the curriculum, HootSuite says it is seeing an increasing number of businesses signing on in an effort to educate their employees about social media and its business applications.

"There's an interest from companies to understand how to get the most out of the tools they use," HootSuite University's Bailey says. "We have clients from agencies, freelancers, SMBs and large businesses who are all interested in social media education."

And that appears to be a growing trend: Other businesses offering training and certifications include HubSpot, the National Institute for Social Media and Mediabistro, which offers two social media certificate programs.

Colleges and universities are also capitalizing on the trend: The UCLA Extension School offers a Marketing Certificate with a concentration in social media and web analytics, while the Harvard Extension School offers a similar program. Dozens of other colleges and universities are also following suit.

Those certifications, though, don't come cheap: They range in price from HootSuite University's $31 per month to nearly $5,000. This has Steven Levy, managing director at BluewaterLabs, a recruiting and consulting agency, skeptical about the rise of social media certifications.


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