Need to brush up on your social media skills? Enrolling in the new Hootsuite Academy is one way entrepreneurs can build the expertise they need to help drive business results using Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
[More social media help: 9 Easy Social Media Marketing Tips and Tools]
Signing up is simple and free, according to Cameron Uganec, senior director of social, community and education at Hootsuite. Hundreds of online videos and learning resources from authorities in the field are available at no cost. And it's not the staid and moldy video courseware of yesteryear, he assured.
Hootsuite Academy is "the one place that entrepreneurs can find the most up-to-date information from people who do it every day," Uganec told Small Business Computing. Professionals at the forefront of social media marketing, outreach and user engagement—both within Hootsuite and from the industry at large—share their know-how and provide guidance on how to use social media as a tool for attracting customers and to "align social media to your business goals," he added.
Bridging the Social Media Skills Gap
Sure, you can fire off some tweets and flood Instagram with impromptu selfies. The ease with which practically anyone, from teenagers to grandparents, can use social media sites and apps has led to the misconception that it only takes some cursory knowledge of the medium to maintain a successful business presence on social media.
Not so, argues Uganec. "It's very different to run social media for a company than for personal use," he said. In business, there's often a wide gulf between using a tool competently and exerting mastery over it.
Most office workers know how to use email, after all, but that doesn't necessarily qualify them to run an effective mail marketing campaign, he said. Similarly, social media can a powerful tool if people take the time to develop the skills required to fully harness the medium's potential as a business booster.
Earlier this year, Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, observed in a blog post that "a meager 12 percent of the 2,100 companies in a 2010 Harvard Business Review survey said they're using social media effectively. And more recent research by Capgemini and others show that confidence gaining only incrementally."
According to Capgemini Consulting's digital talent gap report from 2013, only 13 percent of organizations described their social media initiatives as advanced. Fast forward a couple of years and little has changed.
"Reports of social media gaffes and blunders in the workplace are still commonplace," continued Holmes. "Meanwhile, the real price of the skills gap often goes unnoticed—billions of dollars in missed opportunities and lost revenue."
To help companies reclaim some of those billions of dollars, Hootsuite encourages entrepreneurs and small business marketers to enroll in its Academy.
Social Media School's in Session
Currently, Hootsuite Academy offers five online courses. Three are free—save for the certification exams, which run from $99 to $299—namely, Hootsuite Platform Training, Social Selling and Social Marketing. A paid course, Advanced Social Media Strategy ($2,200), includes an academic certification from Syracuse University's Newhouse School and a Social for Health Care Training and continuing medical education (CME) certification program ($400) conducted in partnership with Mayo Clinic.
Hootsuite suggests starting with the Social Marketing program, "which includes six individual courses that each take between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours to complete. The curriculum includes optimizing social media profiles for beginners and growing online communities for intermediate learners.
After passing the Social Marketing Certification exam ($199), graduates are listed in Hootsuite's Certified Professionals Directory. They are also entitled to continuing, free access to updated courses, enabling them to sharpen their skillsets as the marketplace changes.
Keeping the coursework fresh is "critical to the success of the program," Uganec said. Hootsuite is committed to updating the courses on a continual basis, including a major refresh every year, he pledged.
Hootsuite Academy can also serve as a launch pad for a new career or a whole new business for entrepreneurs marketing professionals.
"Businesses are rapidly increasing their investment in social media marketing, and we're seeing this first hand," said Ryan Johnson, categories director at freelancing website Upwork, in a written statement. "In Q2 of 2016, job posts on Upwork for social media marketers grew 90 percent from the same period last year."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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