I saw where you have a social media certification.
Is this something that's necessary or required in order to move up the ladder, or did you get yours because you don't have a masters degree or a traditional marketing background.
I'm trying to decide if I should get my social media certification or not. I've also thought about going back to school.
Any advice is helpful!
Social Sally (not her real name)
You're packing a lot in this question, but I'll do my best to break it down for you --
You are correct in that I don't have a traditional marketing background, at least education-wise. I attended a private, 4-year college and got my BA degree in Theatre and Communication Studies. When in school, however, I participated in several things that put me on the marketing path, such as managing publicity and box office sales for our theatre department for a few semesters and studying corporate and crisis communications.
You can read more about that here.
But social media as a discipline wasn't taught in schools at that point, so everything I've learned about social media in my career has been by actually doing the thing.
Experience can be incredibly valuable over book-learnin'.
When I wanted to learn social media marketing for businesses, I picked up some how-to guides, created a page for my dad's woodworking company at the time and studied the process as I went.
That was nearly ten years ago, and, if you know anything about social media, you know how much has changed since then.
For the past ten years, whenever I wanted to become good at something related to social media, I simply set aside time to learn it, and then applied what I knew. Sometimes that would take the form of webinars or conferences. Sometimes I would attend free or cheap classes and luncheons (local libraries and professional organizations are a treasure trove of continued education).
Other times, I would take a more formalized approach.
That was the case last year when, as a birthday present to myself, I applied for and received both the Hootsuite Social Media Certification and Facebook Blueprint Certification.
Although I already had experience running successful Facebook ad programs, the Blueprint certification solidified much about what I already knew, and it allowed me to better communicate with both media and creative partners in an agency setting.
A certification in social media is never necessary in order to have a successful social media career.
If you're a visual learner or auditory learner, taking these types of formal classes and certification programs might benefit you and allow you to understand the platforms at a much deeper level.
But I am a kinesthetic learner, so I thrive when I can physically practice something, as opposed to reading or watching a video.
Everyone is different, and we all have different ways of learning social media programs.
So whether or not you should you get your social media certification (or any continued education, for that matter) depends on three things:
1. Your learning style
2. The amount of money you're willing to invest in the process
3. What you hope to gain
Social media certifications, while great, aren't the only way to climb the professional ladder.
In fact, there are lots of different ways you can learn more about social media and gain some credibility in the process:
1. CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA PORTFOLIO
When job hunting, this is a must. You'd be surprised at the skills you already possess if you simply document them. Keep track of any social media wins: statistics, growth numbers or any kind of qualitative or quantitative feedback you've received on your social media work. Add to it monthly or quarterly, and watch how far you've actually grown.
2. USE FREE VERSIONS OF TOOLS AND PROGRAMS
Use free versions of many social media tools you are interested in so you know how they work. This is a great way to become knowledgeable about platforms, tools and resources so you can make better-informed recommendations to your clients or team members.
You can also consider creating a business page for yourself (and running it like you would a business page) so you know the ins and outs of social media management.
3. SPEAK AT CLASSES, CONFERENCES OR SEMINARS
This is a trick I started doing several years ago. Corporate budgets for continued education are hard to secure. Find a topic you know well and ask to speak on it in order to attend seminars or conferences for FREE. Not only will this beef up your credentials, but you'll also get the opportunity to mix and mingle with great minds in your field.
If you're afraid of speaking, and you still can't secure the funds to attend conferences, ask the conference organizers directly if they have discounted rates or payment plans. It never hurts to ask.
4. MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA A DAILY PRACTICE
You would be surprised at how many people want to become better at social media but won't take the time (or make the time) to do it every single day. You may be even more surprised at the CMOs or Marketing Directors who never touch the stuff.
Anyone on social media who is worth their weight finds the time to do it, do it daily, and keep doing it.
Many successful social media rockstars are simply super-users: they're early adopters who found their niche and practice social media A LOT.
Any type of activity on your part can only yield positive results for your career. So think about what path may suit your learning style, think about budgets (!), and consider some alternatives to formal education, especially when it's something like social media.
At the end of the day, many people got their start in social media by Googling everything.
And that's fine too.
I'm answering your burning social media questions every Friday as part of my #FireDrillFridays series.
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