Social Media Certifications Prepare Students, Employees for Social Business

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?

Tue, April 02, 2013

CIO — While social media—and its applications within the enterprise—have arrived, most businesses still don't know what to do with the new tools.

According to a Harvard Business Review report, "The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action," 79 percent of companies are either using or planning to use social media channels, but only 12 percent believe they are using them effectively.

One reason why, according to the report: a lack of understanding and education at the C-suite level. That's something that a growing number of colleges, universities and businesses are hoping to fix.

College Students Need an Education in Social Business

"You talk to students, and a lot of them think they know all about social media," says William Ward, social media professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

"But then you ask them, 'Are you integrating content across multiple platforms? Are you doing analytics to see how effective your community is? Are you using lists on Twitter or circles on Google+ to organize your groups?' And the answer is no," he says. "Social media is more than just having a Facebook or Twitter account, and that's what we're trying to teach them."

Last year, Newhouse became the first institution to partner with social media management company HootSuite, teaming up to pilot a new social media education and certification service called HootSuite University.

The program, which is also available to businesses and individuals, gives participants access to its HootSuite dashboard, video-based courses, 20 30-minute webinars that offer best practices and tips from industry brands, and, ultimately, a certification after users pass a series of exams. Once they do, they're also added to HootSuite's social media consultant directory.

Ward says that HootSuite's program, paired with Newhouse's curriculum, aims to prepare students to enter corporations where they'll be expected to be savvy about and innovative in the uses of social media for business—a subject that has been tricky for many educators to effectively teach.

"We knew about the statistics that said businesses are struggling with social, and we wanted to help fix that by bridging the gap between the future workforce and the employers," says Kirsten Bailey, director of HootSuite University.

[Related: The How-To Guide for Social Business]

"We started talking to professors about the challenges they were having when they were trying to teach social media and what they were using to educate students," she says.

Professors, they found, understood the need for social media education, but weren't comfortable teaching it because of how quickly it changes. They also had difficulties finding reliable resources because textbooks on the subject are quickly rendered obsolete.

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