Free Social Media and Digital Marketing Certifications: What’s Available and What’s Valuable?

Today, there are many online training and certifications to help you learn social media and digital marketing skills. If you are a professional, student, or a professor it’s hard to know which ones to earn yourself and which to include in your courses. Below is a guide and links to certifications and additional training resources. Most are free or have minimal costs and represent a short time commitment.

Free Online Social Media and Digital Marketing Courses and Certifications are easily displayed in your LinkedIn profile.
Professional Certifications award badges that can easily demonstrate specialized skills online such as in LinkedIn profiles.

Why are these professional certifications and online learning resources valuable? A Marketing Hiring Trends Report indicates that 69% of marketers are hiring and 59% want digital marketers, yet only 19% of people with those skills are looking for jobs. This represents a 30% digital skills gap creating high demand for people who can demonstrate those skills.

8 Recommended Social Media Certifications

Facebook blueprint is Facebook’s free online courses and paid certifications for marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Over 87% of U.S. marketers use Facebook and 75% use Instagram for social media marketing. Recommended certifications include:

  • Facebook Certified Digital Marketing Associate (8-9 hours) teaches entry level marketing skills and foundational advertising concepts on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. The online courses are free to prepare for the exam which is $150 and requires scheduling in person testing.
  • Facebook Certified Media Planning Professional (9-10 hours) teaches what you need to create, place and measure effective Facebook, Instagram and Messenger advertising campaigns. The online courses are free to prepare for the exam which is $150 and requires scheduling in person testing.
  • Additional Facebook blueprint certifications include Media Buying Professional, Ads Product Developer I, II and III. Note that Facebook blueprint is updating their curriculum including a new education portal available in May 2020.

Hootsuite Academy is an online education site offering free and paid training courses and professional certifications. This popular social media management software is used by over 18 million people at top brands. Recommended certifications include:

  • Hootsuite Platform Certification (3-4 hours) teaches you how to use this popular social platform to publish and engage in social media while tracking results with analytics. It is useful to understand this platform but also how many social management platforms work. The online course is free. The certification is $99 for professionals and free for college students when professors enroll their course through the student program.
  • Hootsuite Social Marketing Certification (6-7 hours) teaches social media marketing skills to grow followers and increase engagement. It teaches social strategy needed to meet and track business results through both paid and earned social media tactics. The online course is free while the certification costs $199 for professionals and free for college students through professor enrolled with professors who apply through the student program.
  • Additional Hootsuite online courses and certifications include Advanced Social Advertising, Social Media ROI, and Social Selling and require payment ranging from $249 to $299.

HubSpot Academy is an online education site offering free and paid training courses and professional certifications. HubSpot is a top marketing, sales, customer service and CRM platform used by over 15,000 businesses. Recommended certifications include:

  • HubSpot Social Media Certification (5-6 hours) teaches effective social media strategy to drive conversation, build loyalty and attract customers. The online course and certification is free.

Snapchat Explore is Snapchat’s free online course and professional certification. Over 33% of U.S. marketers use Snapchat for social media marketing. Recommended certification is:

Twitter Flight School is Twitter’s free online training courses and badges for marketing on Twitter. Over 66% of U.S. marketers use Twitter for social media marketing.

  • Twitter Video Badge (2-4 hours) teaches how to create video and run video ads on Twitter. The online course and certification is free.
  • Additional Twitter Flight School courses include Twitter Ads Manager, Audiences, Campaigns and Reporting.

Cision University Program is Cision’s online training program for college PR classes. The curriculum teaches this popular Cision PR software through college courses that apply for accreditation Recommended certification:

12 Recommended Digital Marketing Certifications

Google Analytics Academy is an online education site offering free training and professional certifications for Google Analytics. Over 88% of search traffic worldwide occurs on Google. Recommended certifications include:

  • Google Analytics for Beginners Certificate of Completion (4-6 hours) teaches the basic features of Google Analytics for creating accounts, tracking, basic reports, goals and campaign tracking. The online course and certification is free.
  • Advanced Google Analytics Certificate of Completion (4-6 hours) teaches advanced Google Analytics features for data collection, processing, configuration and more complex analysis and marketing tools. The online course and certification is free.
  • Google Analytics Individual Qualification Certification (3 hours) is the exam to become professionally certified based on skills learned in the two courses above. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Additional Google Analytics Academy courses and certificates of completion include Google Tag Manager, Data Studio, and Google Analytics 360.

HubSpot Academy is an online education site offering free training courses and professional certifications. Recommended certifications include:

  • HubSpot Inbound Certification (2-3 hours) teaches the HubSpot Inbound methodology for driving customer acquisition from a marketing, sales and service perspective. The online course and certification is free.
  • HubSpot Content Marketing Certification (6-7 hours) teaches a strategic content creation framework for creating and repurposing effective content for search engines and customer engagement. The online course and certification is free.
  • HubSpot Inbound Sales Certification (2-3 hours) teaches specific skills useful to sales people. It explains inbound approaches to personal sales for identifying new prospects and connecting with them. The online course and certification is free.
  • Additional HubSpot courses and certifications include Inbound Marketing, Growth Driven Design, and Email Marketing.

SEMrush Academy is an online education site offering free training and professional certification for search engine marketing. Over 5 million marketers use the SEMrush online visibility management platform. Recommended certifications:

  • SEO Fundamentals Certificate (4-5 hours) teaches the essentials for search engine optimization. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Keyword Research Certificate (2-3 hours) teaches the basics of keyword research. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Mobile SEO Certificate (2-3 hours) teaches the specialized knowledge for mobile website visibility. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Technical SEO Certificate (5-6 hours) teaches the essentials for the technical aspects of search engine optimization. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Additional SEMrush courses and certificates include SEMrush platform functions such as SEMrush Site Audit, SEO Toolkit, Competitive Analysis, Keyword Research, Technical SEO, Link Building, Rank Tracking and Backlink Management.

Amazon Advertising learning console is an online education site offering free training and professional certification for Amazon Advertising. Over 54% of product searches start on Amazon. Recommended certification is:

  • Amazon Sponsored Ads Accreditation (3-4 hours) teaches Amazon Sponsored Ad types, targeting, strategy, reporting and optimization. The online course and certification is free.
  • Amazon Stores Accreditation (1-2 hours) teaches Amazon Store, benefits, features and how build and promote an Amazon Store. The online course and certification is fee.

Institute for Brand Marketing is a collaboration between Adweek and IBM Watson Advertising to provide free online courses and badges to teach brand marketing with technology.

  • Advanced Marketing Technologies (4 hours) introduces you to innovative marketing technologies such as machine learning, AI and blockchain and how they can drive business success. The online course and badge is free.
  • Monetizing Engagement (4 hours) covers ways companies can monetize engagement across social channels to measure ROI by attributing sales and other KPIs to marketing efforts. The online course and badge is free.

10 Recommended Non-Certification Online Learning Resources

Academy of Influencer Marketing by Traackr influencer marketing platform. It offers courses teaching influencer marketing skills, strategy and measurement. The first course is free. Advanced courses are $495.

Adobe Creative Cloud Tutorials is an online education site offering free training for Adobe Creative Cloud software including Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator, Adobe XD, and Adobe Spark. Over 90% of the world’s creative professionals use Adobe.

Adobe Education Exchange is a free learning program and community for educators to ignite creativity in thier classrooms and leverage Adobe software.

Canva Design School is an online education site offering courses from the popular graphic design platform Canva. Free online courses include Graphic Design Basics, Social Media Design, Branding Your Business, and Presentations to Impress.

Code Academy is an online education site offering courses that teach how to write code in popular program languages such as HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, Java and SQL. These program languages are useful for web development, data science and design. Basic classes are free. There a $19.99 per month fee for Pro support.

ConvertedU by Leadpages is an online education site offering free and paid training and professional certification for conversion marketing. More than 40,000 small business use Leadpages to build landing pages, pop-ups, alerts and websites. Free online courses include Email List Building and Leadpages Launchpad. Paid courses include Conversion Marketing and Drip Marketing Certifications.

Google Academy for Ads is an online education site offering free courses in Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, Google Ad Manager, and Google My Business. Google Ads Certification is available, but you must work for a Google Partner business and use that business email to take the exam.

How to Use TikTok for Business by Later is a free 35 minute video course. The course gives insights into creating viral videos, understanding TikTok’s algorithm and using TikTok ads to reach new audiences.

Pinterest Academy is Pinterest’s online education site offering free training courses for marketing on Pinterest. Over 35% of U.S. marketers use Pinterest for social media marketing.

Social Media Examiner Training Videos is a YouTube channel by this popular soical media publication and conference. Their channel offers short training videos by social media experts. Videos are updated often and are usually 5 to 15 minutes long.

YouTube Creator Academy is an online education site offering free courses that teach setting up YouTube Channels, YouTube Content Strategy, Video Production, YouTube Channel Optimization, Money & Business, on YouTube, and YouTube Policies & Guidelines. Over 53% of U.S. marketers use YouTube for social media marketing. A YouTube Certification is available, but only for those with a YouTube partner manager or access to Content ID.

11 Additional Online Learning and Certification Options

Other online courses and certification options include AMA Digital Marketing Certification (Exam), Blogging University (WordPress), LinkedIn Learning (Wide Variety of Subjects), Marketo (Marketing Platform), Meltwater Masterclass (Social Management), Microsoft Advertising (Ad Platform), Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Microsoft Business Applications), Moz Academy (SEO), Salesforce Trailhead (Salesforce CRM), Trading Academy (Programmatic Ad Buying), and Yoast Academy (SEO).

Whether you are a professional, student or professor I hope you find these recommendations to be useful. Even though I’ve highlighted 40 free and low cost online learning courses and certifications I may have missed some. What online courses and certifications have your used that your find to be valuable?

Why You Need a Social Media Measurement Plan and How to Create One.

After years of increases, social media spending declined in 2019.

The CMO Survey saw a drop in social media spending to 11% of marketing budgets from a high of 14% in 2018. Why? The authors suggest, “… despite massive financial investments, social media is rated as contributing only moderate value to company performance (3.3 on a scale where 7=very highly and 1=not at all).”

If you’re not confident in social media’s return on investment (ROI), it will only get harder to secure funding for social media budgets. How can you improve this confidence? Ensure you have a strong measurement plan in place to better prove social media’s impact on the bottom line.Start with business objectives not social tactics.

In creating a social media strategy it is easy to start with social media tactics. You ask questions like, “How can we improve our Facebook page?” So you develop strategies to improve engagement on Facebook and you increase likes, shares and comments. Yet having a better Facebook page is not a business objective. That is why it gets hard when management asks how Facebook Likes contribute to the bottom line.

Having a measurement plan ensures you start with your business objectives (what impacts the bottom line) first. From there you create strategies and tactics (current and new) to help get to those objectives. Then you determine how those outcomes will be measured through KPIs (metrics) tied to micro- and macro- conversions. Goals are long term changes you would like to see. Objectives make goals measurable on a shorter time frame. Strategies are the ways you will meet objectives. Tactics are what you will use to implement the strategies. Click To Tweet

How to define business objectives.

The objective of most business’s is to increase sales, but each organization’s situation is unique and requires a much more nuanced definition. Insight can come from a situation analysis or the reason you are creating a new strategy. There is often a problem or opportunity that has become the focus of marketing efforts creating the story of your plan. The CMO Survey reports marketer’s see social media as a tool to help accomplish the following business objectives:

  1. Brand awareness/brand building
  2. Introducing new products/services
  3. Acquiring new customers (conversion/sale)
  4. Brand promotions (contest/coupons)
  5. Retaining current customers
  6. Improving customer service
  7. Improving employee engagement
  8. Marketing research
  9. Identifying new customer groups
  10. Identifying new product/service opportunities
  11. Improving current products/services

Identify strategies to meet business objectives.

Most social media plans have multiple strategies or ways to improve brand efforts and help to meet business objectives. List all your strategies such as an influencer marketing campaign, a special promotion, an employee advocacy effort or branding social media ads.

Identify tactics used to support key strategies.

List the main tactics that support each strategy. For example, a business objective to increase sales to a new market may have a brand awareness strategy supported by a tactic of targeted Facebook ads, a tactic of influencer marketing on Instagram, and a tactic of employee advocacy on LinkedIn.

List measurable conversions by tactic and strategy.

List measurable actions users take to fulfill your business objectives. They can take the form of macro-conversions and micro-conversions. Macro-conversions are the key actions closest to business objectives such as an online sale through website data or an offline sale through CRM or POS data. Micro-conversions are the smaller actions that move a prospect closer such as visiting webpages, signing up for a newsletter, down loading an app, or following a social media page. They can be tracked using various tools such as Google Analytics Tracking ID and Facebook Pixel for ads or organic posts.

Connect macro-conversions to business objectives.

Link social media metric KPIs by tactic and strategy to macro- and micro-conversions. Creating a dashboard of the KPIs for macro-conversions by tactic and strategy can be a top line report of social media’s contribution to company performance. Creating this in your digital measurement platform such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Salesforce, or Facebook Ads Manager gives you real time access or the ability to schedule regular reports to share with management.

Measure micro-conversions to map the customer journey.

Identifying and measuring micro-conversions on the way to macro-conversion can map out customer journeys. Micro-conversions help you understand human behavior giving insight to optimize strategies and tactics. Analyze metrics by tactic KPI to determine how many people are completing the customer journey and where you are losing or retaining people. This does not mean you will map one journey for all or even most customers. Google click stream data of thousands of customers found no two journeys were alike – varying from 1-176 days and 65-600 touchpoints across categories, brands and products. The marketing funnel still applies, but consumers have more control and options in moving themselves from awareness and consideration to conversion, loyalty and advocacy. Today it is more like a marketing scatter plot. The best you can do is optimize the touchpoint clusters around funnel stages and use CRM data for personalized content.

Conduct experiments to optimize strategies and tactics.

Having a good measurement plan that includes both micro- and macro-conversions enables you to know which tactics and strategies are contributing the most to company performance. From there you can experiment with different tactics and strategies replacing low performing ones to optimize social media. The results of a social media audit can help identify which strategies and tactics to experiment with first. While no two customer journeys are alike your micro-conversion and macro-conversion data can identify clusters of touchpoints versus outliers. Focus optimization efforts where many of your customers engage in the funnel stages on their  unique journey. Also deliver custom messages through unique customer tracking such as Google Analytics User-ID. Ultimately you want lower your cost per result or conversion.

The benefits of social media measurement plan.

Going through this process can take considerable time and effort. But once you have the plan in place the benefits are numerous. A social media measurement plan:

  1. Collects the right data to answer company performance questions.
  2. Creates reports or dashboards to share with decision makers.
  3. Allows analysis of segments of your social media plan.
  4. Enables testing different solutions to improve social efforts.
  5. Helps lower your costs per result or conversion.

Do you have a social media measurement plan? What else could help improve marketer confidence in social media’s contribution to company performance?