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?

The Marketing Funnel Is Dead, But The Customer Journey Is Alive and Well

Social media has an important role to play in a new customer centered marketing cycle.

Google returns over 3,000 articles saying the marketing sales funnel is dead. Pronouncing a classic principle dead is helpful to attract attention and signify a big change. What is not helpful, is throwing the bath out with the bathwater believing there is no longer a path to purchase. Mark Ritson in Marketing Week appropriately said, “Reports of the death of the sales funnels are greatly exaggerated. Consumers might be bombarded with media and marketing from all angles, but markers must still understand how to influence their journeys towards a purchase.”

The original marketing funnel, also known as a sales, purchase or customer funnel is based on a hierarchy of effects model indicating consumers move through a series of stages to make purchase decisions. Known as the AIDA model marketing, advertising and sales people have been trained to move consumers through the stages of awareness, interest, desire and action. It is illustrated as a funnel because the number of potential prospects decreases with each stage and tactics change from branding and mass media advertising to sales promotion and personal sales.

The problem with the funnel is that it stops at purchase and does not map out post-purchase customer stages that influence repeat purchase and referral. McKinsey found that now two-thirds of the touchpoints during the active-evaluation phase of purchasing involve consumer-driven activities such as Internet reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family – post-purchase consumer activity not accounted for in the funnel.

Post-purchase stages are now more important to consumers and marketers.

This social media fueled feedback loop has shifted power from seller to buyer. Search and social has enabled people to create their own paths to purchase via dozens or even hundreds of touchpoints. Google has found that no two journeys are exactly alike. The consumer is at the center of their own unique customer journey. Derek Thompson in Hit Makers describes this consumer revolution saying, “The gatekeepers had their day. Now there are simply too many gates to keep.”

The marketer has lost control over much of the information about their products and services. What’s more, the brand messages they do create are less trusted than content created about the brand by consumers. Edelman reports that 74% of consumers use one more advertising avoidance strategies and 63% trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves.

This doesn’t mean consumers don’t want marketing and marketers have lost all influence. Salesforce State of Marketing report indicates 79% of customers are willing to share data in exchange for contextualized engagement, and 88% will do so for personalized offers. Its no longer about being a gatekeeper it about joining the community of consumers who already talking about your brand.

Customers today demand connected journeys through more personalize marketing.

Salesforce research has found 84% of consumers say being treated like a person, not a number is very important to purchase decisions. And 70% say connected processes, such as seamless handoffs, situation specific engagement, and needs anticipation, are important to their customer journey. In other words, consumers are looking for relationships. We need to put the “social” back in social media.

Many experts have seen this coming and describe the shift in various ways. Mark Schaefer in Marketing Rebellion calls for human-center social media marketing. Joseph Jaffe argued for conversational marketing and a move from corporate centric to customer centric marketing. Seth Godin says marketing now needs to be relevant not loud. Shoving declining mass advertising into the top of a disappearing sales funnel is making less and less sense.

Consumer engagement is key in a new customer centered buyer journey.

In our digital era the marketing funnel is more like a circular system. The consumer is at the center controlling much of their own buyer journey while influencing other consumer’s on path to purchase. The marketer joins the conversation via engagement as a guide not a gate keeper. This can be seen in the marketing cycle illustrated below.

The customer journey no longer follows a linear path of predictable marketing tactics that move consumers down a funnel of awareness to purchase. A Facebook ad or blog post may appear in the consumer’s feed or search results to generate awareness or could be the touchpoint they engage with right before conversion. A customer service interaction with a current customer on Twitter may recruit a new customer as a customer rating and review on Amazon or Trip Advisor my influence a conversion.

The engagement in the middle of this marketing cycle can impact any part of the journey at anytime. Positive or negative interactions and comments can pull more customers in or push more customers out entering any stage of this new circular path to purchase. The customer is at the center of this journey, but the brand can still join in and help guide the path. Google research reveals a mixture of paid, owned and earned media is consumed via unique paths to purchase with dozens or even hundreds of touchpoints.

After purchase customers use the product or service, form an opinion and share that experience through social media. This user generated content (UGC) is found by perspective customers via search and social networks feeding back into the marketing cycle influencing their awareness, interest, consideration and conversion stages.

Marketers must shift from a control mindset to one of engagement.

Seth Godin says to be seen marketers must learn to see. This begins with social media listening. The focus is on creating meaningful and relevant experiences at the appropriate time and place. The brand engages with potential customers through varied touchpoints along the journey from prepurchase awareness, interest and consideration to purchase conversion followed by postpurchase use, opinion and sharing.

These touchpoints become the tactics of social marketing strategy. A social media measurement plan can reveal which tactics and strategies are producing positive interactions pulling potential customers towards the next stage and which are creating negative experiences pushing them off the marketing cycle path to purchase.

HubSpot calls this moving from a funnel to a flywheel where the marketers role is to add force to the areas that have the most positive impact, and decrease friction in areas with the most negative impact. Doing so will increase size of your flywheel adding more customer promoters. A flywheel uses the momentum of your happy customers to drive referrals and repeat sales. It brings customer relationship management to social media marketing where your own customers become part of your sales force.

Engagement with the connected consumer can’t be one-size-fits-all.

The shift from marketing funnel to marketing cycle has left many marketers confused. Social Media Examiner’s Industry Report reveals that the top question social media marketers face today is how to best engage their audience. Uncertainty may come from trying to view the connected consumer as one audience.

Brian Solis argued that there is no one audience. A target audience is made up of audiences of audiences representing varying roles of the social consumer. In a marketing cycle you must reach the right person in the right stage and touchpoint with the right message. Solis says, ” It is our responsibility to assume the role of digital anthropologist and sociologist to understand the needs and wants of people within each network and to design programs around these discoveries.”

Uncertainty may also come from trying to meet these varying consumer needs with a one discipline team. Different team members from various departments are best suited for engaging with consumers in different buying stages. Marketers are great at brand building, PR pros are relationship experts, sales people know how to close, and customer service gets problems solved. Marketers can lead, but to succeed social needs to be a cross-discipline team of marketing, sales, public relations, advertising, corporate communications, customer service and human resources.

This uncertainty and needed new approach can be seen in the executive summary of the latest Salesforce State of Marketing report. It identifies how marketing is evolving around the new connected customer. In this new model “marketing becomes the cross-functional glue of customer experiences.” Data unification, real-time engagement and consumer trust becomes the goal. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers an opportunity to help make it happen through personalized marketing.

Trust is a deal breaker in buying decisions.

In a recent Trust Barometer report 67% of consumers said they would stop buying from companies they don’t trust. How do you build trust? Edelman’s research found that the best way to build trust is to lead with peer (UGC, influencers, etc.) and amplify with owned, social and paid. In other words, to build customer relationships marketers must remove themselves from the command of a marketing funnel and put consumers in the center of a new marketing cycle. Trust starts with listening in a customer centered social strategy.

Trust built through connected consumer relationships has its rewards. Edelman also found consumers that trust brands reward them by buying their brand first (53%), staying loyal (62%), advocating (51%) for the brand and defending (43%) the brand. Social media and the connected consumer disrupted the sales funnel where marketing people played gatekeeper, but marketers still play an important role as guide in the new customer empowered journey.

Are you still thinking of the customer journey as a funnel? Does putting the consumer in the center of a marketing cycle change your social media marketing strategy?