Get Trained and Get Ahead of the Digital Skills Shortage

February 13, 2016

Given the current and global digital skills shortage, any kind of proficiency boost in digital marketing is a welcome development. So when renowned authority in social media, Hootsuite, devises a new educational programme doing exactly that, we simply had to get our resident expert Jonathan to test out his know-how. Here’s how he got on.

Well, it always takes time to make things official. I’d unwittingly become accustomed to living this life in all but the eyes of the authorities. But now I have it in my hand. I have a certificate to prove that I said yes – yes to being a certified social media marketing…guy.

I’m now officially married to the method – a disciple of the discipline; you say “jump” and I say “how does that message align with your marketing goals?”

This sort of training is a unique opportunity

Certified social

I received my certificate from world-renowned social media management expert Hootsuite – which is about as close to a supreme regulatory authority as you’re likely to get in social media – after passing (ahem, acing) its Podium training course and exam.

If I’m being honest, it’s not the best certificate I’ve seen; I was hoping for a bit more, I don’t know, opulence? Some calligraphy, a wax stamp, possibly some sort of graduation ceremony with mortar boards and a banqueting hall. I was going to invite my mum.

Alas, ‘twas not to be. I have my certificate appropriately presented as a PDF, it has a beautifully understated Hootsuite crest and I am overwhelmingly delighted. Mainly because: (a) everything I thought I knew about social media marketing, it turns out, was right, (b) I can move forward now instilling that same level of confidence in our clients, and (c) I get to keep my job.

Jonathan Bright, Southerly Creative Content Lead,HotSuite Podium Certificate for Social Media Marketing

Digital commands a healthy salary

Podium is Hootsuite’s digital academy – a training and education arm which aims to boost and acknowledge social and digital skills. The training is free; the exam you have to pay for.

This is, to say the least, much needed; we’re famously in the midst of a digital skills shortage. Indeed, with the release this month of Econsultancy’s Career and Salary Survey 2016 – a survey of nearly 8,500 people across the marketing, digital, design and advertising industries – we see that digital marketing salaries are now, significantly, comparable with their general marketing equivalents. Mobile skills are the most sought after in 2016, topping salary expectations.

A major reason we’re in this skills shortage – in the corporate world especially – is that we have an incumbent upper management that knows the tricks of traditional marketing inside out, but is still getting to grips with the nuances of modern digital techniques. On the other hand, there’s a Millennial generation (who will eventually usurp the traditionalists) with all their digital nous, but not necessarily the fundamental marketing knowledge to apply it. Marrying the two together is a major industry challenge that exacerbates with every new technology cycle. Of which there are many.

It’s also exacerbated by the fact that HR and IT departments experience the same issues as marketers. The only difference being that you’re not just missing out on marketing opportunities, you’re also missing out on potential new recruits, including those key candidates that do have the requisite skillset to help curb this vicious cycle.

The situation is complicated as high demand for expanded marketing teams, as many firms seek to get new business, is coupled with staff retention issues. Recent research by recruitment specialist Robert Walters reveals that a quarter of marketing professionals are actively looking for a new job, while half expect to change jobs in the next six months.

You’re not just missing out on marketing opportunities, you’re also missing out on potential new recruits

More digital skills training needed

So it’s worth getting ahead of the game. This sort of training is a unique opportunity because a great deal of people aren’t necessarily seeking it out. Yet.

More and more creative teams will look to fill their knowledge gaps this year

In December’s Content Marketing in the UK 2016: Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends, the Content Marketing Institute reported that two thirds of UK marketers expect their organisation’s marketing budgets to increase this year. However, around a third say that the biggest challenge they foresee in the next 12 months is the knowledge gaps in their internal teams, while a quarter say their biggest challenge is finding and/or training skilled content creators.

This is certainly upheld by Econsultancy’s aforementioned salary survey, which finds that marketers dearly want to up their game – changes happen so fast in this industry that the demand for high quality training has peaked.

The will is there, but the skill needs tweaking.

The digital skills you develop now don’t just serve you well in the present. These skills help you build long-term strategies for future content marketing; they help you plan to recruit the next generation of people that you’ll manage; and ultimately it means you can pass on all your valuable learning to wider teams servicing bigger contracts. It’s business future-proofing.

These skills help you build long-term strategies for future content marketing

Back to the exam…

What I will say about the exam is it’s harder than you’re led to believe. The learning format is pretty straightforward: there are educational videos presented by various experts in their fields, accompanied by more in-depth learning materials like study guides and whitepapers. You start with the basics, and to be fair if I wasn’t just skimming through these initial modules then I really should be considering a different career. After each module there are little re-cap tests which aren’t too taxing. This gave me a false sense of security; things do get more complex quite quickly. But I like a challenge.

The training actually touches on a high level of detail and this is well reflected in the exam. It’s a multiple choice paper that includes the kind of questions that leave you staring at the screen and huffing under your breath, “The answer’s ALL OF THEM”. This is of course the mark of a good multiple choice test.

I won’t spoil the fun, but suffice to say I’m both happy with the result and encouraged that we’re being asked the right, gratifyingly complex questions. I see this kind of training as essential not just in terms of cementing your knowledge, but also in terms of finding, or rather, seeing opportunities to be uniquely creative. More and more creative teams will look to fill their knowledge gaps this year and people that have a solid grounding in digital practice will be one step ahead. They will possess the kind of seasoned thinking that helps you spot those unique opportunities in the first place; your brain is trained to seek them out.

I’m encouraged that we’re being asked the right, gratifyingly complex questions

In addition, you’re trained to spot those abilities in others, and in so doing have the know-how to attract those people from the periphery and bring them into your digital team.

Salary trends will continue to rise with the need for more training as technology evolves. Companies will need highly trained, competitively paid in-house teams or a specialist digital creative agency to help them stay ahead of the game. The investment one makes now in solid programmes like HootSuite’s will not only create a base team of highly skilled digital practitioners on which to build, it will also provide a core of people able to create the recruitment content that attracts more of their ilk.


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