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[originally posted on LinkedIn, October 8, 2015]

A couple of weeks ago, Hootsuite announced Podium and its plan to educate a million social media professionals for free by 2017. I’m always happy to take advantage of good, free education so I signed up and completed the courses. As of today, I am one of the first 127 certified by Podium in Social Media Marketing. Woohoo! But enough about me. Let’s look at what the courses have to offer and why you should sign up as well.

First, let’s be clear about something. There are the courses, and there is the certification. The courses are absolutely free. You sign up, you take the courses, and you go on your merry way. If you want to obtain the certification, there is a $199 fee to take the exam. Not everyone needs to be certified. If you are looking for a job that might require you to use social media, or if you plan to pursue a career in any facet of digital marketing, then sure, this certification will look great on your resume or LinkedIn profile (as it does mine!). For the rest of you, it’s unnecessary. But you really should take the courses if you have any plans whatsoever to involve yourself in marketing your business digitally. And here’s why.

#1. The courses are free!

Did I mention that they are free? Because if not, let me say this right now once and for all. The courses are free! You have zero obligation and owe Hootsuite nothing either before, during, or after taking the courses. You really can’t beat this. And I don’t know what else I can say about this. Except that THEY’RE FREE!

#2. The content of the courses is right on the money (your potential income, that is).

Completed! (I tested out of the first course)

Completed! (I tested out of the first course)

There are 6 courses progressing in detail and complexity as you move through them:

  • Introduction to Social Media Marketing
  • Optimizing Your Social Media Profiles
  • Social Media Strategy – from A to Z
  • Growing Your Online Community
  • Content Marketing Fundamentals
  • Social Advertising Fundamentals

Whether you have no experience with social media marketing or are looking to step up your game, there is something to learn for everyone. A short exam up front tests your current knowledge, so if you already have some experience, you can “test out” of the earlier course without feeling like it is wasting your time (as small business owners, you know you have precious little extra time already).

In the social game, little details can make a huge difference. Optimizing your social profiles to show the best side of your business is all about these little details. The second course covers optimizing your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles for greatest impact. From there the courses become more intermediate level and delve into more complex business practices, such as how to create a social media strategy that aligns with your business objectives, how to develop social media policies for your employees, and how to plan out campaigns for creation and curation of content to help you grow your audiences and help move those audiences into active, engaged buyers and brand ambassadors. The last course covers best practices for using the great advertising tools offered through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

#3. For most small business owners, DIY is the name of game.

Not everyone has the budget for a full-time marketing team. And as a small business owner, you already know how many hats you have to wear every day. You are already wearing the marketing hat in one way or another. With the tools available to you via these courses, you can fine tune what you are currently doing to get the most return from your time and money invested. And if you are about to break into the digital realm for the first time, let these courses flatten the learning curve. You only have so much time during the week to wear the marketing hat, so make the most of it.

Many of you, like my clients, may be working with an outsourced marketing team but are still involved in the day to day planning, posting, commenting, and answering of questions on your social channels. These courses are perfect for whatever level of DIY marketing you are doing. What have you got to lose by taking these courses at your own pace on your own time in as much of a capacity as you desire (just want to learn more about content marketing or social advertising? Take those courses and skip the others—they are all free and at your disposal)? Nothing. You have nothing to lose at all!

Have I sold you on these free courses yet? I sure hope so! If you would like to talk about a DIY (or not so DIY) digital marketing strategy for your small business (from consultation to complete strategy development, from website SEO to content and social media marketing), I specialize in working with folks just like you and have a brand new Hootsuite certification pin in my hat. Email me now at c_estep@thechatterboxguys.com (or click here)! Let’s get social!

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