Social marketing gets formal with Harper certificate program

NOTE: The article first appeared in the January 23 edition of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

Who’s in charge of your small business’ social marketing strategy?
If it’s your teenage child or a similar young relative, the odds are good you’re not getting any customer traffic from it, says Corinn Hilbert. The reason it isn’t working is because businesses confuse “social media” with “social marketing,” and there is a very big difference, she notes.
“With social media, it’s arbitrary and spontaneous, with no outcomes expected. It’s just sharing,” said Hilbert, a social marketing consultant and founder of Be XSible LLC. “With social marketing, it’s strategic and purposeful with a definite outcome expected. You want new customers. That does not happen by accident.”
As social media and its potential as an effective marketing tool has grown exponentially over the past years, the learning curve for business owners to effectively utilize those tools has lagged behind. But a new program being launched at Harper College in Palatine is geared to provide focus and credibility to marketing a business online and through social media.
Harper’s Social Media Marketing Specialist CE Certificate is a 48-hour, six-course program designed to give students the knowledge and tools to conduct effective business social marketing campaigns and strategies. Hilbert teaches the course, which she said is geared far beyond just knowing how to use Facebook or Twitter. The program is designed to help business owners understand social media’s role in social marketing, and how to develop and manage campaigns that provide your business with an online identity that draw new customers and develop relationships with current ones. In addition, the program also focuses on how to obtain and analyze the results in order to improve your marketing campaigns.
The course includes classes on social media and online marketing foundations; interactive content and working with search engine optimization and blogs; social media for business; email and mobile marketing campaigns; social marketing management and a social media portfolio workshop.
Hilbert said those completing the program will have know-how to develop and implement effective social marketing strategy, as well as analyze the results of those campaigns to take advantage of opportunities to grow and nurture new and existing customers.
“We want these businesses to capitalize on social media, not just be participants,” she said.
Martha Karavitis, Harper’s coordinator of continuing education computer training, notes the program is not only unique to the school, but to most educational facilities as well. Only a handful of colleges, such as the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the University of San Francisco, have established training programs in social media and marketing.
Karavitis said the college saw a need for a program locally as businesses were more frequently contacting the college, looking to hire people with social media skills. She added these skills are becoming more sought after in the workforce, noting as many as 2,000 new job openings seeking people with social media skills have posted online locally in the past month alone.
Businesses are looking for these skills and schools are scrambling to come up with a way to teach them,” she said.
The college held a course last May for unemployed workers which offered a ‘taste’ of what would be taught in the new program, Karavitis said. The feedback from the class was so positive that Karavitis and Hilbert decided to proceed with the certificate course.
Karavitis and Hilbert note the program is not only for business owners, but also for people who are looking to obtain new skills for a quickly growing field. Receiving the CE certificate gives a jobseeker an advantage over others, as it shows a potential employer that the person has taken time to learn the needed skills in a formalized setting from a well-known institution.
“One of the biggest issues now is the lack of formal training,” Hilbert said. “With this, you’re telling an employer ‘I took the time to sit down and learn the skills needed from an institution like Harper College.’”
Karavitis added others who would benefit from the program are marketing professionals, web designers, editors or journalists who need to improve their skills and understanding of social media and marketing.
“We have a diverse audience for this, from the unemployed to COOs,” Hilbert said.
Although the current program, which begins Jan. 26, is near capacity, Karavitis said they still have a few openings and are taking requests for future programs.
But for the business owner, Hilbert said the biggest benefit of the program is developing the understanding that social marketing does not just mean having a presence everywhere in social media, but knowing what platforms will work best for getting your message to your customers.
“We want to make sure the people in the program come out with the training and skills to do a good social marketing campaign, and they are doing it right, so the business isn’t just throwing its time and money out the window,” she said.
For more information call (847) 925-6066, go to http://www.harpercollege.edu/ce or contact Hilbert at corinnh@beXSible.com.

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