When back at the beginning of February I posted about becoming a student again with the Social Media Academy, I thought I was in for a busy time.
I had no idea!
In fact, the course is so full-on, so demanding, that I’m now having to catch up with some things, formerly priorities, that I had to postpone.
During the program and since (while dealing with the catching up challenge!), I have reminded myself of the observation by Brian Solis in his book Engage! that for those of us who want to be leaders in social media (and I would say by extension want our clients to be leaders in the field) there is a cost, which is “that you go back to school for the near future in order to learn and acquire the skills necessary to lead your brand into the future.” (p xii)
I’m not complaining. Far from it. I’m in fact very pleased that we were given so much to study and that it was a serious stretch for me, even though I have been quite actively involved in the field for years now.
In presentations I’ve done on various aspects of social media I have often said to people that I am still learning. So through the course I was being seriously called on that!
The good news is I passed (not, let me tell you, a foregone conclusion – haven’t had exam nerves for a long, long time!) and am now a duly certified social media strategist.
It was a lot more than just more information
The course did provide a lot of information, some of which I was familiar with, some new or freshly presented.
Reflecting on the course and on now being an alumnus of the Academy, a few things in particular stand out as being of special value for me. These were:
- team project focused on a real company
- being challenged in my assumptions
- strategic framework and methodologies
- experience with monitoring and measuring
- capacity to make a business case based on ROI
- being part of a global network of Academy alumni
For me, one of the most useful aspects of the course was the team project, where we looked at a real company and developed a social media assessment and strategy. This was done externally, as a theoretical exercise, without involving the company beyond a couple of brief chats with key people. A real world consultancy would require extensive interaction with the company, but I still found the process very worthwhile.
It’s easy to say one likes being challenged. The reality can be confronting, but I’ve often found I do better work when I am challenged than when I’m not. That was definitely the case here and while I did not enjoy the moment of being challenged I like the fact that I was able to put my ego in its box, get over it and get on with the job. It is of course a plus for the course providers that I was challenged to do better. It must also be said that I was also given positive feedback once assignments were done satisfactorily. We all like strokes.
Strategic framework and methodologies
I like to think strategically. My observation is that for a lot of the time when we talk or write about social media “strategy” we can be actually talking about tactics – for example when the discussion focuses on whether to use Facebook, or LinkedIn, or blogging, and if so how, and so on.
One of my favorite quotes, which until recently I thought was from Sun Tzu’s Art of War (I now understand that may be apocryphal, but I still think it is a useful “framing”) is:
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
A special feature of the Academy program for me was in getting to use, systematically and with feedback, commentary and assessment, the Social Media Academy methodologies.
That’s probably easiest to explain by quoting here from the Academy site:
The Social Media Academy created and teaches a holistic social media approach, for applying social media in all sizes of businesses. …
- It is not about the tools but a holistic understanding of the implication of social media to corporations
- The main objective of a corporate social media engagement should be to create a better business experience for a company’s eco system
- Social media is a cross functional – corporate culture related engagement – not a marketing campaign
I saw also how the strategic framework and the methodologies are scalable, from small companies up to the largest enterprises.
And now that I am a graduate, I can use those methodologies knowledgeably in my own professional practice.
Experience with monitoring and measuring
One of my New Year resolutions this year was to become more knowledgeable about and capable in using tools of social media monitoring and measuring.
The access we had to sophisticated monitoring and measuring tools, and guidance in their use, was a particular benefit of the course. We also had the benefit of information about a lot of other such tools, information which I for one would have found very time-consuming to gather.
Capacity to make a business case based on ROI
The simplest way to put this is that I now have a methodology, and the skills to apply it, which will give me confidence to pitch a business case for a social media assessment and strategy, not just to the social media savvy people in a firm, but to the key marketing people and financial controllers.
Being part of a global network of Social Media Academy Alumni
The alumni group is made up of many different people from different countries and with a wide range of life and business experience. Being part of this group of people who have the shared experience of the Social Media Academy program means, in effect, having access to a global think tank of people who are able to cut to the chase and discuss strategy (as well as tactics, when appropriate).
It also provides significant potential to respond positively to a need to scale for larger projects.
Would I recommend the Academy’s programs?
With one caveat: be prepared to work very hard and be stretched, and don’t plan any vacations while you are doing the course. This is serious stuff.
I believe it’s worth it.
If you would like to know more, there is general information about the Academy’s programs with more specific information about the Social Media Strategist Certificate program and a link to a 45 minutes video-based orientation.