How marketers can address the social media skills gap?

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We all know that the rise of social media has revolutionised marketing and changed how businesses market themselves to, and engage with, customers. However, the rapid pace of this revolution has left a digital skills gap with many in today’s workforce woefully ill-equipped to unlock the value of social media.

According to a government report, the UK is on the verge of falling behind on the global stage if we don’t address this skills shortfall. We don’t need everyone to become computer scientists overnight, but when you bear in mind that 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills, it is a cause for concern.

Businesses and marketers know they need to be on social to reach their audiences, and you can’t just “wing it” anymore. Social Media Examiner found that 92% of marketers have said that social media is important to their business, and it is clear having the right digital skills is essential to both social and business success.

This calls for workforces around the country to assess the social media skills they have. Are they sufficient for today and can they bring you into a future where we’ll be even more reliant on social for new business and customer engagement?

What’s behind the gap

How it’s used in the workplace has fundamentally changed. It used to be the domain of specialist social media managers. However, in just a short space of time, activities on social media have been radically democratised and decentralised by easy to use social media management technologies. Since then, employees – marketing employees in particular – have been asked to use social media in ever more numerous and unfamiliar ways. According to Indeed, job ads that mention social media in the description but not the title have grown by 89% – that’s a huge swing.

For marketers, the sudden proliferation of new platforms and features is also a factor in the skills gap. Only a year ago, snapchat was for teens, and today it’s the latest way to engage business audiences. As more platforms incorporate more sophisticated features, even the most plugged-in users are struggling to keep up. Only 5% of marketers actively adopt new channels.

Given the proliferance of social in our daily lives, social management is sometimes assumed as an inherent skill. However, just because somebody grows up as a social media native, they aren’t by default equipped to represent a company’s interests online.

As more platforms incorporate more sophisticated features, even the most plugged-in users are struggling to keep up. No one should be expected to dive into the world of corporate social media management without guidance and training.

Bridging the gap

While it races ahead, formal training and education programs are lagging seriously behind.

Few employees have time for in-depth courses or bootcamps, so the right training solution needs to be on-demand and mobile-friendly. Companies immersed in the social and digital media space can offer real lessons from the front lines in an alternative way – online education.

Getting an online education and certification is convenient and allows training materials to be short and easy to digest. We recently launched Hootsuite Academy to play our part in boosting smanagement  skills.

Hootsuite Academy is an online offering that provides hundreds of free social media videos, resources, and industry certifications to help professionals drive value from social media.

Our aim is to help marketers and other employees involved in digital become comfortable using the variety of channels and tools available. Social media knowledge beyond personal use is a job skill that is no longer a nice to have, but a must have.

The future

Although the digital and social landscape is moving at great speed, we can be prepared by improving our social media skills. Yes, this includes technical knowledge but just as important is the ability to think entrepreneurially and to consider how your company can grow its market share by using social media imaginatively.

It all starts from a base of knowledge that grows and becomes more fruitful as time progresses.

It is vital that we give social skills the attention they deserves as our digital livelihoods depend on it. Although your working knowledge might be small now, it may not be too long until you are commanding attention online for all the right reasons.