Social Media Education: Q&A with the CEO of the National Institute for Social Media (NISM)

Jennifer Radke is co-owner and CEO of the National Institute for Social Media (NISM)
Jennifer Radke is co-owner and CEO of the National Institute for Social Media (NISM)

Social media has changed the media landscape and consumers continue to drive their own communication deciding what, when and how they want to receive news and information and share with their friends. As a result, today’s businesses face different challenges when it comes to capturing attention and engaging with their customers and other important stakeholders. At the same time, with an extremely dynamic and involved public, communication professionals realize that social media activity is 24/7. They must be ready to communicate in a real-time environment with consumers who are demanding immediate attention.

Knowing social media continues to proliferate, professionals also need to stay abreast of these advancements and how to use social media to reach, engage and build stronger relationships. Recently, I learned about the National Institute for Social Media (NISM) and their social media certification program. Here’s my interview with the CEO and co-owner, Jennifer Radke, on social media education and her vision for the NISM.

Q. Tell me a little about the National Institute for Social Media.

A . The National Institute for Social Media (NISM) was started in 2011 in response to a growing issue companies were having in identifying skilled candidates in the area of social media. The first thing we did was assemble a volunteer Industry Advisory Committee to complete a jobs study and identify core competencies in the area of social media strategy.  From those six core competencies that were identified, the committee built an assessment or certification examination to test individuals on their understanding of these competencies.  Knowing that many individuals may not feel comfortable sitting for a certification exam without preparation, we built curriculum to serve as an education opportunity.  Today, NISM works with training partners, companies, and individuals to build a community around social media education, training, community, and assessment.

Q. What is a certification in social media?

A. NISM’s Social Media Strategist certification validates the skills required of professionals using social media. To achieve certification, participants are required to pass an exam covering the six primary content domains of general practitioners in social media: strategic planning; compliance and governance; project and campaign management; social media marketing; community management; and research and analytics. An optional course and self-study materials are available for those who wish to study these areas closer, before taking the exam.

Q. What kind of professional should get a certification in social media?

A. Typically marketing, communications, PR, advertising or related professionals would benefit from our certification process and our ongoing education programs. We also find small business owners and consultants that focus on social media management, digital marketing and training have found the certification beneficial.

Q. How well, on the whole, do businesses do social media these days?  Why would a certification be needed?

A. Businesses generally understand today that social media is essential to their overall communications, and that helps to explain the rapid increase in social media job creation over the last several years.  That said, few businesses say that they get it right – the vast majority of them say that they have trouble finding the right talent and staff to do the work.  They also say they’ve lost money due to poor strategy and execution, and they’ve had trouble tying social media efforts to their company’s performance.  Clearly, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in terms of developing best practices and implementing them across the entire spectrum of business.  Our certification goes right to the core of this issue – we’re helping professionals develop the skills to stand out in a marketplace that sorely needs them, and we’re helping businesses build the teams of people and implement the best practices in order to succeed.

Q. How could businesses use and deploy social media better, and for more impact?

A. It comes down to strategy and understanding your audience before anything else.  Many businesses don’t take the time to make sure that their efforts on social media are addressing the needs/wants/desires of their target market.  They tend to act first and ask questions later on things like “what type of content does my audience want to get from me,” “what questions or needs can I better address” and finally “what social media platforms are the best for me to meet them on their turf to fulfill these needs?” Businesses need to slow down, understand their audience, put together a plan and them implement that plan to engage, share, communicate, etc.  Oh – and that plan should not be without goals.  If we don’t know what outcomes we are hoping to achieve, then we can never truly measure our success.

Q. What’s your vision for NISM going forward?

A. In the long term, our vision is to build a world-class credentialing body recognized for its achievements in education and consulting.  We also want to foster a community of driven professionals with a joint passion towards creating exceptional relationships with customers.