How to choose the right social media or digital marketing training course

Considering retraining in social media or digital marketing? Find out the 10 questions you need to ask before choosing a course.

There is no doubt that social media and digital marketing is one of those jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Looking on LinkedIn today, searching for ‘social media marketing’ jobs in the UK returns 8,838 results and ‘digital marketing’ returns 12,631 results.

There are also 5.7 million small medium enterprises in the UK – many of which will be looking to outsource their social media or digital marketing.

So, whether you are exploring full time or part times options as an employee or looking to set up a freelance role, the opportunities exist if you invest in some training to upskill.

How to choose the right social media or digital marketing training course

But with thousands of courses available, how can you pick the one that is going to suit your learning style as well as put you in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities?

Here are 10 areas we commend considering carefully before choosing a course.

1) What’s the learning method?

It is important to understand if you prefer online/distance courses or face-to-face training. The advantage of online/distance courses is that you can learn when you want to, but you do need to be self-disciplined.

Some distance courses will have submission dates for assignments or exam dates, while others will be more open. You need to understand what will work for you. Face-to-face courses mean that you need to turn up to a classroom each week and will have an opportunity to ask individual questions, but it may take longer to cover the same amount of content.

Online courses often allow you to re-visit and review the material as often as you need, when and where you have Internet access and of course the ability to review means it help anyone who has dyslexia or who just simply needs a little longer to digest information.

There are courses which promise to teach you everything in 3 days intensive training. However, if you are not used to learning, or haven’t carried learnt since school days, you may find you are way too challenged by the end of the first day!

Take the time to choose which option will suit you best.

2) What content does it cover?

Social media and digital marketing are such wide topics and when comparing courses, it can be difficult to understand what the course covers. Topics you could cover include:

  • How and why to use the full range of social media channels – LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Google My Business.
  • Content marketing versus relationship marketing.
  • An understanding of marketing principles including competitor analysis, audience journey, call to actions.
  • Creating content including videos, images, blog posts, e-books and status updates.
  • Using keywords and hashtags in content.
  • Designing and developing websites.
  • Creating a social media and digital marketing strategy.
  • The law and digital marketing.
  • Measuring everything you do and making recommendations.

You may not want to learn all of this initially, but make sure you understand the extent of what you are signing up for.

You might also need to check there is a logical sequence in content so you can build on what you learn as you progress. This is called a “scaffold approach” and is essential for good learning.

It is also important to understand how practical the course is. Are you going to be taught to use the tools and channels for social media and digital marketing or is it just the theory?

3) How will you be assessed?

Any training course that is worth doing should require some sort of assessment to check your learning – otherwise is just becomes a certificate of attendance.

Some courses will test your learning by exam, others will ask you to create a portfolio of evidence. Some courses will continually assess you, others will assess you just at the end. You need to consider what suits your learning style.

Are you someone who likes exams and feels confident in preparing, or cramming, to pass exams or do you prefer gathering evidence of what you know and can do in a portfolio?  Do you like to know how well you are progressing and want regular reviews during the course (continual assessment) or are you happy to wait until the end?

It is also worth understanding how practical the assessment is. Are you asked to write an assessment based on a scenario or a real-life work situation? Are you asked to write about the theory of social media marketing or prove that you can actually do it?

4) What qualification will you earn?

Your expectation, or sole purpose, of doing a course might be to gain a qualification from a recognisable awarding organisation and external regulatory body, such as City & Guilds.

Having a recognised qualification indicates a certain level of skills and knowledge that has been attained to a required standard. This qualification might be the detail on your CV and LinkedIn profile that will stand out and shine against others.

Many courses claim to offer a qualification however these might be in-house awards. So do check, or ask, for clarification about the level and quality of the qualification you would receive. An in-house certificate might be all you need in order to do well in your role or job seeking.

You might feel that there is no need for a full qualification and therefore a non-accredited course and training will be best  for you. However, you still want to be assured of the level of quality assurance applied to the training that is being delivered.

Some training providers will ask you to complete projects or written assignments, others will expect completion of exams, others will simply ask you to carry out a multiple-choice test. Generally, an accredited qualification (see below) will be the most robust and useful qualification to achieve.

5) Is the course accredited?

‘Accredited’ courses are regulated by external bodies that operate in the UK and around the world – recognised institutions such as City & Guilds or Pearson. This means that the training provider is subject to regular quality checks of the training and a level of rigour in the assessment process.

You will see some courses are CPD accredited and this means that the course has been stringently approved to meet a minimum standard laid down by one of the CPD (continuous professional development) organisations – these courses do not undergo regular checks.

6) What level is the training?

What is the difference between a Diploma and a Certificate?  You will also see reference to level 3, level 4, etc. Think of this in terms of a matrix.

Generally, an accredited qualification can be offered in three types. Each type increases in depth and breadth. A Certificate is greater than an Award, a Diploma is greater than a Certificate and you will find that at each type the level can be the same. A Level 3 Diploma will be significantly broader and deeper in knowledge and skills required than a Certificate at the same ‘level’.

In terms of academic level, working at level 3 suggests an equivalence to an ‘A’ level, a level 4 is equivalent to first year degree and level 6 is equivalent to 3rdyear degree. Courses at Level 3 are more likely to have a great number of practical elements than a Level 6 however this isn’t always the case.

It is worth being aware that some training providers will use terminology such as ‘certificate’ or ‘diploma’ without any approved accreditation being attached to the course – it is just a name that is intended to signify depth.

7) How much time will you need?

How much time do you want to spend studying each week? You need to be realistic about how much time you can spend if you want to get the most out of the course that you are taking.

Some courses will be taught over six weeks or less – some over 15 months. The amount of time you spend should be linked to how much learning you will get from the course and what you will be able to do following the course. It should take time to assimilate knowledge, put it in into practice and then build on what you have learnt.

Fast track courses might work best for you and your circumstance, but of course, these generally require a time commitment, focus and energy. You may however prefer the slightly slower approach as this gives you time to concentrate, analyse, understand and apply what you have learned at a manageable pace in parallel to working and family or other commitments.

8) What’s the quality of the training?

There are several aspects to the quality of provision:

  1. What quality checks are built into the process as part of accreditation as described above?
  2. How often is the course updated? Social media and digital marketing changes every day in terms of the practical aspects of using the channels as well as best practice – just consider how much Facebook has changed in the last four months. Find out how often the training materials and content you are about to receive is updated. As changes happen frequently an annual update should be considered a minimum requirement.
  3. Find out what other people think of the course before you start – and what they are doing now because of the course.
  4. Discover whether the course writers are qualified trainers who will understand about learning styles and structured training and qualified assessors who understand how to give feedback in a constructive way.

9) What level of support will you get?

What support will you get while you are doing the course? Is it just via an online forum with a comment from a bank of trainers or is it by email direct from an allocated assessor? Can you ask as many questions as you want, and will you get a personal answer? Do you get allocated a personal trainer or assessor who you are positively encouraged to contact by phone as well as email?

What do reviews say about the level of support available? What flexibility is offered such as assignment submission, access to materials, adjustment of assessment activities to suit your situation and context? If you have specific learning needs such as hearing impairment, visual impairment, educational needs how can the training be adjusted to help you?

And finally, when, or if, something untoward happens in your life that affects your study and learning (at work or at home) what options do you have? Flexibility is essential especially if you are studying over a 15-month period, as things do happen in people’s lives.

10) How much does it cost?

It can be confusing when comparing the cost of all the available courses. Look for details and information about what the course will, or will not, include.

Find out if there are any ‘hidden’ extras like assessment, exam or certification fees. It is important to be told upfront if you are expected to purchase any software or technology to complete the course.

Accredited courses, delivered by credible training providers, can be a reasonable amount of money to spend, such as £1,000-£3,500 including VAT, so it is worth looking for payment plans. This is a significant investment so do make sure it is the right course for you and one that will allow you to achieve your goals.

Concise Training have a choice of three up to date, distance learning, practical, fully supported and comprehensive accredited City & Guilds level 3 qualifications in social media and digital marketing. 

Photo by Ellyot