When it comes to building social media marketing skills for your small business, it’s worth taking a strategic approach. Social media marketing can be effective and affordable, but it’s also complex: Each social media platform has a distinct audience and set of norms, and each regularly tweaks its algorithms and content parameters. The stakes are also high: at best, a social media slip-up is a waste of time and money; at worst, it could do serious injury to your brand.
For this reason, many small business owners use online social media marketing courses to cut their learning curves. The right course can fast-track your development of a social media strategy so you canidentify and progress toward business goals and avoid marketing mishaps along the way. In this post, we’ll walk you through some options.
What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing refers to the practice of using social media channels to increase brand loyalty, generate leads, boost sales, and obtain valuable insights into your customers’ preferences and needs.
For many small business owners, social media marketing is a key part of a larger digital marketing strategy. For one thing, it has huge potential reach—in 2022, Facebook alone reported nearly 2 billion daily active users. Some forms of social media marketing are also free, and many platforms allow you to target customers by geography, demographics, interests, and online behaviors.
Social media marketing can be particularly effective for ecommerce business owners to drum up notice for their brand. Since your customers consume social media content on the same devices they use to make purchases, you can also drive them directly from social posts to your ecommerce storefront.
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How to choose a social media marketing course
- Consider your budget
- Evaluate your business goals and training needs
- Research course curriculum
- Choose a course
There are many social media marketing courses on the market. These four steps can help you find the right one for you.
1. Consider your budget
The cost of social media marketing courses ranges from entirely free to thousands of dollars, and courses can take anywhere from 30 minutes to six months to complete.
To choose the right social media marketing course for your small business, first consider how much budget you want to allocate to training. Don’t forget to budget for time as well, since any time spent in training will take you away from other business functions.
2. Evaluate your business goals and training needs
Once you’ve determined how much time and money you’re able to invest in a social media marketing course, take stock of your level of experience and business goals. Are you looking to identify your target audiences and set up business profiles on key social media platforms? Or are you an experienced digital marketer who’d like to fine-tune your Instagram marketing strategy, engage in social selling, and improve your return on investment (ROI) for your social media ads? Identifying your needs can help you compare course offerings.
Some social media courses offer social media marketing certifications, which are helpful for individuals pursuing a career in social media marketing to validate their skills to prospective employers. For small business owners, certifications are typically not the goal: your objective isn’t to get hired as a social media manager; it’s to leverage a social media marketing strategy to grow your business.
Certification courses are also often (although not always) more expensive than non-certification courses. Keeping your end goals in mind can help you focus on what you really need—and prevent you from shelling out a large portion of your digital marketing budget when you don’t need to.
3. Research course curriculum
Once you’ve identified your needs, research individual course curriculums and keep a list of what you find. Social media marketing courses frequently cover the following topics:
- Social media strategy. Coming up with a strategy for your social media marketing can help you identify your target audiences, set goals, select key performance indicators (KPIs), choose key social media platforms for your business, and determine your ideal mix of content and tactics.
- Social media trends. Social media is dynamic, meaning that both algorithms and audience preferences are constantly changing. Courses that cover social media trends can help you stay current and make the most out of your investment in a social media strategy.
- Platform-specific best practices. Each social media platform serves different audiences and displays content differently—so what works on Twitter won’t necessarily be successful on Instagram. Understanding the differences between popular social media platforms’ algorithms, audiences, and displays can help you optimize your content across channels.
- Content marketing strategy. Social media marketing is a type of content marketing—which involves creating and distributing relevant educational or entertaining content to your target audiences. Content marketing curriculum can help you develop a comprehensive strategy for both social media campaigns and other online marketing efforts such as email marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).
- Social selling. Social selling is the practice of using social media to connect with potential clients and nurture leads. This topic can help you leverage the relationship-building potential of social media.
- Social media advertising. Creating effective social media ads requires an understanding of advertising strategy as well as familiarity with platform-specific ad requirements. This topic can help you develop a social media advertising strategy, start running ads, and evaluate results.
- Social media analytics and reporting. Many social platforms have built-in analytics and reporting tools. Courses that cover social media analytics can help you monitor your results and increase ROI.
Many courses publish syllabi or in-depth descriptions of their content, making it easy to find out what you’ll learn from the course. You can also consult a guide to social media marketing courses for an overview of costs, curriculum, and duration.
4. Choose a course
Once you’ve gathered your data, the rest is easy. Compare your needs, goals, and budget parameters with the information you gathered in your research, and choose a course that works for you.
Best social media marketing courses
- Social Media Marketing by Crystal King at Hubspot
- Social Media Marketing Strategy by Braveen Kumar at Shopify
- Social Media Marketing for Small Business by Martin Waxman at LinkedIn
- Grow Your Business with Instagram by Gretta van Riel at Shopify
- Advertising Philosophy 101 by Taylor Holiday at Shopify
- Build Your Brand on Instagram by Jade Darmawangsa at Shopify
- Bring Your Business Online by Meta
- How to Make Money on Instagram by Taylor Loren at Shopify
- Social Marketing Certification by Hootsuite
- Introduction to Social Media Marketing by Coursera
- Fundamentals of Social Media Advertising by Daniel Kob at Coursera
Whether you’re an experienced digital marketer or a social media neophyte, there’s a social media marketing course to meet your needs. These 11 courses are excellent options for small business owners.
1. Social Media Marketing by Crystal King at Hubspot
Hubspot’s social media marketing certification is designed to help social media managers develop and execute a social media strategy that builds loyalty and attracts new customers. This course covers strategy, building relationships, measuring ROI, and social listening—or how to use social platforms to gain competitive intelligence for your business.
Length: 4 hours 14 minutes
2. Social Media Marketing Strategy by Braveen Kumar at Shopify
Shopify’s ultimate guide to social media strategy covers everything you need to know to identify your target audience, set goals, and get started using social media to sell more online.
This guide includes in-depth breakdowns of audience demographics and marketing best practices for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok. It also covers social media advertising and monitoring, and how to use Shopify’s social media tools for Instagram and Facebook marketing.
3. Social Media Marketing for Small Business by Martin Waxman at LinkedIn
This LinkedIn course is specifically designed to help small business owners get started on social media. You’ll learn how to make a plan, set goals, and use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to drive customers to your ecommerce store.
Length: 1 hour
Cost: $24.99, or free with a one-month trial
4. Grow Your Business with Instagram by Gretta van Riel at Shopify
Shopify’s Instagram-specific marketing course can help small business owners leverage Instagram to grow their businesses. You’ll learn how to build an engaged audience of prospective clients and gain access to templates and tactics designed to help you gain followers.
Length: 2 hours
5. Advertising Philosophy 101 by Taylor Holiday at Shopify
Advertising Philosophy 101 is a free course from Shopify that provides a background in advertising strategy with a specific focus on creating effective ads for social media. You’ll learn how to create and evaluate ad content and how to analyze data to improve ad effectiveness.
Length: 41 minutes
6. Build Your Brand on Instagram by Jade Darmawangsa at Shopify
Business branding is key to the success of your business—and Shopify’s free course on building your brand on Instagram can help small business owners create and sustain a brand that resonates with their target audiences. Its content includes an introduction to the Instagram algorithm, understanding audiences and conducting audience research, influencer marketing partnerships, and using social media analytics to optimize your strategy.
Length: 1 hour 8 minutes
7. Bring Your Business Online by Meta
Meta’s free business course covers the basics of online marketing and business branding in the digital space. Topics include setting goals, identifying your target audience, understanding customer journeys, and content creation. You’ll learn the basics of social media marketing, how to create a social media map for your business, how to create a content calendar, and how to create and plan social media content.
8. How to Make Money on Instagram by Taylor Loren at Shopify
In 2020, Instagram launched an in-app shopping feature. This free Shopify course focuses on helping small business owners use the platform to make sales within the Instagram platform.
Length: 39 minutes
9. Social Marketing Certification by Hootsuite
Hootsuite offers a beginner-level social media marketing certification course that can help business owners understand key social media platforms, set up profiles, develop a social media strategy, build followers, and learn the fundamentals of content creation and social media advertising.
Length: 6 hours
10. Introduction to Social Media Marketing by Coursera
Offered by Coursera in partnership with Meta, this introductory course covers popular social media platforms, how to set goals and track KPIs, and how to choose the right platforms for your business.
It’s also the first course in Coursera’s Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate program—meaning small business owners can take future courses in the same series to dive deeper into topics like social media advertising or measuring and optimizing ROI.
Length: 15 hours
Cost: $39.99 a month
11. Fundamentals of Social Media Advertising by Daniel Kob at Coursera
Fundamentals of Social Media Advertising is the third offering in Coursera’s Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate. It can help small business owners who are familiar with the basics of social media get started with social media advertising. You’ll learn how to select a platform for your social media campaign, how to create copy and visuals for an effective ad, and how to build ads on both Facebook and Instagram.
Length: 9 Hours
Cost: $39.99 a month