Despite more of our everyday life moving online, many of us still don't know how to properly use the technology tools available in the workplace. In fact, over 90 percent of companies say that their workforce lack digital skills, especially in areas like social media.
With this lack of skills costing U.S. businesses an estimated $1 trillion dollars per year, education is becoming the most powerful way for businesses and individuals to begin closing the digital skills gap.
The Social Media Skills Gap
Within the digital skills gap, social media is one of the most important areas to focus on. As one of the most accessible forms of digital media, social is becoming an integral part of today's workforce.
Nine out of ten businesses are now on social media, and they're not only using it to engage with their audience or promote their products--they're using it to transform the way they operate internally. Forward-thinking companies are using it for employee advocacy, recruiting potential hires, and propelling internal communications. Workplace by Facebook, for example, is making cross-functional collaboration and sharing news across an organization a lot easier.
According to Cameron Uganec, senior director of social, community and education at Hootsuite, "These advancements mean that employees are being asked to use social media more often and in unfamiliar ways." And without the right skills, work itself is bound to suffer.
What's concerning is that despite this potential dent in business performance, only 46% of companies are investing in developing their employees' digital skills.
A Solution in Social Media Education
Basics like social media etiquette are already being taught in the classroom, and educational institutions are partnering up with businesses and social media professionals to develop the relevant coursework needed get students up to speed.
Hootsuite's Student Program, for example, offers free coursework and certification to help professors and educators bring social into their classrooms. "This program helps students master professional social media skills through hands-on practice," Uganec explains. "As a result, they're gaining a type of expertise that's in high demand and they're entering the workforce better prepared to work in a digitally connected world."
For those with their formal school years already behind them, social media education is coming in the form of on-the-job training programs. "Companies are beginning to acknowledge social media literacy as a critical job skill," says Uganec. "We're seeing a steady increase in on-the-job social media training and education offerings as a result."
In fact, Altimeter reports that 50 percent of companies surveyed are planning on providing an internal social education program for their employees. The same report notes that spending on corporate training has risen to $70 billion for U.S. businesses.
"Not only does social media education help employees cope with changes in their industry, it can benefit the business overall," Uganec explains. "Employee advocacy and engagement both increase within properly educated workforces, and education plays a big part in reducing the likelihood of a social media gaffe that turns into a nightmare for your PR department."
Tools to Bridge the Skills Gap
1) Free online courses
Hootsuite Academy offers free courses that can help you develop fundamental social marketing skills. You can also choose to showcase those skills to employers or clients through industry-recognized Hootsuite certifications. For those who aren't blessed with the gift of time, it's an awesome way to get trained and certified without having to step foot in a school.
2) Online webinars
Social Media Today offers a series of webinars and podcasts that are released almost monthly. Webinars are a great source for accessing keynote speakers, thought leaders, and important roundtables. Grab your computer, turn up the volume, and get in the zone for an informative session. We offer regular free webinars and ebooks at Likeable Local as well.
Keep your eyes peeled for conferences happening in your neighborhood. Plenty of universities and organizations host social media and tech conferences all the time. Grab a seat and listen to what some of the pros in the industry are buzzing about. You'll find a list of conferences happening in major cities on sites like Social Media Examiner.
Embrace your locale and search out social media marketing meetups happening nearby. Meetup is a fantastic resource for keeping up to date with the social media meetings that are happening in and around your city. As of right now, there are over a million active members interested in Social Media Marketing meetups.
5) Join an online group
What better way to brush up on your social media skills than social media? LinkedIn Groups is a watering hole for like-minded professionals looking to join forces. Share ideas, circulate relevant articles and news in the industry, and chat with individuals interested in the same cause. You'll find groups like Social Media Marketing--the largest and most active social media marketing group on LinkedIn.
Closing the gap once and for all
With new technologies comes new opportunities, new trends, and new efficiencies--but also new challenges.
As the workplace becomes more and more influenced by social media, it's important that we--as students, job seekers, employees, and business owners--stay fluent and up to date.