Are you qualified?

About the author

Heather is a key member of our assessor team. PhD, BSc, PG, RSA, CAM  

Pixabay (Creative Commons)
Pixabay (Creative Commons)

Are you qualified to manage social media and digital communications?

It is not unusual to see claims that social media is a new field, despite having a twenty-year history.

Digital communication technologies have been around even longer. In that time we’ve seen an explosion of platforms, channels, apps and social networks.  Almost a third of the world’s population uses social media, and very few organisations don’t use digital communications or have an online presence.

The number that employ someone qualified to manage social media and digital communications (SMDC) is less clear.

What is apparent is that SMDC is fertile territory for career development. A quick search using LinkedIn reveals some 17,000 UK-based job vacancies in digital communication(s) or social media. This is more than double the number that appear for public relations, PR or corporate communication roles combined.

SMDC is a maturing industry although it still has a reputation for “creative” job titles, from content swami to social media ninja. These imply roles that rely on being “a whizz with social media” (to quote from one graduate recruitment site), rather than requiring the level of competency that supports managerial responsibilities.

Yet, if organisations are to stay ahead of the continually changing nature of SMDC, increasingly complex technological developments and evolving expectations of stakeholders, they need to do more than post status updates or come up with wacky ideas in the hope of viral attention.

It is time for SMDC to grow up as a career for “well-informed, technologically sophisticated professionals” (to quote from a research study conducted by Philip J Kitchen back in 2010), who are able to deploy management expertise not just practical skills.

In 2018, management of social media and digital communications strategies needs to be recognised as a core capability of corporate communicators rather than viewed as a simple marketing or PR tactic.

The big question for anyone interested in career development in this area is: Are you qualified to manage social media and digital communications?

If not, you may find yourself squeezed out of tactical roles by younger employees more familiar with the latest tech or automated out of a job entirely.

Whether you work in a consultancy/agency, are employed in the private, public or not-for-profit sectors, or operate as an independent practitioner, gaining a qualification in SMDC management will enhance your credentials and supplement your practical experience.

Getting qualified will shift your focus by formalising knowledge of how to use SMDC tools from a management perspective to include planning and resourcing, advising senior executives on latest trends and challenges, and developing effective strategies for a wide range of communications scenarios that deliver a return on organisational investment.

In the future, PR/corporate communications practice will continue to respond to changing technological developments. If you are working already in a management role, an SMDC management qualification will help you to anticipate and adapt to new ways of working using agile planning methods, critical reflection, and evidence-based practices.

Most social media or digital communication qualifications, or training courses, focus only on delivery skills.

Recognising the need for more robust approach to sustainable professional development in social media and digital communications management, PR Academy offers a Masters-level qualification that is accredited by the University of Chester (UoC).

This distance learning course involves a range of innovative learning approaches to show you how to use and manage social media tools more effectively, develop engaging content, take a more strategic approach to social media (including use of metrics and analytical models) and prepare to manage issues and crisis situations in a contemporary online context.