An article in the New York Times today about jobseekers taking formal courses and workshops on social media raises an interesting question: just how valuable are social media skills?
Is Facebook know-how worth investing a few credit hours at your local college and the cost of tuition? Do the benefits of a Twitter account outweigh the annoyance of begging your tech-savvy niece to set up one up for you?
Of course, that depends.
You've increasingly heard that social media's a job skill, and that's pretty inarguable, depending on your field. Whether you're on a sales team using LinkedIn to source potential clients or work in marketing, using Twitter to advertise services, fluency in social media tools is an important aspect of many of our daily lives at work.
But if you're looking for a job, a consistent, professional, and on-key web presence is also important. A great LinkedIn profile, or in some cases, terrific portfolio on Pinterest, may be just the thing to catch employers' attention.
But should you go as far as to pay for the know-how?
A few points to consider:
1. How much help do you need?
Maybe you're a bit of a tech-phobe and you still don't have a Facebook profile. In that case, it might be worth learning the ropes from the ground up.
But even if you're savvy, consider the job you're looking for. Does it require serious mastery of not just social media in general, but using specific tools like hashtags or tackbacks?
In that case, it might also be worth it to take a class to learn the ropes correctly and thoroughly. If you're employed, you can even try pitching a course to your boss. If you can make a case for improving your job function, the company might spring for it—win win.
2. How much time and money are you willing to invest?
There's a difference between a 3-credit hour course at a college and a one-day workshop or boot camp hosted by a tech company.
A complete beginner might find the reinforcement of a regular class meeting helpful for learning entire new concepts. But as the Times article notes, events like Mediabistro's marketing boot camp are more suitable for mid-level careerists, who likely already have a background using social media and need a quick update on the latest tools. Consider your job function and how much time and money the knowledge gains would truly justify.
3. What's your goal?
If you're just hoping to increase your web presence, not necessarily market yourself as a web-whiz, it might make more sense to have a friend or colleague help you set up a couple of accounts and teach you the basics. (Note—make sure to ask about privacy settings!).
Even the bonus services offered by specialized classes, like an onsite photographer to snap profile pictures, are easily managed at home. Just having the profile is key. You'll get enough value out of a simply being more visible to employers searching for you, even if you don't update super-regularly.
If, on the other hand, you want your social media accounts to really speak for you, not just get your name out there, it might be worth taking a crash course. Knowing how to take your Tumblr "to the next level," as one student tells the Times, or how best to contact your target employers through Twitter could translate to big changes for your career.
--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com
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