Social media allows you to connect with your audience to build your brand, increase your following and sales, and drive product awareness and website traffic. While we all typically understand what these networks are and how they work, extracting the full value these networks can provide takes a deeper understanding of available tools, metrics to be tracked, hacks and basically and a breadth of knowledge that requires some extra (and continuous) learning.

A great way to start understanding the in's and out's of social media marketing is to start making learning a part of your daily routine. Three great ways of adding learning to your day is to:

  1. Have blogs that you check out regularly that consistently deliver great content.
  2. Follow the right influencers on social media.
  3. Add a free course in a topic you're pursuing to dive into in your free time.

The rule of thumb is that if you're a professional and you're not spending at least five hours per week learning and developing your skill-set then you are being irresponsible to your career. Let's dive into some of the best resources to improve your social media marketing skills, starting with blogs you need to be following.

Blogs

Social Media Explorer

Social Media Explorer states they’ve “assembled a professional team of contributors, marketing practitioners, and VIP Explorers to bring you original and insightful content that cuts through and helps you discern the marketing wheat from the withering chaff.”

They’ve set their blog up to cover tools & tips, news, real industry vets and what they are doing, and “cases & causes” which can be really insightful into what is working in the industry and why.

David Meerman Scott

David is a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, advisor to emerging companies, VC strategic partner, and bestselling author of 10 books, including “The New Rules of Marketing & PR. On his blog, he shares awesome real-world examples and is great for everyone from social media noobs to experienced pros.

Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner is self-described as the “world’s largest social media marketing resource” with a “mission to help you navigate the constantly changing social media jungle”.

Social Media Examiner is another great blog, but also creates a ton of insightful reports. Their 11th annual social media study is expansive — 46 pages, 60+ charts, insights from 4800+ marketers. Make sure to stay up to date on their posts and get their reports as they become available.

DreamGrow

DreamGrow is run by Priit Kallas, a content marketer with 20+ years of digital marketing experience. Focused on content marketing, they have a ton of resources you can take advantage of divided into categories like “Content Creation, Blogging, and Growth”, “Social Media Monitoring and Analyzing Tools”, and “Social Media Research, Trends, and Statistics”.

Scott Monty

Scott Monty describes himself as “an executive coach and advisor who helps the C-suite embrace virtuous leadership and better communication. A Fortune 10 leader whose background in classics positioned him to see through the shiny objects, Scott can drill down to understand the common human needs from throughout history that still drive us all.”

He was ranked by The Economist as #1 atop the list 25 Social Business Leaders and Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford Motor Company, called him “a visionary.” His blog is definitely a breath of fresh air and can help you see outside of the box if feeling stuck on what you need to be doing, or where you need to be going.

Altitude Branding

While not completely devoted to social media, for those looking to build a brand this is the place to be. Their digital branding section has great content, advice, tips, and walkthroughs in order to build your reach and brand authority.

Dave Fleet

Dave Fleet is Executive Vice President and National Practice Lead, Digital at Edelman. This means Dave leads Edelman’s 60-person Canadian digital team across Edelman’s Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa offices. His team has won a slew of awards at shows including Cannes Lions, Clios, Cassies and the Canadian Marketing Awards.

Dave’s blog has a ton of information on how social media works with brands, and is an easy read for those with a more traditional marketing, branding, or PR background.

Convince & Convert

Convince & Convert is much bigger than social media marketing but their division dedicated to the topic is great. They self describe the blog as “On this blog you will find experience and expertise all relating back to the “so what?” does this mean for business”.

They also feature awesome articles on topics outside the norm like “What is Dark Social and How Is It Affecting Your Brand?” and great insights like “Why Facebook Suddenly Wants To Be Your Customer Service Partner AND Your Ads Partner”.

Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing is a must-read for small business looking for strategic and actionable advice. They feature walkthroughs like how to add storytelling to your sales process, have a regular podcast with interesting and accomplished guests, and break large topics like keyword research into smaller more digestible pieces.

Another great way to add learning into your week is by signing up for a free course in a more specific area you are pursuing.  Whether a beginner or a pro, there's a course that should be able to provide immediate and long-term value to your skill-set.

Intro Courses

HubSpot Academy — Social Media

HubSpot designed their course to help you develop an engaging and effective social media strategy that grows your bottom line. The course contains 9 lessons, 40 videos, 34 quizzes, and should take a bit under 5 hours to complete.

Some of the specific topics include social media listening and monitoring, extending your reach, building one-to-one relationships, and measuring ROI. If you’ve used HubSpot Academy in the past and liked it, it would make sense to check this out as well.

Buffer — Introduction to Social Media Strategy on Skillshare

Brian Peters (Digital Marketing Strategist at Buffer) walks through not only an intro to setting up your social media strategy, but goes pretty deep into topics around finding your voice, choosing the right platform and tools, and even a dive into running Facebook ad campaigns.

Quintly — Free Social Media Analytics Course for Beginners

This is a free class that covers the basic principles of social media analytics. It’s great for both beginners and for semi-experienced marketers who want to refresh their skill-set. Some of the topics covered include situational analysis of your existing social footprint, data collection, competition analysis, finding the right KPI’s, and automating reporting.

It’s a pretty exhaustive free course for analytics and has a nearly perfect review score, so it’s definitely something to check out if interesting in upping your analytics game.

Intermediate Courses

Google — Google Analytics for Beginners

While it says beginner in the title, this course is a bit more advanced than the previously listed courses and should serve as your first step into utilizing analytics.

You’ll learn to set up data filters, navigate the Google Analytics interface and reports, and set up dashboards and shortcuts. The course will also demonstrate how to analyze basic Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior reports, and set up goals and campaign tracking.

And because the Google Analytics course is extensive, you’ll have plenty of ways to move forward in expanding your skill-set after completion.

Social Creators — Video Storytelling for Social Media

This is a one hour course that should be able to give the foundation for creating awesome videos on your mobile device that you can share via various social platforms. It covers how to find the right gear to film with your smartphone with better audio and lighting, basic storytelling structures, and building out an actionable plan to regularly produce high-quality content.

This is a biweekly series, led by marketing and social media expert Martin Waxman, that explores the newest tools and techniques that marketers are using to reach their customers. Every two weeks he explores a new topic, including mobile, voice search, video, live streaming, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the evolution of social media, and regulations like GDPR. It’s an effective way to understand what’s current in the world of marketing and how you can leverage these trends to grow your following.

Northwestern University via Coursera— Social Media Certification

This certificate course will teach you to use social media tools to design, manage and optimize social campaigns. It also includes a hands-on project to help you create a comprehensive social marketing strategy. The specialization is divided into multiple courses — Introduction to Social Media, Importance of Listening, Social Media Engagement, Content Marketing and more. This is an ideal choice for agency owners, social media professionals, and entrepreneurs who are looking to master the subject.

However, you must note that this is a serious course — it’s estimated that it takes about five months to complete with their suggestion of devoting four hours per week.

Platform Specific

Facebook — Facebook Blueprint

Facebook offers a ton of free resources broken into easy to digest five-minute lessons. Some of their latest courses include the Essential Guide to Facebook Ads, How to Create a Facebook Page to Grow Your Business, How to Select the Right Ad Objective for Your Business, and The Essential Guide to Finding Visuals for Your Ads. Considering it’s done by Facebook and offered in an intuitive format, it’s probably the best place to start when learning the ropes of Facebook marketing.

HubSpot Academy — Developing an End-to-End Instagram Marketing Strategy For Your Business

HubSpot designed this course to help you learn how to build and implement a successful organic Instagram marketing strategy. It’s a relatively short and “to the point” course that is broken down into three main sections — The Elements of a Successful Instagram Marketing Strategy, Creating Remarkable Instagram Content, and How to Get More Instagram Followers. It’s a great place to start when trying to understand and implement your initial Instagram strategy.

LinkedIn — Making LinkedIn Work For You

By LinkedIn itself, this course covers how to maximize exposure and reach, as well as spark new sales conversations. Topics include Building a solid profile, Creating a company page, Optimizing for search, Standing out as a solo business owner, Creating a content strategy, Writing posts that perform, and Posting videos on your LinkedIn profile.

So those are the top ten places to start building your foundation of knowledge for social media marketing. If interested we’ll be setting up our own guides and tutorials, complete with templates and actionable steps to take to grow your following, so make sure to sign up here.

Now that we covered blogs to check out regularly and free courses you can add to your weekly routine, let's add some influencers to help you stay up to date with news and trends, which, as any good marketer knows, is a must.

They’re also not only great for the insights they provide but for the practical tips and walkthroughs they share from personal experience. Many of them also tend to have entertaining and uplifting personalities that can get you over the hump when it comes to motivation and having the right mindset.

Influencers

Jon Loomer
Jon has a pretty incredible story, where he was in charge of content, product, marketing and more of fantasy games for the NBA, even diving into how he helped Samuel L. Jackson manage his fantasy team. He writes “I will never forget sitting on a phone call with him during our draft as he considered his picks and made fun of the selections made by George Lopez.” It was then that he was exposed to the Facebook marketing platform, becoming one of the industries forefront experts. If interested in building your Facebook marketing skillset, this is a great place to have bookmarked.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is the chairman of VaynerX, a media and communications holding company, and the active CEO of VaynerMedia, a full-service advertising agency servicing Fortune 100 clients across the company’s 4 locations.

Gary started out hustling, then transitioned his father’s local liquor store into one of the first wine e-commerce platforms resulting in growing the family business from $3–60MM in sales during a 5-year period. A constant and prolific media “madman” he’s not only entertaining but is on point with a lot of advice. He’s also a great motivator, so make sure to check him out if you are feeling stuck.

Brian Solis

Brian Solis has been called “one of the greatest digital analysts of our time.” Brian is also a world-renowned keynote speaker and an award-winning author of seven best-selling books including, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, What’s the Future of Business and The End of Business as Usual. His website covers tops around the future of work, growth marketing, new media, social media, and others, and make sure to follow him on social media insight for regular insights.

Aaron Lee

Aaron Lee is a social media manager and entrepreneur hailing from Malaysia. His talent in social media management, and his sincerity in life as we know it, has seen him educate some 500,000 people globally through AskAaronLee.com, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Instagram. His work has been featured in Forbes, Inc, Success.com, The Next Web, The Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner, and numerous other publications. He even landed #5 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers in 2013. He needs to be on your list of who to follow if you want to learn how to leverage social media to grow your business.

Karen Freberg

Karen teaches, researches, and consults in social media with her areas of expertise including social media strategy, social media pedagogy, and social media and crisis communications. She also conducts workshops and teaches classes in Crisis + PR and in the past worked with General Motors on these topics. Karen has partnered with brands such as Hootsuite, Hubspot, and Adobe on various education projects and initiatives and has published three books (Roadmap to Teaching Social Media, Digital Media Writing for Strategic Communication, and Social Media for Strategic Communication: Creative strategies and research-based applications. Karen has been blogging for over 10 years, which means she has produced a ton of useful content to help you build out your social and PR strategies.

Andrea Vahl
Andrea Vahl is a Social Media Speaker and Consultant who is passionate about helping businesses understand and leverage the power of social media to actually grow their business. Andrea is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies and was the Community Manager for Social Media Examiner, for over 2 years.

She was named 50 Favorite Online Influencers of 2014 on Entrepreneur.com, 21 Best Blogs That Will Help You Grow Your Business on Inc.com in 2016, and Top 30 Women in Social Media by Boom Social. She’s also the co-founder of Social Media Manager School, a course that’s helped over 1400 people learn social media and start a business. If help with social media marketing (especially Facebook) are what you are looking for, then this is the place to be.

Mari Smith

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing. She is a Forbes’ perennial Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Fast Company described Mari as, “A veritable engine of personal branding, a relationship marketing whiz and the Pied Piper of the Online World.” Another must follow expert in order to up your Facebook marketing and branding game.

Niel Patel

Neil Patel is the truth when it comes to SEO and content marketing. He’s a leading SEO educator, a top 10 digital influencers according to Forbes, and the founder of Kissmetrics, an advanced behavioral analytics, segmentation, and marketing campaign automation platform. If building an e-commerce brand, he’s an absolute must follow.

If you loved the list of resources make sure to follow our blog, as we’ll be adding tons of guides and commentary over the next few weeks on everything from social media marketing to growth hacks and automation.

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