Best Value Social Media Certifications – NISM vs Hootsuite

by | Sep 28, 2017 | EduSocial Blog, Strategy, Tools, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In 2012, we shared a blog post that compared our SMS certification exam with what’s available through Hootsuite University. It was one of our most popular posts and we heard how much it helped social media professionals make decisions about their professional development, so we wanted to follow the same theme and provide the social media community with updated information.

We will cover the same six themes (and a few additional thoughts):

  • Prerequisites
  • Course Content
  • Certification Exam
  • Total Participant Costs
  • Partnerships
  • Overall Value

While we must call out (as we did in the initial version of this post) our obvious bias, we hope this content provides readers deciding what certification is right for them with the insight they are looking for.


Hootsuite – At this time, there are no prerequisites for any of the Hootsuite courses.

SMS –  SMS exam participants must have either 64 college-level credits, an associate degree, or 2 years of non-personal social media experience. Ideally, the college credits and degree would be in marketing or business, but it is not a requirement at this time.

Aside from the technical requirements, we also want to explore a few other considerations including your experience with the specific exam content domain and your most recent study and test experiences. Those interested can complete a brief Readiness Assessment and discuss their results with an NISM representative.

Course Content

Hootsuite – Hootsuite currently offers several certifications, but the Advanced Social Media Strategy certification is the most inclusive and is most comparable to the SMS exam. Hootsuite describes the course as a “certificate is for managers, strategists, and leaders who want to gain a comprehensive understanding of how to build and scale social media in complex organizations.”

The site also lists the following three core learning objectives:

  • Confidently contribute to your organization’s social media strategy with frameworks used by some of the world’s most effective social media teams.
  • Master advanced skills including content strategy, influencer marketing, and accurate ROI tracking.
  • Learn proven strategies and new tactics from leading industry practitioners and academic experts.

SMS – NISM’s social media strategy certification is vendor neutral and covers six content domains. Additional details can be found in the Candidate handbook (free download from

  • Strategic Planning: Understanding broad strategies and visions for the organization, and then drilling down to specific tactics and tools. Strategic planning is where the foundation is set for social media.
  • Research and Analysis: Identifying who or what influences (or potentially influences) customer buying behavior, performing keyword analysis, and finding core audience in social media channels using keyword research.
  • Social Media Project Management: Coordinating many different people, completing tasks in a precise sequence, and acquiring or outsourcing to key talents to implement the vision, plan or campaign.
  • Marketing and Communications: Priming the marketplace, gauging audience interest, sharing stories and preparing for campaigns and/or sharing your campaign announcements via internet-driven technology such as blogs, RSS, web video productions, podcasts and social networking platforms.
  • Compliance and Governance: Developing policies, determining legal limitations, creating social media policies to govern activities, along with defining when and when not to participate in a conversation.
  • Community Management: Ensuring that the two-way online communication between the organization and its customers always flows smoothly and the community manager serves as a professional representative for the organization’s products or services, while simultaneously gathering feedback for further development of products or services for evaluation.

Certification Exam and Costs

Hootsuite – The Hootsuite Advanced Social Media Strategy Certification course is $999 and includes the exam fee. The prep materials are all online and you can complete them at your own pace. One benefit of taking the course is that – if you don’t pass – you can access the materials and take the exam as many times as you need to in order to pass. On the downside, there’s no way to take the exam without paying the $999 course fee.

SMS  – The SMS exam is $395 per attempt and how you prepare for it is up to you. You can simply take the exam if you feel comfortable with the content, choose one of three self-study options, or an online, blended or in-person course facilitated by an NISM certified instructor (in-person course availability varies by region).

How do you decide?

In 2017, Christine Melaas, Director of Social Media and Brand Communication at Fourge Social, had to make this very decision recently. Which program would be the best fit for her team?

“When we learned about the SMS course it could not have been more perfect timing. Our company is developing its own way of internal and external strategies. After speaking with Amy Jauman and learning what the 6-week course is comprised of, I was immediately on board and very excited for this continued learning investment for our team. It is important, too, for our company to have everyone on our team on an equal learning level and to be given the same opportunities to advance in this field. By completing this course we will all be able to not only better perform for ourselves, but for each client we work with.”

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I obviously have more direct contact with marketing, sales, HR, and customer service directors who choose an SMS prep course – I have the opportunity to work with those leaders directly to find the right facilitator for their team and address any unique consideration associated with their industry, work group, or social media goals. However, there are definitely groups or individuals who found the self-directed Hootsuite a great fit as well.

Most importantly, leaders, educators, consultants, and other marketing professionals need to ask themselves how they are hoping to benefit from their certification. If they are working – and planning to stay – in an organization that uses Hootsuite across the organization, it may be beneficial to stay within the tool everyone has committed to and learn about strategy within that tool. If you’re looking for a more versatile certification or even a variety of choices for exam preparation, NISM’s social media strategy (SMS) certification may be the perfect match. Much like we tell our social media clients, before making your decision, you need to understand your goals.

Author: Dr. Amy Jauman

Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.


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