Best Value Social Media Certifications – NISM vs Hootsuite

by | Dec 10, 2012 | EduSocial Blog | 2 comments

Hootsuite is an organization that offers its clients and customers a social media management system for businesses and organizations to collaboratively execute campaigns across multiple social networks from one secure, web-based dashboard. Hootsuite University, which currently offers a social media certification program, is the educational program offered by the Hootsuite organization.

The National Institute for Social Media (NISM) is dedicated to social media education and certification for professional social media practitioners. Its Social Media Strategist certification program has been developed by an advisory committee of industry professionals, and validated by independent psychometricians.

First, let’s be clear – you are reading this article on the NISM blog. There is clearly an interest for us to sway you toward our program vs other organizations who offer similar programs. However, we also know there are many people who are interested in entering the social media industry by obtaining the highest quality education. These people are looking for the facts when it comes to making a decision about what education and social media certifications to obtain so that they have the best opportunity to find a job and / or grow their businesses.

The goal of this article will be to provide you with the details of both the Hootsuite University and NISM Social Media Strategist certifications, breaking them out into six categories: Pre-requisites, Course Content, Certification Exam, Total Participant Costs, Partnerships and Overall Value.


Hootsuite – Must be a Hootsuite user, and be a “Pro” Subscriber before being allowed to register for the Hootsuite University program.

NISM – Must have either an Associate’s degree, or 2 years of non-personal social media experience.

Course Content

Hootsuite – The Hootsuite course content is centered around how to best utilize the Hootsuite platform successfully. Topics include, setting up the Hootsuite dashboard in the basic lessons, to using Hootsuite to hone in on relevant conversations and track ROI, and also scheduling bulk messages and tracking those messages in more advanced lessons. Courses are offered online at the Hootsuite University website.

NISM – The NISM certification preparatory course is a vendor-neutral program that focuses on the six major social media topic areas identified by social media subject matter experts. Those topic areas are: Strategic Planning, Compliance and Governance, Social Media Marketing, Project & Campaign Management, Community Management and Research & Analytics. These content areas are covered in seven separate course modules, which generally span 30 – 40 hours of classroom training depending on the college or university who offers the program.

Certification Exam

Hootsuite – After each module of its course, Hootsuite University participants are asked to take a quiz, and successfully pass those quizzes. Upon successful completion of all quizzes, you are considered a Hootsuite Graduate, and provided with a “Hootsuite Certified” badge that you are allowed to use on your own marketing materials. Those who earn this distinction are listed in on the Hootsuite University website as Hootsuite Social Media Consultants.

NISM – The NISM Social Media Strategist certification exam does not require that a course be taken in order to sit for the exam. The course is optional for those who feel that they are already uniquely qualified to pass the exam. The exam consists of 165 multiple-choice questions, and must be taken at a proctored testing facility in order to ensure the quality of the results of those who take the exam. The exam was conceived and written by subject matter experts in the social media industry, and has been verified by independent psychometricians as a valid certification exam.

Participants Cost

Hootsuite – Hootsuite requires that all who enroll in the program become “Hootsuite Pro” members. This service costs $9.99 per month. In addition, in order to enroll in Hootsuite University you are asked to add an additional $21 per month to this subscription. The monthly total is $30.99 per month for your participation. Depending upon how long it takes you to complete the training course, you will pay this fee until you complete the program successfully.

NISM – The NISM Social Media Strategist exam costs $295 per test voucher. In addition, candidates are asked to pay a proctoring fee of $65 to the location they choose to have proctor for them. This fee does not go to NISM, but rather the proctoring site for their observation of your exam. Total certification fees are $360 per candidate. NISM Certification prep courses are offered independently of the certification exam at colleges across the US and internationally where tuition can vary greatly.


Hootsuite – Hootsuite University is a vendor certification that is only offered through the Hootsuite University website. We could find no information about college partnerships on their website.

NISM – The National Institute for Social Media has partnerships in place with colleges and university’s across the country. Merced College in California, Prince Institute in Chicago, and the Minnesota State College and University system are just he beginning of many future partnerships in the US. NISM also partners internationally with the Social Media Club of Bahrain to offer in countries across the Middle East, and is working toward establishing new partnerships in the European Union.

Overall Value

Hootsuite – Hootsuite University is a fantastic, low-priced training program, with great content. If you are a Hootsuite user (We use it quite a bit at NISM), it is a great way to learn how to maximize your chance for success by using their platform. However, it is technically not a certification. It is a vendor training program with a badge for those who complete. It does not contain a psychometrically verified, proctored exam that participants take to complete the program.

Even if it did contain this missing element of certification, the content of the program itself is focused heavily around the Hootsuite platform. Although we know and love this platform, there are many additional elements to being a successful social media professional than just the social media management platform you decide use. If you work for an organization who does not use Hootsuite as a social media management platform, the much of the content of this course may be unnecessary to your daily activities.

NISM – From its beginning, NISM has only worked with independent, volunteer social media subject matter experts to develop and approve its programs. These professionals worked with our third-party psychometricians to ensure that the content of the certification we offer is vendor-neutral, and meets the standards that will be expected by the future employers of our participants. The program is rooted in the idea that social media has foundational educational concepts that must be understood by anyone who is interested in working professionally in the field, and that verification of these skills through valid, proctored testing is the best way for students to set themselves apart from their peers, and employers to find qualified talent.

What do you look for in high quality social media certification programs?


  1. ingridhartPM

    This is the best post I’ve read so far on HSU vs NISM. ¬†Thanks for the thoughtful insight.

  2. he6rt6gr6m

    A good read. But neither really offer anything in the way of a solid certification or qualification, especially given the price tag of both.

    Whilst NISM boasts “National Institute”, Hootsuite boasts one of the biggest names in Social Media, almost household.

    Sadly, in the UK, certificates mean diddley-squat. People want solid qualifications, and I am yet to see one.

    For the experience and tools, I’d be interested in either or both of these concepts, but for the price for a piece of paper at the end, it isn’t really convincing.


  1. Why Hootsuite University is for you, too. | Thoughts & Things - […] Being Hootsuite Certified is a major application booster that social media professionals love to see on your resume. And…

Submit a Comment