Yes, social media marketing is at the top of the “skills you need to learn to make competitors cry for days” list (and make employers want to hug you for weeks list), but how do you get started in this world of social media marketing? In this article, we’ll outline 7 of what we think are the best free courses on social media marketing, that you can start today to build up your social media skillset.
But first, what should you look for in a free course to ensure you don’t burn precious hours in a rabbit hole of social media courses that are not practical, or haven’t been updated since they were created? To help you make a better decision, here’s some context you don’t want to miss. (But if you want to jump into the best free courses on social media marketing, here’s a clickable menu to skip to your desired section.)
- What is social media marketing?
- Why complete a social media marketing course?
- What’s the difference between a free and paid social media marketing course?
- What should you look for in a free course on social media marketing?
- The 7 best free courses on social media marketing you can start right now
- Key takeaways
1. What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, Reddit, and so on) to access and connect to an audience, with the intention of generating demand for a product or service.
Social media is characterized by online networks or communities of people interacting, sharing information and ideas. You’ll also notice these characteristics in niche social forum or messaging communities that are not traditionally viewed as social media, such as Slack or Discord.
Organic social media marketing
This is when the content you create on social media spreads through the social platforms naturally (or organically). How far this content is distributed depends on user engagement factors such as likes and comments, that contribute to and form part of a social media algorithm.
Paid social media marketing
This involves activities where marketers make use of paid services offered by social media platforms to spread their content to targeted groups of people. It relies on the data social media users have shared with the platforms, such as interests and the type of groups joined, in order to determine who to distribute the advertiser’s message to.
2. Why complete a social media marketing course?
Social media marketing is an in-demand career. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of social media marketing managers in the U.S. in 2022 is $51,305. At the time of publishing this article, I’d found 108,207 open social media marketing roles listed on LinkedIn in the U.S. alone.
Employers need social media marketers to strategize, plan and manage campaigns, paired with the ability to analyze data and create reports that help track performance.
To give you a sense of the skills the market demands of you, check out this example of a social media marketer’s job description.
3. What’s the difference between a free and paid social media marketing course?
Ideally, free social media marketing courses have less support and guidance from tutors and mentors than paid ones—and sometimes none at all. Thus, they’re great for self-learners who can do without asking for guidance from expert instructors.
With paid courses, learners receive more hands-on support from subject matter experts. For example, you could get constructive feedback on projects, assignment grading, or career guidance to help you during your search for a social media marketing job—as is with CareerFoundry’s dual-mentorship model.
Free social media marketing courses will be shorter, many will take you a few hours to complete but there are some (as you’ll see ahead) that are more comprehensive. Free courses are the 30-second trailer to your social media marketing movie. Paid courses, on the other hand, are meant to be more comprehensive and can take months to complete—but will give you a more thorough overview of the field as a whole.
Level of expertise
Free social media marketing courses will cover the basics; they’ll take you from zero to one. When you need knowledge to apply to a career in social media or to grow a business, that’s when paid courses or boot camps come into the picture.
The intent of most free social media marketing courses is to introduce learners to the foundational concepts. Paid social media marketing courses aim to build competency and, as a result, are often tied to certification. These hold weight with employers, depending on the reputation of the certifying body.
4. What should you look for in a free course on social media marketing?
Is it practical?
Even though they’re free, social media marketing courses should not only be packed full of definitions without giving learners a peek at practical concepts used by practitioners. A good free course on social media marketing will have self-paced courses and activities that will give you a good idea of the basics.
Does it meet your learning intent?
Are you just looking to get a lay of the land before you decide if social media marketing is for you? Perhaps you fancy a career change and want the course to make you valuable in the eyes of potential employers? Before you start a course, find out if they fulfill your intentions. Try searching for reviews online to get an idea of how others approached the course.
Is it up-to-date?
Social media marketing is a fast-moving industry, and any free course you take should reflect that. For example, two years ago TikTok social media marketing was hardly talked about, but according to data from Cloudflare, TikTok surpassed Facebook—and Google!—as the most visited website in 2021. As a result, interest in TikTok social media marketing is growing rapidly, too. Look out for courses that are actively being updated with current best practice.
Does it build a solid foundation to add more knowledge?
On completion, a free course should equip you enough to be able to easily advance your skills to a higher level. It should be a solid foundation on which you can build on. The content should not be so shallow that you struggle to understand advanced concepts when you progress deeper into social media marketing.
5. The 7 best free courses on social media marketing you can start right now
Now we’re in the meat of it: the best free courses on social media marketing!
1. CareerFoundry’s Digital Marketing Short Course
If you want a 360-degree view of social media marketing and how it connects to digital marketing, then CareerFoundry’s Digital Marketing Short Course is worth checking out.
Spread over five days in 15-minute lessons; this course will give you the foundations to help you:
- Select the different channels to focus
- Research and develop techniques to determine your target group and messaging
- Create your first creative (creative is at the heart of paid and organic social media marketing
- Measure performance and track goals
Once you’ve built your foundation and understand how social media marketing fits into the larger digital marketing strategy, you can go deeper with the full Digital Marketing Program.
Who does the course target?
Beginners and people looking to change careers and jump into digital marketing will benefit from this course.
2. HubSpot’s Social Media Marketing Course
Customer relationship management (CRM) company HubSpot has a social media marketing course with long-time social media educator Crystal King as the instructor. Spread over eight lessons, the course is delivered in four hours; comprised of 38 videos and 29 quizzes to test learners.
What the course covers:
- How to develop a social media marketing strategy
- How to do social media listening
- Creating social content
- Measuring return on investment
Who does the course target?
This course is aimed at current social media marketers, marketing managers, and people aspiring to be marketers. HubSpot gives certificates upon course completion.
3. Meta’s Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate Course
The Social Media Marketing Professional Certification is a course by Meta (formerly Facebook) and targets people who want to start a career in social media marketing with a focus on running Meta paid ads. It is a partnership of Meta, Aptly, and Coursera (the host of the course).
You’ll access the course content for free but won’t get your assignments graded, help with hands-on projects to build your social media portfolio, or access to the Meta Career Programs Job Board—where employers hire within the Meta certified social media marketing community—unless you subscribe to Coursera’s paid plan.
What the course covers:
- How to create and manage ads on the Meta Ads Manager platform
- How to report results and measure performance
- The fundamentals of running ads on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram
- How to prepare a creative brief for paid ad campaigns
Unlike most free courses, Meta’s is 100 hours long. Essentially, they created a paid course, then gave access to the learning material as a free course—minus assignment grading by experts and certification, which is reserved for paying learners. The content suits beginners well, and is available in nine languages.
4. eMarketing Institute’s Social Media Marketing Certification
The eMarketing Institute, an e-learning company offering marketing courses, has a free social media marketing certification course with content created by practitioners from social media consulting company Jaskov Consult.
(I’ve noticed courses created in partnership with practitioners are great to give learners a pulse on what is currently relevant in the industry)
The course includes:
- An overview of social media channels
- Aspects of social media targeting
- How to use social bookmarking sites in social media marketing
- Social media strategy development instructions
- Tools recommendations and lessons on using social analytics to measure performance
Who benefits from this course?
eMarketer’s course is beginner friendly. However, the content is delivered as a 165-page ebook that’s also accessible via web pages. This suits people who are comfortable learning through reading, but if you prefer a multimedia approach to learning, you’ll have to supplement this with the other courses on this list, videos on YouTube, and so on.
At the end of the course there is a 50-question test, requiring a score of 50% to pass and a certificate of completion for those who finish.
5. Social Media Marketing by Great Learning Academy
In a one and a half hour video course broken into 15 lessons, Great Learning Academy delivers an overview of what aspiring social media marketers need to know before embarking on a social media marketing career.
The content includes:
- An overview of what social media marketing is
- The five pillars of social media marketing
- How to plan and publish content
- How to monitor content in social media channels
- Social media analytics
- How to use chatbots
This course is aimed at beginners and offers a completion certificate after learners pass a quiz.
6. Oxford Home Study Centre’s Social Media Marketing Short Course
Offered for free by the e-learning platform Oxford Home Study Centre (no relation to the University of Oxford), the Social Media Marketing Short Course comprises 20 hours’ worth of social media marketing lessons. According to their website, learners can also access tutor support: something that is not common in free courses.
Topics covered include:
- How to develop a social media plan
- How to use Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter
- How to build a community on social media
- How to create a social media plan
- The relationship between the four Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, and place) and social media
- Using YouTube and vlogs in social media marketing
Although you can access the content for free, the Oxford Home Study Centre charges a fee for certification.
7. Social Media Foundations by Simplilearn
The Social Media Foundations by Simplilearn is an introductory course to social media marketing. Beginners should be able to complete it without prior knowledge of social media marketing. The content is divided into six self-paced lessons, delivered in three hours of video. Learners get a certificate of completion at the end.
Here’s what the course covers:
- An introduction to what social media and its relations to content marketing
- How to come up with a social media strategy
- An overview of social media management tools
- The key performance indicators of social media marketing and how to measure them
- The fundamentals of social advertising (paid social media marketing)
Although you can complete this course for free, access to the free content is limited to three months.
6. Key takeaways
There you go, 7 of the best free courses on social media marketing. Whether you want to pursue social media marketing as a career, or just want to add the skills to your repertoire, you’re bound to find these courses valuable. So try them out. Social media marketing continues to be a valuable skill as more organizations recognize social media as a competitive advantage, and its impact on their brand, customer acquisition costs, and retention.
Interested in pursuing this dynamic career path? Why not try out our free, 5-day digital marketing short course? You may also be interested in the following articles: