Facebook’s certification portfolio has grown from two to nine certifications over the past two years. Initially, the program catered only to digital marketers with certifications for Media Buying and Planning. Today, it has greatly expanded its audience with additional certifications for Creatives, Developers, Marketing Analysts, and Community Managers. To better serve their global audience, exams and training resources are available in up to nine languages.
When Vikas Wadhwani took on the role of Global Head of Certifications and Assessments at Facebook in 2017, he and his team actively embraced Facebook’s mission statement: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. “Facebook has an extensive network of agency, technical service, and authorized partners who leverage and support our certification program,” said Wadhwani. “We work hand-in-hand with these partners to identify opportunities and determine needs in the marketplace, which has been beneficial for everyone involved.”
“When we build a certification, the singular focus is that it benefits the person being certified,” explained Wadhwani. “The vision for the program is to recognize individuals who have an advanced level of proficiency with our family of apps and services, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp platforms. We also want to signal to those in the marketplace looking for experts, precisely who those experts are.”
Facebook takes a two-pronged approach to helping their candidates upskill and gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to understand how the products, apps, and services work. They sponsor both an education program and a certification program. The education program, Facebook Blueprint, provides study guides, online learning, and in-person training. The certification program awards digital badges to individuals who achieve a passing score on the certification exam(s). The education and certification programs are separated by a strict firewall to prevent “teaching to the test”.
“It is essential that our certifications are trusted and respected by our stakeholder groups,” said Wadhwani. “We use a rigorous, validity-centered process aligned with industry standards to develop and maintain our certification exams. We look to our partner, Alpine Testing Solutions (Alpine), to provide guidance and help us along the way.”
“It is also essential that our certification offerings live up to our vision. With the growth we’ve been experiencing, we saw the need to do a reality check as to whether our certifications are meeting stakeholder needs and the needs of the intended target audience,” stated Wadhwani. Facebook conducted several focus group sessions during which certified individuals and employers were interviewed by outside agencies. Due to the international reach of their program, the focus groups were conducted in multiple countries.
“The qualitative information we’ve gleaned from the focus groups indicates that our certifications are beneficial and that certified individuals demonstrate a higher level of proficiency on our platform(s),” said Wadhwani. “They also have upward career mobility, job opportunities, and increased confidence when dealing with clients. Candidates appreciate the program and the digital badges, which help them to market themselves. Those in the marketplace who seek certified experts on our platforms also benefit.”
Wadhwani and his team receive feedback in other ways, too. “When we launched the Community Manager Certification a few months ago, we had people reach out and tell us that due to the certification and badge they earned, they got an interview, became employed, or received an internship. An employer let us know that they just hired their first Community Manager, a decision based on the fact that the person was certified by Facebook. It was a pleasant surprise that it happened so quickly after the launch.”
“The inspiring thing about Facebook’s internal slogan – ‘The journey is only 1% finished’ – is that we realize we are never done,” explained Wadhwani. “There is always room for improvement and innovation, and that keeps us grounded, humbled, and motivated to strive for excellence and find ways to better serve our certification audience.”
“We recently partnered with the online learning platform Coursera to launch a social media marketing certificate program for those without prior experience who want to be prepared for social media marketing jobs in the coming months,” said Wadhwani. “This program is aimed at aiding diverse job seekers. Successful certificate holders can share their information with a list of employers who are in the market for talent, and they can also apply for a role at Facebook. In addition, Coursera is offering classes at no charge to some under-served communities via its social impact program.”
While Facebook is experiencing success, the company also faces some of the same challenges that other programs face. “All programs face challenges,” stated Wadhwani. “I like to think about our program as one that is actually helping overcome challenges, where we build quality certifications for very specific needs…whether it’s a need for the audience or a need to upskill professionals on our platform.”
When asked, ‘To what do you attribute to the success of your program?’ Wadhwani responded, “If I were to use one word, it would be integrity. It is a conscious decision to not cut corners and to do what’s right for both the businesses we work with and for the people that drive — and are served by — those businesses.”