Today, having a great product or service is only half the battle in positioning your organization as an industry leader—the rest relies on brand awareness, audience engagement, and community building. But how do you get the word out, in a world bombarded with social media, instant access to everything from news to television, not to mention the 300-plus billion emails sent every single day? There's a lot of noise to cut through.
Digital credentials have emerged as an impactful marketing tool across a variety of industries, including organizations that offer certification and training programs, like product certification providers, corporate training companies, professional associations, and even higher education institutions. They can also be a great tool for employers who are trying to increase employee engagement in L&D programs and raise brand awareness.
Here, we’ll cover the following:
- What digital credentials are, and how they work
- How digital credentials increase brand awareness
- How to determine whether digital credentials will work for your organization
- How to integrate digital credentials into a new or existing program
- How to measure success
- How to select a digital credential platform
A digital credential is a tangible representation of a person’s abilities and competencies. Every credential contains verifiable data that confirms what, where, and how someone earned that credential, and why it matters. These digital credentials, or digital badges, can be shared by earners on social media, embedded into an email signature, resume, or website, or linked to for full visibility into a person’s verified knowledge, skills, or abilities.
For organizations that issue certifications on their products or services, digital certification is another popular synonym for a digital credential or badge.
Digital credentials are often chosen by organizations looking to increase brand awareness, as they offer earners an easy way to share their achievements. Let’s take a closer look at how digital credentials transform earners into brand advocates on social media and the internet, over email, and during events.
Engage with earners on social media
With over 3.6 billion active users across social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, it’s clear to see the scope, reach, and power of social for brand marketing. This number is anticipated to continue rising to an estimated 4.4 billion users by 2025.
Incorporating digital credentials into your social media strategy can drive earner-led brand awareness and increase engagement with the individuals who earn your badges.
To start incorporating digital credentials into your social media strategy, try searching for keywords or hashtags to find earners who are already sharing your badges online. When you find a share, interact with it by “liking” the post, retweeting or resharing to your organization’s pages, or congratulating them on their achievement via comment or message. By engaging with your earners who are already sharing, you'll start building deeper connections with a community of people who may in turn become brand advocates.
Another facet to building an engaged online community of earners is to prompt them to share their achievements. When an earner, customer, or business partner shares the digital badge they earned from your organization to their social media pages, they give their networks insight into their knowledge, skills, and abilities––and promote your program, too. Each time one of your earners shares their digital badge, they’re advocating for your program to their colleagues, friends, and family who may also need the same skills. Every time a digital badge is shared or viewed, your brand increases its reach.
Drive traffic to your website
Digital credentials are designed to be seen and shared, which works well with one of the core focuses of a marketer: driving quality traffic to your company’s website.
Just like how backlinks help point users toward a site, a digital credential can be clicked to take a potential earner to a dedicated landing page for your digital credentials. Developing a landing page where these potential earners can see all your badges and the skills associated with them is a great way to get visibility for your credentials and program.
Reinforce brand presence with email
Email marketing is a powerful tool for connecting with customers and building meaningful relationships, but can also be used in subtle ways.
One subtle way to drive brand awareness through email is by adding digital credentials to employee email signatures. As your team sends emails to people outside your organization, their email signatures will validate and display your certifications every time an email is opened, forwarded, or replied to. From there, potential earners, customers, and partners can click on these badges to learn more about your programs.
Similarly, if you’re issuing digital credentials to external earners, a little encouragement to add their badges to their email signature will go a long way. When an external earner adds their badge to their email signature, they benefit as well: their email recipients can instantly verify their badge. For job-seeking earners, badges are a great tool to show that their knowledge, skills, and abilities are verified. Plus, their email recipients will also learn more about your products and organization in the verification process.
We’ve highlighted a few ways that digital credentials can be used to drive brand awareness, but how do you know if it will really work for your organization? One way is to look at how other organizations have used digital credentials.
For example, Oracle offers professional certifications that help people demonstrate their skills and level of expertise with the organization’s cloud, software, and hardware. Oracle was an early adopter and leader in integrating digital credentials into its Certification Program to use technology to provide verified, portable, future-proofed credentials to its audience.
After incorporating digital credentials into their certification program, the organization saw a rise in program awareness: credential acceptance rates rose 40% since the launch of their digital credential program, which is above IT industry standards. Seventy-three percent of the program’s pilot participants found badging to be more useful than the organization’s paper certificates. And, program awareness increased, garnering nearly 2M impressions in 2018.
“The huge thing about digital credentialing is that it’s so portable. It makes it so easy for the job candidate as well as the hiring managers.”
—Branye Barrington, Senior Program Manager, Oracle Certification
For Oracle, the portability of digital credentials benefited both their earners and the employers that look to hire Oracle Certified candidates. For more background information and tactics, read the full case study here: Oracle Maximizes Digital Credentials to Add Value to its Certification Program.
Starting a new digital training or certification program
You're convinced digital credentials are a powerful way to increase your brand awareness, create value for learners, and generally up your game. How do you start?
The best badges offer transparency into the relevant achievement, offering meaningful performance insights that are fully integrated into day-to-day enterprise decisions and activities.
Here are two tips to keep in mind when implementing a digital badging initiative at your organization, using examples from organizations that have already gone through the process.
Make it Meaningful
Before getting into the “how” of digital credentials, it’s essential to also focus on the “what”:
- What skills or competencies do your badges need to measure?
- What criteria will be used to determine whether someone will be awarded a badge?
- What third parties can add weight to your badges through endorsements and standards alignment?
When the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) was looking to create its digital credential program, the institution engaged regional employers to identify and define the most in-demand skills and competencies in the advanced manufacturing industry. As the team worked to solidify the value of their credentials, they aligned earner requirements to industry standards, such as the National Institute for Metalworking Standards. In taking this strategic approach, CCCS worked with the people who would ultimately review the badges to ensure they would carry the most value possible in the markets for which they were intended.
Taking the time to outline the needs and goals of your credential program will help ensure that your program will make an impact.
Make it Measurable
Regardless of whether you’re setting up an external badging program or looking to reward internal employees, measuring earner success is similar to the process of setting effective goals: The requirements need to be clear, actionable, and measurable.
Innovative organizations like IBM put this concept to use internally by measuring and recognizing their employees’ precise levels of performance with portable, digital, and verified evidence in the form of digital badges. At IBM, sales teams review a personal dashboard of over 60 metrics that track progress toward pre-identified goals and allow individuals to distinguish themselves in the context of a large organization.
PwC is another organization with an internal “success tracking” program, however, their program makes various employee metrics publicly visible. Team members from both IBM and PwC can be spotted on Twitter regularly sharing their achievements, generating actionable data, and marketing value back to both companies.
To learn more about standardizing, measuring, and adding meaning to a digital badging program, read our blog, 3 Tips for Implementing a Digital Badge Program at Your Organization.
Integrating a digital badge into an existing training or certification program
If your organization already has a training or certification program in place, the process of incorporating digital credentials or badges into your program can be seamless. Depending on the digital credential platform, you may be able to integrate badges into your existing workflow, learning management system (LMS), or learning experience platform (LXP).
LMS, LXP, and workflow integration makes issuing badges easy and seamless, as the process becomes automated. Learn more about popular LMS integrations and how they simplify credential issuing here.
Now that we’ve covered what digital credentials are, how they affect brand awareness, and how to incorporate them into a training or certification program, we’ll also need to consider how to measure whether or not your program is meeting its goals.
For digital credentialing programs, success is typically measured by qualitative and quantitative earner and partner outcomes.
Organizations that issue to internal employees can measure program success by looking at employee skills data before and after implementing digital badges. Employee engagement in internal learning and development programs is another factor that can show organizations whether or not their credentialing efforts are working. Not only that, but these organizations can also measure success by comparing changes in employee skills gaps and creating opportunities for internal advancement and L&D.
Employers can expect this type of verified data and enhanced analytics when partnering with a digital credential platform like Credly that can show employers the verified skills and credentials of its workforce.
When considering a third-party platform to help you issue digital credentials, focus on finding a partner that understands what you need and will work with you to develop a successful program. These needs can range from sharing, analytics data, integrations, and more.
Here are a couple of other things to consider when deciding on a digital credential partner:
Finding a partner that can co-market your brand
When selecting outside vendors, partner with companies that will market your organization as well as their own. Especially if you’re working with a small budget, offloading some of your organization’s marketing responsibility is paramount to increasing brand awareness. They’ll want the case study, you’ll want the marketing exposure. It’s a win-win.
Joining an expanding ecosystem of brands
Every digital credentialing platform is different. At Credly, we use a network approach to empower earners and organizations to connect and grow. With over 40 million credentials issued on the Credly network across 195 countries, the opportunities for brands to be discovered are endless.
When an earner finishes a program, they’re able to see other opportunities and search to find organizations and certifications for continued upskilling. This capability allows organizations who are looking to increase their brand awareness to be found; Organizations who issue certifications through Credly can leverage the ecosystem of brands to put themselves in front of net new earners.
Drive positive outcomes with digital credentials
Digital credentials aren't just powerful for those who earn them—they're also powerful tools for the organizations who issue them. Some of the outcomes that organizations can experience with digital credentials are increased brand awareness, revenue, and positive outcomes for earners, customers, and partners.