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Northwestern University Presents

Review: Social Media Marketing Specialization by Northwestern

Reviewed By Product Expert and Coach
Elizabeth Hogue
April 16, 2024

Program Overview

Content acquisition strategy is one of the most underrated professions that can provide crazy impacts to an organization. Knowing how to create content for each platform, optimize exposure, and measure your success are all crucial aspects of several marketing roles. Northwestern University's Social Media Marketing Specialization aims to equip you with all of those skills and more.

The beginner-level specialization is hosted by Coursera, and consists of 5 courses and a portfolio-worth capstone with a recommended 4 weeks of work each. It covers all the basic functionalities of social marketing, and interlaces the curriculum with entrepreneurial advice in case you're looking to grow a following.

The six steps to complete the specialization are:

The material is taught by real industry professionals and covers the basics of how to ideate, create, manage and optimize a social strategy. We especially loved the course on Engagement and Nurture Marketing because it had super practical tips for blog creation-- some of which we use here at Bridged.

The expected completion time is roughly 7 months, though we heard from students it took them far less (think 1-2ish weeks per course). Read on for a comprehensive review and syllabus.

Best for: Beginners & Aspiring Content Creators

This course may have been one of our absolute favorite beginner-level certifications we've reviewed so far. The information struck a delicate balance between high-level concepts for the curious marketer, and practical tips for the content creation executor. All of the concepts were presented in an engaging and easy-to-understand way that even your mother would love.

If any of those aspects resonates with you, we urge ya to at least audit some of the course material. We doubt you'll regret it.

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Weekly Breakdowns

We’ve recapped the learning objectives from each week to set your expectations for course material. The great part about this program is that you can jump to any course, and any section if it’s interesting to you. For example, if you’re an established PM only looking for ways to up your product pitch deck game, head over to course 5, weeks 2-4. However, you only can get the certificate if you complete all 20 weeks of content.

To audit an individual week-- find the exact course (we've linked them individually here) and click "audit" to save it to your profile. Then open the desired week on the side panel that aligns with our recaps.

Course 1: What is Social?

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Social Marketing

  • A basic introduction to the instructors, materials, and teaching approaches.
  • They call the course an MOOC, which we had to look up. To save you the trouble: it stands for Massive Open Online Course.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Social Trends

  • Study the impact of social media on the marketplace and current digital landscape.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: The Business of Social

  • Learn how to frame social as a true, consumer-focused business product.
  • Practice defining specific target audiences on social media platforms.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Social Overview

  • Study the importance of analyzing big data and keeping up with the changing social scene.
  • Explore the differences between social networks (Facebook, IG) and communities (Reddit, Discord).
  • Set up fake social sites to work with throughout the specialization on each platform. We loved the hands-on nature of this bit.

Course 2: The Importance of Listening

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Big Data

  • Study how big data is collected and used in organizations to make decisions.
  • Learn the 3 Accelerations from Thomas Friedman. (The 3 Accelerations of innovation: markets, climate, and technology)
  • Assisted signups for IBM Cloud & Sprinklr LTE.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Big Information

  • Identify monitoring systems to keep tabs on your audience to drive your social strategy.
  • Explore several tools, some more relevant than others. Use your best judgement when learning, but we personally love Google Trends.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Big Insights

  • Study how social data can be transformed into actionable business insights.
  • Explore more tools for scheduling like Hootsuite.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Real-Time in Action

  • Learn how global organizations drive their content strategies through big data.
  • Understand ways social media insights can lead to ROI-increasing actions.

Course 3: Engagement & Nurture Marketing

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Overview of Social Strategy

  • Get familiar with the three main social strategies employed by global organizations.
  • Study real-life examples including Cadbury Dairy Milk and Old Spice.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Engagement Strategy

  • Learn social engagement strategies and how to measure their effectiveness.
  • Try tools like Canva and TubeBuddy (Youtube Analytics)
  • Examine several infographic examples to create effective metric presentations.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Nurture Marketing Strategy

  • Study the nurture marketing strategy and learn the importance of targetted landing pages for your social ads.
  • Learn how a focus on blog materials can bring in qualified traffic.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Developing a Great Blog Post

  • Learn how to develop and filter a focus blog with engaging content.
  • TStudy some great blogs and learn SEO tricks.
  • Bridged recommendation: pair this class with UC Davis's SEO Specialization and you'll be an organic affiliate marketer in no time.

Course 4: Content, Advertising & Social IMC

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Content Strategy

  • Learn about why content is important for social marketing.
  • Watch a panel of super-experts debunk the paid/owned/earned media riddle and replace it with a more integrated who/what/where approach.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Advertising

  • Develop platform-specific advertising campaigns to grow market share.
  • Check out some toolkits to assist with this.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Social Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

  • Learn about IMC and how to deploy effective ones like gamification.
  • Study viral posts and brainstorm aspects to create viral content.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Measuring Your Social Programs

  • Learn about KPIs- key performance indicators- and how to apply them to your social efforts.
  • Study AB testing in the realm of social and marketing. (you already know we at Bridged are simps for AB testing)

Course 5: The Business of Social

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Legal Considerations

  • Learn security, privacy and governance considerations to create an ethical social marketing strategy.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Metrics

  • Explore how measuring engagement and other various metrics (spend, impressions, clicks, etc) can work together for a successful program.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Performance

  • Practice creating a performance funnel with relevant KPIs.
  • Create a sustainable social strategy under various budgeting constraints.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Management

  • Learn how to create a pilot social program, test it for long-term sustainability, and justify your work through measurable KPIs.

Course 6: Capstone Project

  • Put ALL 5 course learnings into a portfolio-ready project by creating and monitoring various social media accounts for a fake business.

Cost and Auditing

The program is only $49/month, and comes with a Linkedin Certificate on behalf of the prestigious Northwestern University. If you complete the curriculum on the proposed timeline, it should take about 7 months, though you could blitz through it on a break in far less. We noticed each week only had about 1-2 combined hours of material and an assignment. This means each week is about 3 hours of work.

Several reviewers noted the same, and how it only took them around 2 weeks per course. On that timeline, this certification would take about 3 months (6 courses x 2 weeks = 12 weeks, 3 months) and $150 to complete.

If you have a learning budget at your current company, or are dedicated to upskilling your career into marketing– we recommend completing the program and getting the shareable certificate (GET RECEIPTS!). This will help make your Linkedin and resume more searchable to recruiters who may be looking for specific keywords and programs.

To audit the program and simply learn the material, this program is completely free! Thanks Coursera! We always recommend auditing the first course in a specialization for those who might be unsure if they want to study concepts. To audit, simply click "Enroll for Free" and click "Audit" on the bottom of the second step. Voila, you're in!

Student Reviews

This is a tried and true program that launched several years ago, but luckily many of the concepts are still the same and relevant. One of the common review quips is that some of the recommended software is no longer current and has been replaced with newer tools. To combat this, do yourself a favor and Google all the recommended tools to make your decision about whether they're relevant to you. The main one we noted was that Google+ is no longer around.

However, the courses within the specialization are very highly reviewed– averaging between 4.6 and 4.8 per course!

Some of our favorite positive review points:

  • Very, very, very good course. I got lots of new knowledge in terms of digital marketing tools, analytics and many others. I have a new perspective around content creation and digital marketing analysis after finishing this course. Can't wait to start another. Thank you Coursera! - Yola F.
  • The course combined theoretical knowledge with practical interviews, which is quite useful for students without relevant knowledge background before. Highly recommend! - Xuan Z.
  • The class provides in-depth information presented by true experts. In my job-hunt, I've already found it very useful to learn the differences between engagement strategies and nurture strategies, so that I can understand what companies need.
    - Jill M.

Aggregations of negative review points:

  • Some of the platforms required "free" trials that were not free. (we recommend watching YouTube for these, or cancelling right away. Be careful out there!)
  • Sometimes the presenters were rather dry with the material, especially in the listening tools section.
  • Some of the material, especially in the tool/platform areas, was outdated. Bridged note: this seems to be a common theme for Coursera certifications, and one of the reasons we're building this platform in the first place. Bridged is continuously updated with current and affordable information.

... and our favorite overall review:

I really enjoyed this course. I wouldn't say that the information was groundbreaking and entirely new-- but as a seasoned professional always working on the periphery of marketing and getting my hands dirty for a long time in it with no formal training-- the course did a great job to help me to better classify what I was doing by providing an easily accessible jargon. I

think the best part for me was the blog portion. I think the tips are actually incredibly useful and the exercise of writing the post in the given format is really helpful to honing in on your ideas. Overall it was a really useful and well executed course. Glad I took it.

-Chrysanthemum C.

... andddd this specialization had so many great reviews, we had another favorite:

One of the best courses I've taken on Coursera. The lectures are tailored for online learning as opposed to videos of live lectures. They are short and and full of relevant, useful information. This was a huge plus for me because I don't have a lot of extra time to sit through hours and hours of lectures.

There were guest lecturers who were experts in the field of social media marketing who provided great insight on the topic. I've utilized many of the strategies learned through this course and the other courses in this Specialization in my own business and have increased my social media following as well as begun developing and advertising my blog.

-Jody P.

Supplemental Materials

Marketing analytics has many aspects. We've rounded up the ones we think would be most helpful if you're trying to break into the field.

For those who enjoyed learning about analytics & KPIs: Google's Data Analytics

Google sponsors a data analytics certificate program through Coursera. This is one of the more coveted certificates in the industry for Google Analytics.It's free to audit, but if you want the certificate to show off (recommended), it's $49 a month to complete at your own pace.

For those who plan to take over the world with their viral blog: UC Davis's SEO Specialization

This is one of the more coveted SEO certifications and has great material for growing content organically. SEO is constantly changing so it's always hard to pin down, but UC Davis gives it the good ol' college try (no pun intended). Read our full writeup here.

Alternative Courses

We wanted to quick point out there were very few certifications we found that were comparable to this one with breadth of topics and review positivity. If you're comparing options, we recommend auditing a course to see if you enjoy the format. If you're a content creator (like us), this was the best course we could find. If you have something better, shoot us an email.


Northwestern's Social Marketing Specialization is a fabulous program, perhaps one of the best on Coursera. It's a great way for beginners and marketers alike to get more familiar with concepts around social media-- from blog and content creations all the way to creater analytics.

We'd recommend this course for most people who are even tangentially related to content creation, including influencers, journalists, and producers. If you've ever had a hankering to start a blog, this program is a great place to start. And we don't say that lightly (seriously-- read our other reviews if you don't believe us).

Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. This program could be one notch in your arsenal to really kick your content skills into gear!

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