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Vancouver, British Columbia-based Hootsuite debuted an online learning portal called Podium this week that’s devoted to classes on (what else?) social media.

There’s no charge for the classes and a quick preview suggests they are worth the time invested in watching them — especially since they are free, outside of a $200 fee for people who want to be certified.

This begs the question, what's in it for Hootsuite, a platform for managing social media marketing? Because this is no casual endeavor — Hootsuite has 10 or so new people dedicated to the unit to make sure the content is high quality and stays fresh.

Actually the answer is pretty simple: Podium will cultivate a more loyal user base and an online footprint that stickier than ever.

Attract and Retain Customers

Now here's more of a head scratcher: What else can Hootsuite do to keep its users within reach? Because that is the way all online sites are trending now.

For now, Podium will surely attract users. The classes, which address all of the major social media platforms, are divided for beginners, intermediate and advanced users. They are updated frequently so the information doesn’t get stale, Greg Gunn, VP of New Product Growth at Hootsuite tells CMSWire.

One reason Hootsuite decided to launch it was because it recognized a growing skills gap in social media, he added. Conversely, companies have an increasing need for workers who are skilled in social media.

"We thought we were well positioned to serve both of these needs," Gunn said.

A Social Media Jobs Site

Eventually Hootsuite will launch a directory for its students to help them network and hopefully find work, either as freelancers or as full time employees. As they move out into the workforce, as the theory goes, they will continue to use Hootsuite.

One Model for All to Follow

Certainly this was a driver behind LinkedIn's $1.5 billion acquisition of Lynda.com earlier this year.

It is, in fact, the driver behind just about every new feature and service offering that online sites offer. Get people to your site and get them to stay as long as possible. Then, when they inevitable leave, give them another reason to come back.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Another analogy — although a bit further fetched — can be found in Facebook's recently rollout of its smart assistant M.

What frightens other providers of this technology is that M can do more than just look up numbers or find out today's temperature.

Aided by its human coworkers, M can do a range of tasks from booking reservations to recommending popular beaches to try. Ultimately it is another way for Facebook to become even more deeply entrenched in its users' lives.

So that is the model. Whether Hootsuite et al can execute as well as Facebook has remains to be seen.

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