digital badges education

The Definitive Guide to Digital Badges: What Are Digital Badges

Giovanna Pergher
Inês Oliveira

Marketing Manager

May 31, 2021
20 min

All you need to know about Digital Badges: How to drive engagement, how to implement them into your marketing strategy and where to design a Badge

This is the ultimate guide to navigate through the concept of Digital Badges, Digital Certificates, and a list of places where you can find a badge creator, or free templates.

If you are unsure whether digital badges are worth it, or just generally confused about this new and upcoming trending topic, you’ll love this guide.

Here’s how it works:

There’s 4 different chapters to address all the questions you have:

  1. What are Digital Badges and Digital Certificates?
  2. Where can I use Digital Badges and Digital Certificates? - Are Digital Certificates Worth it?
  3. Your Marketing Strategy and How to Use Digital Badges as Part Of It
  4. Where can I create Digital Badges: examples of Badge Creators' Software

Navigate through them to find your answers!

Table of Contents: digital badges and digital certificates
Chapter 1: what are digital badges

What are Digital Badges and Digital Certificates?

Are Digital Badges the same as Digital Certificates?

Are there any differences between them?

Do they have separate meanings in different contexts?

And if so, when should we use one and another?

These are all the most asked questions on this new and upcoming topic.

Following an extensive research of around 30 articles and documents, we made this guide to help you navigate the world of Digital Badges, and to clarify some of the misunderstandings.

In this chapter you will find four different concepts:

  1. Digital Badges
  1. Digital Certificates
  1. Digital Credentials for Recognition
  1. Digital Credentials in Cryptography

They may sound the same, but they are completely different in meaning.

Let’s visualize them first, next to each other:

differences between digital badges, digital certificates and digital credentials

We separated the 4 keywords and wrote down some examples that highlight the differences between Digital Badges and Digital Certificates

The colors (orange and purple) help distinguish between Recognition Badges/ Certificates, and Cryptography Certificates/ Credentials.

We’ll start by addressing the most complex one: Digital Certificates.  

What are Digital Certificates?

Digital Certificates can be breakdown into 2 different fields:

  1. Digital Certificates in cryptography
  1. Digital Certificates “as a form of qualification, completion, clearance, or competence” (Mark Iafrate, eLearning Industry. 2017).

In the world of cryptography, “Digital Certificates”, are a type of Digital SLL Certificates, also known as Public Key Certificates. It's an electronic document that holds information about the user, which is also used to confirm their identity (like a password).

The concept of Digital Certificate as a Recognition Document or as a Merit Certificate is the second type. These aim to represent a physical certificate that already exists, but that was transformed into a digital format. This is the type of certificate we will discuss from now on.

The characteristics you find on Physical Certificates and Merit Badges, will pass on to Digital Certificates too. Digital Certificates only represent your already existing document in a format that can be shared and viewed digitally and online.

Depending on the software you are using to issue Digital Certificates, these should bear the same characteristics as Physical Certificates:

- Personal and non-transferable

- Unique to the user

And what are the differences between Digital Credentials and Digital Certificates?

Digital Credentials and Digital Certificates can have some similarities depending on the context. Although they are not are not always synonyms.

Digital Credentials can represent a personal identity card, while Digital Certificates only stand to represent a qualification, completion, or a degree certificate.

Credentials can represent a merit document, degree certificate, completion certificate, and similars. Yet, they can also be your ID, Driving License, or any other personal identity card.

On the other hand, Digital Certificates do not stand for the same concept. In the image above, you'll find the differences between these concepts clarified.

What is a Digital Badge and a Digital Certificate? Are they the same?

Digital Badges and Certificates share some similarities, but ultimately, they are not the same. It's important to note that is an ongoing changing concept, and that they vary in meaning.

An easy way to interpret these concepts is by looking at the format they take: Digital Certificates take the form of an online paper, are used in a more traditional manner. They intend to prove that there was a degree or a certified course completed.

Digital Badges are an adaptation of Digital Certificates, with less text and more visuals. These are awarded not only for the completion of degrees in our courses, but are also handed after you complete a Workshop, participate in an Event or similar.

The main difference between Digital Badges and Digital Certificates is that the former was created with a higher purpose to be shared on social media platforms.

This is not to say that you can't share Digital Certificates on Social Media. You can. Yet, Digital Certificates are more traditional in their meaning. They have been used for years to issue accredited documents, as they are known for their validation and authenticity.

To sum up, Digital Certificates can always be adapted to become a Digital Badge, yet not all Digital Badges are adapted to a Digital Certificate format, due to the verification technology behind it and the context in which they are presented.

Let’s see an example:

After completing a degree, you are awarded a Certificate, be it digital or physical. That certificate was created with the intent of being an accredited document by your university and serves no purpose in becoming a badge.

This certificate was created with the intent of certifying that you have completed the course.  

The completion of such Degrees is not exactly meant to be shared on social media nor to be seen as "marketing content" for the issuing university. While this is becoming a possibility more often, there's still a very traditional background associated with the concept.

On the other hand, you can be awarded a physical Merit Badge for your good deeds as a student, which can be later transformed either into a Digital Certificate or a Digital Badge. Later, these can definitely be shared on social media as part of a marketing campaign of the company.

Conclusion

The definition of a Digital Badge has come a long way in the past few years.

It started by being an adaptation of a Certificate or to celebrate other accomplishments that certificates didn’t cover (like participating in an Event or Workshop). Currently, it has become a way of issuing certified documents too, due to the advance of technology.

Nowadays, depending on the software you are using, you can issue a Digital Badge and still make sure that it won't be copied, while also guaranteeing its authenticity and credibility.

Still, it’s important to remember that Digital Badges are different from Digital Credentials. The former is still strictly used to celebrate an accomplishment or to recognize the completion of a specific activity, such as:

  1. Acquiring a new Hard or Soft Skill
  1. Completing an Online or In-Presence Course
  1. Participating in a Webinar, Workshop, Event or Hackathon

Despite their purpose, these types of online and digital credentials are always personal and non-transferable to others. They have the ID (name, and other information) for a single person, and the correspondent description of the specific accomplishment.

Chapter 2: where can I use digital badges and digital certificates?

Where can we use Digital Badges and Digital Certificates?

Now that we have clarified the differences between Digital Badges and Certificates, let’s talk about where and by whom they are most often be used.

We separated the different fields and businesses in which Digital Badges will make a good addition:

  1. Coaches and Online Academies
  1. Inside-Company Achievements
  1. Events and Hackathons

Digital Badges for Coaches and Online Academies

A few weeks ago, we wrote an article addressing how Digital Badges could help coaches and online academies boost brand authority with their coaching and online programs.

Among other things, we discussed the importance of having good word-of-mouth and of creating a strong top-of-mind association between clients.

To back this, we gathered the main benefits that Individual Coaches and Online Academies gain from the use of Digital Badges:

  • Free Word of Mouth: numerous shares on social media
  • Brand Awareness: when the client is ready, they will have the badge they saw online in their mind
  • Brand Authority: your online course will be highlighted in the minds of consumers, given that so many people liked and took the time to share feedback on your program
  • Authentic Organic Traffic and Feedback
  • Exposure for Clients: Clients will feel good sharing their accomplishments with their network as a way to showcase new skills learned

Below you can see an example of a Digital Badge from virtualbadge.io.

digital badge example for online courses

A Digital Badge or Certificate will be given to you in an online format, so you can keep it, print it, or share it on your social media platform. They usually come with a unique number and can be traced back to you, ensuring their authenticity.

In fact, making sure that Digital Badges are kept authentic and unique to participants is an important step that shouldn’t be missed.  

For example, with Virtual Badges, we created Unique Certificate Pages to help achieve this standard for our clients.

These webpages are created for each Virtual Badge, carrying authentication information about a particular badge (such as ID and name/ or picture of the person who received it), the specific completed course, and information about the issuing company.

Digital Badges for Inside-Company Achievements

If you jump on LinkedIn right now, you’ll see an increased trend to share own personal accomplishments and goals.

Digital Badges can also be used to support this trend and the good deeds of employees, such as earned awards like “Employee of the Month” or “Best Sales Team of the Region”.

Company culture has become an important and a decisive factor in employees' happiness and well-being. It's an increasing trend for every company, and providing good feedback and recognition can be a great step in that direction

Here are the main reasons why companies should use Digital Badges:

  • Welcome new employees
  • Celebrate a training course completed
  • Attribute event passes for in-company events
  • Reward employees for new skills learned or achieved goals

Below you can find an example of a Digital Badge awarded to top sales team of the year.

digital badge example for inside-company achievements

Digital Badges for Events and Hackathons

In the world of events, Digital Badges can be used as online recognition tokens and to be shared on social media.

This can help grow the popularity of the event, and Badges can be used pre and post event marketing campaigns.

It’s a great way to reach more people on social media and to allow participants of the event to co-create and personalize their own experience.

When we that an event is happening and that so many people are talking about it, we tend to be excited and intrigued by it. This will automatically lead to a stronger

If you are still looking for ideas for your next virtual event, we have created this amazing guide to help you.

Here are some ideas in which Virtual Events can benefit from the use of Digital Badges:

  • Promote the upcoming event
  • Generate a talk and overall awareness around the Event
  • Arouse the feeling of FOMO on possible participants (fear of missing out), which leads to curiosity and a possible buying decision

Below you can find an example of a Digital Badge created for a Virtual Event.

digital badge example for events and hackathons
Chapter 3: using digital badges as part of your marketing strategy

Should Digital Badges be part of your Marketing Strategy?

Our answer is definitely yes!

Digital Badges are an easy way to get the job done when it comes to give recognition to participants or employees.

These are our 2 main reasons why: to improve brand authority and to recognize your attendees efforts, while giving them a platform to celebrate them.

They are easy to create, can be completely personalized and adapted to different situations.

Despite the use you’ll given them, we want to highlight the reasons why it’s so important to make them part of your digital marketing strategy in 2021.

To help you Improve Brand Recognition and Authority

Digital Badges are becoming widely known and used in numerous industries.  

They give your participants a chance to proudly share their accomplishments. And still brings a ton of recognition towards your company, program or event.

Last week we wrote an article on the future of advertising and what it means for companies who are betting everything on Digital Ads.  

We’ve heard from the experts, books, documents, articles and videos. And although everyone is pointing in the same direction - relying heavily on Advertising – we don’t.

Let me break it down for you.

Currently there are 126 000 monthly searches on the keywords “online course” and their variants, just in the United States.

And to match that, there are over 5 billion results on google to answer that query.

On the events side, “online events” is searched for, on average, 20 000 times per month in the United States and United Kingdom together. Google answers with over 9 billion results.

This is your competition.

It’s not just your direct known competitors.  

It’s the 9 billion search results that your participants will have to go through to find you.

google searches for digital badges, digital events and online courses

And that’s why Digital Badges are so important in a time where advertising is dying.

Achieving authority in your field is not always easy to get. It's actually one of the hardest forms of brand awareness a company can accomplish.

Using organic content, produced by your own users is the best practice when it comes to Digital Marketing.  

There’s too much offer right now, which makes it hard for us to decide what we want to go for. Digital Badges work because it comes from a user experience, which is the most authentic feedback we can get. 

Attendee Recognition and Engagement

While brand recognition and authority are crucial milestones for every brand, the relationship you build with your customers is also part of the journey to success.

The experience your customer or participant has with your company is crucial for your marketing strategy.

Digital Badges can help you achieve a close relationship with them.

When we receive an award or a recognition certificate or badge, we always want to share it with the world.

So many of us love to share the latest milestone in our career, our next goals and achievements. It’s actually how LinkedIn works.

Recognizing your participants for completing an online course, or participating in an event, is always a good practice by itself.

Now, imagine offering a personalized Digital Badge, that was fundamentally created to be shared on social media.

Your clients will want to spread the word. They will want to be recognized in their social network for their good deeds.

This engagement will shed a light on your company and will definitely give you a spotlight on social media. Your participants will become your online promoters.

How do I know if Digital Badges are worth using? Are Digital Badges Important?

It can be a tough choice to make whether Digital Badges are worth it to your business.  

While there’s a lot of different ways to check the return you get from the use of Digital Badges, we came up with a quick solution for you.

Below you'll find an image showcasing a calculator. This ROI (Return on Investment) Calculator can help you decide if Digital Badges are worth using. This is a document you can download here.

calculator for digital badges

Here we see that by running 10 courses per week and having 20 students per course, with revenue of €60 per participant, your investment in Digital Badges will be just 22.50€ per month!

How great is that?

With little investment, you can test using Digital Badges on a campaign of your choosing and track how users respond to it.  

But how do we track the effectiveness of Digital Badges?

Depending on the software you are using, if any at all, there's a possibility to track the performance of your “badge campaign”, and assess your program’s or event’s growth. This tracking feature is addressed in the last chapter of this guide and is a part of our solution at virtualbadge.io.

Can Digital Badges be shared on LinkedIn and social media?

Digital Badges are meant to be shared on social media and be part of your marketing strategy.

They are created with the intent to promote brand visibility, participant engagement and, to help you grow your company and to bring awareness towards your program or event.

Have a look at how we do it with Virtual Badges:

digital bagdes examples for social media

You can see how the same Digital Badge looks on different platforms, and how they are easily adapted to your customers.

If you want to give it a try, click here!

Chapter 4: where can I find a badge creator/badge maker?

How do I create Digital Badges and Where can I find a Badge Creator?

Digital Badges can be created using a specific software (such as the one we have here at virtualbadge.io) or simply using Word, Canva, or similar.

But does it make a difference? Can’t I just create them on Word?

Well, that depends on the use you want to give them.  

In this section we will go through the different features of using a Digital Badge Creator software (include images) and explain the differences between the tools you can use to create a Digital Badge.

Badge Design

If you are looking for a badge creator software or a badge design platform, or even unsure whether it’s worth the investment, you can start here.

badge creator software

In the image above, we see the general layout of the admin panel and the different steps it takes to create a Digital Badge.

You can start with a basic background or upload your own pictures.  The one above is a demo badge, and a template created by us.

This panel allows you to add your event’s logo, sponsors’ logos, and some extra details.  

You have access to different tools to create a captivating badge without leaving the admin panel.

If you are not a pro on design or still deciding your Badge design, we have prepared this page for you. You can download these templates and upload them to the Badge Creator, and use them as a background.

Campaign Set-up

badge creator software: campaign settings

The campaign set-up feature is one that can be used to set up your e-mail campaign and see how it will be displayed to your clients or participants.

All your participants receive a personalized email with their individual access link. By doing this, we ensure exclusive access to the virtual badges for your event attendees.

When clicking the email, the participant’s identity is confirmed, and the participants are taken to an exclusive Virtual Badge landing page - perfectly tailored for your event.

We will go over the set-up of this landing page next.

On this part of the admin panel, you can also determine your emails’ content, who the email sender is, and even style the color of the email.

Following this feature, we also offer you the space to add your participants and build your emailing list. You can simply upload a CSV file or add your participants/clients’ emails manually, so they can receive their badge on their email.

Let’s have a look:

badge creator software: emailing participants

Participants Page

This stage is one of the last steps in your Digital Badge Creator, which is where you get an overview of how the landing page for your participants will look like. You can choose from 3 different styles, and custom your slug, upload your logo and select your preferred color! We chose green here, but this can be totally customized to your needs.

badge creator software: participants' landing page

This landing page is a pre-defined webpage, where your participants can preview and edit their badge. They will also be invited to connect with a social media platform so that their profile name and picture can be automatically added to their badges.  

Afterward, the badge is ready to be shared on social media.

Data Insights

This additional feature is actually the most important one for your badge campaign. This feature on the Badge Creator software helps your get insights on your customers, know them better and gather data on your campaign.

badge creator software: data insights on the share and use of digital badges

Here’s what you can expect from using it:

1. Social Media Performance Tracking

More than starting a campaign on social media, the real struggle is to discover on which social media platform your customers spent more time on. That’s why it’s so important to highlight this particular feature.

Your clients/participants will be sharing your Digital Badges and we can tell you where your audience is more active.  

This information can set the ground rules for your communication plans with your clients. Not only can you use this information for Digital Badges campaigns, but also for future digital marketing campaigns.

2. Share and Creation Rates

You will have access to the statistics of your campaign. This means that you can see how many Badges have been created and shared online.

This will help you determine the highs and the lows of it, and also where space for improvement is.

For example, if you see that your campaign didn’t perform so well, maybe there’s space to interact more with your current users or adapt your communication to meet your clients’ needs.

How to decide which platform to use?

We showed you what using a specific software will look like.

However, you have many different ways to create Digital Badges for your participants.

If you are looking for a quick solution and are only interested in templates for Word, we have prepared this article for you.

You’ll find the best word templates to use for Microsoft Word. You can even add them as a background to the Badge Creator app.

But let’s compare the badge creator app from virtualbadge.io and other softwares (such as word and canva):

badge creator software: virtualbadge.io, ms word and canva to create digital badges

Simply put, the answer to the question of where you can create Digital Badges, will be completely up to you and to your company’s needs.

Every case is a different case.

However, if you are looking to use Digital Badges to improve brand awareness, authority and overall visibility on social media, it’s worth tracking your growth.

The best and most effective way to do it is definitely by tracking the data generated from your Digital Badge campaign. And the only way to do it is to use a badge creator software.

Conclusion

We've given you the tools and helped you define the differences between Digital Badges and Digital Certificates.

Use this article to navigate between the different concepts and access our free badge templates and other features.

Happy Badging!

* You can find the organisation ID in the URL when you access your LinkedIn Company page as an admin.