I recently got up on my soapbox on my personal blog and ranted about a new, pricey certification program that is being offered by a social media association that has recently cropped up, one of many that are claiming to be able to certify social media […]

I recently got up on my soapbox on my personal blog and ranted about a new, pricey certification program that is being offered by a social media association that has recently cropped up, one of many that are claiming to be able to certify social media expertise.

My main beef wasn’t that there was a new entity being founded that was attempting to bring some clarity and credibility to the social media consulting field. But I questioned who might be behind these associations, and who was vetting the information that was being put out there as official training required to receive “certification” in social media.

I think that anyone who has been involved in the Internet industry for any length of time would look at these organizations and certification programs with a degree of skepticism — and that’s good. I also think that it is healthy to question and discuss the origins of these groups and to analyze the information that is being offered — for thousands of dollars, by the way — as training.

Before anyone hires someone who waves a social media certificate around, here’s some of my advice to you:

  1. Question the source. While the Internet and new media industries have been around now for over a decade, social media as its own industry is young. If someone is touting social media certification, question where they received it and what they had to do to earn it.
  2. Google them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by potential clients who have been ripped off by people claiming to be social media consultants. A quick Google search of those consultants and companies reveal little in the way of evidence that the consultant/company in question is engaged in social media. A good social media consultant will be active in social media including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook but also other more niche networks.
  3. Read them. At this early stage of social media consulting, those who are doing it are also writing about it because there is so little credible documentation of what we are all doing and learning. Read their blog, white papers or articles, and check out the recent books by some of the top social media thought leaders of today for greater perspective.
  4. Check their references. Why someone would hire a social media consultant without checking their online portfolio and references is a mystery to me. A few phone calls and emails, and you’ll have a much better sense about the reputation, professionalism and skills of anyone claiming to be a social media consultant.

You should beware of anyone brandishing a social media certificate. Use common business sense when hiring someone to guide you and your company when implementing new technologies and processes into your marketing and communications mix.

What is your opinion on the current rash of social media certification programs?

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  1. Great points! I would also add that a background in internet marketing, SEO or other online ‘stuff’ doesn’t make you an expert either anymore than Knowing how to use a computer means you know how to relate to or engage people.
    A definition of expert may be elusive, but results are fairly easy to find in this area. At least in the sense that if they have less than 100 followers on twitter and only follow 2 people (like a local “social media agency” that I have seen) then do you really want them to teach YOU?
    On the flip side, having 1000’s of followers or fans doesn’t necessarily mean much either since so many ‘game’ that.
    Great news is, you can easily see and contact those fans and followers and ask them! :)

  2. Certification can also be a way for early adopters to shut out new up and comers. They’re going to ordain me worthy of competing with them? Sounds like a money grab. Of course universities with 100 twitter followers are also marketing new media degrees. The only certification worth anything is a proven history of delivering results. You can’t certify someone as a leader, and social media is more about leadership than marketing.

    1. Shane I agree. There will always be opportunists trying to control chaos. And some people sitting on the edge of this storm would like to jump in and they will create a market for so called certified people.

      That I believe is not our concern.

      All we need to do is focus on what we are good at and continue to be better.

      Have fun.

    2. Good point Shane.

      Oh, and by the way I have worked with several educational institutions and most are not leaders in the field of social media. This should also bring to question the quality of that certification.

  3. Should You Hire a “Certified” Social Media Consultant? : Online Social Networks Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    [...] I recently got up on my soapbox on my personal blog and ranted about a new, pricey certification pro… [...]

  4. The school of Hard Knocks is about the best you can get for Social Media. :)

  5. social networking san diego Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    I agree with a lot of what you say regrading companies needing to hire a social media consultant (we have a team of them now) and have a relevant story of my own that adds to your insight. In my previous IT days (when I ran an IT consulting firm for 8 years) I would run across techs all the time that would have all kinds of certifications but when it came to real world applicable skills and knowledge of actual IT experience in the trenches, you could tell what they learned in the books still couldn’t give them the years of experience they needed unless they were under the supervision of a more seasoned tech. In other words, just because someone gets their certification doest mean they are an expert. My advice- see Aliza’s good points 1-4 above
    CEO Justin R French Social Networking San Diego

  6. Jeroen van der Schenk Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Certifying is an old way of thinking, social media is all about recommendations….

    1. This is so true. Recommendations are key, as is your experience in the field. Those that are new can get up to speed quick, and learn a lot, but certification is bogus IMO

  7. Offering any kind of certification is meaningless unless it is authorised by a recognised industry-wide regulatory bod.

    But maybe we’re looking at certification from an outdated 20th century standpoint. Perhaps a new model required for something like social networking?

    Not got a scooby what it might be though LOL!

    Alison Cross

  8. Chandesh Parekh Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Not only is it a young industry but a rapidly evolving one – looking for someone who is certified in traditional marketing but is also very active in the social media space may be the way to go?

  9. Certification is bogus. I have been recommended to teach others based on my actions alone. Social Media can be learned by observation and then careful implementation. There is enough of a circle of people out there who willing help others without the thought of some fee. The other aspect is that one standard does not fit all. What works for one industry is not going to work for another. People need to stop over thinking the concept and just start listening and observing. They will save themselves a lot of time and headaches by seeing it in action for the good or bad.

  10. Spot-on. Your detail points are correct, and make a pretty decent map for making hiring decisions.

    AND the issue of who is offering this certification (umm . . . seriously . . . who made THEM “experts on experts?”) is important. I mean seriously.

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

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