Should You Hire a "Certified" Social Media Consultant?

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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