Social Media Certification, The International Social Media Assocation & Misperceptions
Clearing Up Misperceptions
Clearing Up Misperceptions
by

An interesting conversation emerged on Olivier Blanchard’s blog this week around the subject of social media certification. He was rather critical of the International Social Media Association because they are offering certification training. The ensuing comments opened up a stream of ideas, complaints, agreements, disagreements, some brown-nosing, some barbs and more. The conversation was both entertaining and informative. For what I think is a more constructive discussion of certification, you should see Olivier’s fantastic follow-up post which focuses more on the issue of certification than the ISMA or its founders.

The unfortunate fall out of Blanchard’s initial criticisms, which I offered were too much about the people than the ideas much to his disagreement (see the comments), was a series of emails, direct messages and phone calls from people asking me why I would be involved with, “such an organization,” and be, “taking part in their certification training.” Unfortunately the intent of an author’s writing is often overshadowed by the tone the audience perceives. My hope was that Blanchard could see that his admitted snarkiness had repercussions. Forgive the indulgence. I need to clarify a few things here as the unfortunate (albeit unintended) misrepresentation of ISMA and me has overtaken enough of my inbound messages to justify the need.

M. C. Escher − Drawing Hands, 1948.
Image via Wikipedia

The ISMA is an organization founded by Mari Smith and Mark Eldridge. Michael Stelzner, a friend of mine and editor/author of the new and popular blog SocialMediaExaminer.com, is on their board of directors. I’ve met Mari once, briefly at Blog World & New Media Expo where she was a speaker on the Social Media Business Summit which I programmed for the conference. Stelzner was a Blog World speaker as well. Mari and I have both helped Michael’s efforts with content and interviews for SocialMediaExaminer.com but are otherwise unconnected. Still, she is a known and reputable social media thinker, speaker and consultant.

Two weeks ago, Mari’s assistant asked me to participate in a webinar for the ISMA. I agreed to do so. There was some discussion as to whether or not I would participate in a free webinar for all the association’s members or one for their paid certification program. I preferred to participate in the free one but, because I like Mari and know her to be a reputable social media professional, I agreed to do either.

That is the end of the story of my involvement in the ISMA. I support the overall intent of the organization, am confident in its president (Smith) in offering sound social media advice and education (free or otherwise) to people willing to join, learn, etc. I don’t plan on joining but wouldn’t tell people not to.

That said, I’d like to take the opportunity to offer a few thoughts on this apparent division/controversy/whatever around Olivier’s original post, organized by topic so as to not confuse or mix any points:

SOCIAL MEDIA CERTIFICATION

  • I believe social media certification to not be realistically feasible in such a young industry. However, if a group of qualified, experienced social media professionals got together to try it, someone has to be first. Yes, they’ll withstand a fair amount of criticism – and rightfully so – but it’s inevitable, so I don’t think it’s worth fighting or getting worked up over. In the end, the people who pay for it will ultimately judge its worth. If we don’t choose to participate and help shape that certification and criticize, we are just throwing stones.
  • If the first group to attempt a social media certification program were the Social Media Club or the International Blogging & New Media Association, someone else would have offered up similar criticisms. Even if the list of people Blanchard suggested as more qualified board members were involved, someone would have raised issues.
  • Certification and/or accreditation will be a hot-button issue regardless of who is involved in determining what makes a certified professional. If it’s not government mandated, accreditation is always second-guessed and controversial. Look at PRSA. Accreditation in public relations is dividing the organization to this day and PR accreditation has been around a long time.
  • I don’t endorse or think the certification badge or certificate from the ISMA is worth much, but the training probably is. I’ve suggested to Mari they consider changing the terminology, much like what some voices in Blanchard’s conversation did, to soften the blow and listen to that section of the social media community. I hope they give it some thought.

PROFIT AND SOCIAL MEDIA

  • A lot of the objection posed by Blanchard and others in the comments on the mentioned posts revolved around the $2800 (or so) price tag on the ISMA’s certification training. I offer that the training (assume the “certification” becomes “training” so we don’t get caught up in semantics) is as cost effective or efficient than spending money on some conferences offered up in the social media space. And I would argue that live webinar training is probably more effective and useful than learning provided at many conferences, too.
  • If Mari is paying her presenters, great. If she’s not, that’s okay, too. Use the conference example here, as well. Plenty of conferences feature speakers that aren’t being paid. If they see a benefit in participating anyway, what business is it of ours? They can say “no,” ya know?
  • The perception of the ISMA board as, in Blanchard’s words, “what appears to be a mix of affiliate marketers, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers?” was actually repeated to me by two people. The insinuation is that they’re not qualified to teach social media and they’re in it for a buck. If the teachers and trainers in this organization might include folks like me and/or Blanchard, who they reached out to for educational content, then the qualification argument is solved. There’s a good portion of ISMA’s content and community interaction that is free, including several webinars and extended learning opportunities. So what if they use this to drive some revenue? Chris Brogan sells consultancy services and his book. I assume Blanchard sells his consultant services. We all have ways of monetizing what we do. Why is this different?
  • Finally, it doesn’t matter who thinks they’re qualified to say what is right or wrong in social media, the world is a big place. There will always be an audience for anyone selling this expertise. What I offer (okay, sell) may not work for some brands or businesses. They may chose to pay a self-appointed social media guru. And you know what? That individual, who we may criticize for selling snake oil, may well fit their needs and make them happy. Or they’ll be disappointed with the outcomes and hire someone different the next time. Anyone can point a finger at the ISMA and say they’re “Bullshit” as Blanchard’s post image implies, but there will likely be a number of people who join, learn and even pay them. Some (probably most) will go home happy with the value they receive.

I’m happy to entertain your thoughts in the comments. Before I turn them over to you, I want to emphasize one point very seriously:

I think Olivier Blanchard is a smart cookie. I read his blog regularly. I have never met or worked with him but his background appears to be extremely strong and qualified in social media, marketing and business. He knows his stuff. But the perception some people took from his post (which I’m convinced he did not intend) and the ensuing comments (which he doesn’t necessarily control) produced some inaccuracies and misperceptions. I felt compelled to clarify.

Please … a penny for your thoughts? And thank you for the indulgence.

Enhanced by Zemanta

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • “Here elaborates the matter new balance shoes not only extensively but also detailly .I support the
    write's unique point.It is useful and benefit to your daily life.You can go those
    sits to know more relate things.They are strongly recommended by friends.Personally

  • I really like this type of Merchandise too, can you help me look at which one has higher price point?
    http://vibramshoesonline.com/

  • Well , the view of the passage is totally correct ,your details is really reasonable and you guy give us valuable informative post, I totally agree the standpoint of upstairs. I often surfing on this forum when I m free and I find there are so much good information we can learn in this forum!
    Against-Myself

  • I am also a XX fan who really like this! I also like XX, and purchase lots of it every time, like-minded friends can have a look ,we can communicate by the way~~

  • Qqmeirong

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion. Such as nike sb shoes that worth you to see. Believe me these websites won’t let you down.

  • Scoot159

    Given that social media is part of communication, I might think of a social media certification as likened to being certified in hammering or sawing as opposed to being a carpenter. And given that such a certification program is likely to only skim (if it even includes) communication strategy, I suspect the model being presented is largely tactical in nature.

  • Pingback: Justin Kownacki - Why You Don’t NEED to Be an “Expert” to Make a Living()

  • Pingback: Nettalkers » Blog Archive » HubSpot TV – Off the Wall Creativity with Guest Edward Boches()

  • Pingback: Social Media Buzz Plus 12/11/2009 | 3Twenty5 Media, LLC()

  • Pingback: Hard To Find » Blog Archive » HubSpot TV – Off the Wall Creativity with Guest Edward Boches()

  • Justin, I enjoyed reading your comments on Olivier's post and also here on Jason's. You have a healthy perspective and a kind way of presenting your opinion.

    There is so much we can all learn from each other. Nobody “knows it all” and social media doesn't “belong” to anyone.

    In a way, I'm glad the shake-up came along when it did (I could've done without all the negativity, but oh well – takes all kinds!) – and I know only good will come of all this.

    I look forward to the evolution and will keep the community posted on progress. :)

  • Pingback: What every digital marketer can learn from Hubspot TV | Creativity_Unbound()

  • Thanks for the thoughtful response, Justin. It's good to hear someone
    able to see multiple angles of the issues yet still be supportive of
    those who take sides. That's the spirit that leads to greater learning
    and understanding of those around us. Kudos to you, sir.

    C: 502.509.4SME

  • Thanks for the thoughtful response, Justin. It's good to hear someone
    able to see multiple angles of the issues yet still be supportive of
    those who take sides. That's the spirit that leads to greater learning
    and understanding of those around us. Kudos to you, sir.

    C: 502.509.4SME

  • Jason, thanks for the reference to Oliver's post. I opened up your post earlier this evening and now three hours later, after reading Oliver's blog and all the comments, I'm finally getting back to where I started.

    A ton of value in the conversation over at this place and any dialogues that follow as a result like the one here. I won't write a novel, but my initial thoughts are kudos to you for teaching those who sought out information about social media and wanted to learn. You have a valuable perspective to add to any conversation about social media and those who signed up for the accreditation course or any other courses will benefit from it.

    Do I agree with ISMA's social media accreditation process or concept…no, not really. But I do understand that there are people out there in our industry — PR or Marketing — starving for information and guidance about what social media means to them, their clients and their world. Whether you think the certificate is BS or not, it's about education. And if you're teaching IMSA “webinar attendees” or “students” using the POV you bring/discuss here on Social Media Explorer, then that's a good thing and probably a perspective those folks aren't getting elsewhere.

    I admire Oliver's POV about ISMA and I'm glad he wrote his post because of he conversation it sparked and the knowledge sharing that ensued. But the majority of people who will sign up for IMSA accreditation didn't post on his blog (and probably not here either). Yet they could still stand to benefit — probably more than anyone at Oliver's place or here — from the conversation.

    Thanks again and best regards,

    Justin Goldsborough
    @JGoldsborough

  • Jason, thanks for the reference to Oliver's post. I opened up your post earlier this evening and now three hours later, after reading Oliver's blog and all the comments, I'm finally getting back to where I started.

    A ton of value in the conversation over at this place and any dialogues that follow as a result like the one here. I won't write a novel, but my initial thoughts are kudos to you for teaching those who sought out information about social media and wanted to learn. You have a valuable perspective to add to any conversation about social media and those who signed up for the accreditation course or any other courses will benefit from it.

    Do I agree with ISMA's social media accreditation process or concept…no, not really. But I do understand that there are people out there in our industry — PR or Marketing — starving for information and guidance about what social media means to them, their clients and their world. Whether you think the certificate is BS or not, it's about education. And if you're teaching IMSA “webinar attendees” or “students” using the POV you bring/discuss here on Social Media Explorer, then that's a good thing and probably a perspective those folks aren't getting elsewhere.

    I admire Oliver's POV about ISMA and I'm glad he wrote his post because of he conversation it sparked and the knowledge sharing that ensued. But the majority of people who will sign up for IMSA accreditation didn't post on his blog (and probably not here either). Yet they could still stand to benefit — probably more than anyone at Oliver's place or here — from the conversation.

    Thanks again and best regards,

    Justin Goldsborough
    @JGoldsborough

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, Justin. It's good to hear someone
      able to see multiple angles of the issues yet still be supportive of
      those who take sides. That's the spirit that leads to greater learning
      and understanding of those around us. Kudos to you, sir.

      C: 502.509.4SME

    • Justin, I enjoyed reading your comments on Olivier's post and also here on Jason's. You have a healthy perspective and a kind way of presenting your opinion.

      There is so much we can all learn from each other. Nobody “knows it all” and social media doesn't “belong” to anyone.

      In a way, I'm glad the shake-up came along when it did (I could've done without all the negativity, but oh well – takes all kinds!) – and I know only good will come of all this.

      I look forward to the evolution and will keep the community posted on progress. :)

  • Hey Steve – thanks for your viewpoints. For sure valid and useful!

    I think social media could easily be called people media. Copywriting, speech communications, email marketing, online marketing, customer service, etc. etc….anything that touches PEOPLE, are all an integral part of social media.

    As Erik Qualman cites in his new Social Media ROI video, “social media touches every facet of business and is more an extension of good business ethics.”

    This blow-up of late has been most instructive. By overlooking the, um, “difficult” personalities, there are some gems being shared and we are listening at ISMA. ;-)

  • David

    Perhaps. :-) Thanks for taking the time to reply. BTW, if there are any social media consultants out there that are looking to hire, let me know. Clearly, there's money to be made…

  • Valid points, there Daniel. Thank you!

  • I think being certified or accredited as a social media “expert” of sorts only hold as much merit as the weight people place on it. It's a fancy title but it only means something if the individual viewing it places emphasis on it. When I think of someone being certified in something I view it as being an objective entity generally agreed upon by the masses. However, I agree with you that since the field is so young, is it really possible, at this point at least, to create a TRULY objective certification process.

  • I think being certified or accredited as a social media “expert” of sorts only hold as much merit as the weight people place on it. It's a fancy title but it only means something if the individual viewing it places emphasis on it. When I think of someone being certified in something I view it as being an objective entity generally agreed upon by the masses. However, I agree with you that since the field is so young, is it really possible, at this point at least, to create a TRULY objective certification process.

    • Valid points, there Daniel. Thank you!

  • Pingback: The Social Media Isolation Chamber « StickyFigure()

  • Well said, Mike & Adam.

    I will add one thought here that I've been noodling. Mike's point hit
    on it. While it might be hard to launch a paid/expensive product when
    there are pretty good free/cheap alternatives, there are different
    audiences in question, I think. Social media folks wouldn't pay for
    it, but the average Joe or Jane might. I think that's a smart business
    move on Mari's part. No, I don't like the claims of teaching you to
    become a social media expert, etc., but I have had at least one CEO
    I've encountered in the last few years who was willing to pay a high
    hourly rate to just learn how to use the Internet (old school guy). If
    they're willing to pay, there will always be someone out there willing
    to take their money and provide the service.

    Just a thought.

  • Agreed! Charging for some things can be good! It proves they are valuable because people will pay for them.

    All I am saying is that it is hard to launch a relatively expensive product in a market where there seem to be pretty good free/cheap alternatives (blogs, books, webinars).

  • Great points, Steve. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • The concept of “social media certification” is the REAL issue – and not just the issue about “certification”. What IS this “social media” that we're “certifying”? To provide training, and a certificate that acknowledges skill acquired on a specific type of social media application (for instance, Facebook for Community Marketing – where there is a clear curriculum, a focused goal, and a competent leader like Mari for that subject) – I'm all in on that approach. And if someone figures that's worth 3K to them – great! But to say someone is certified in social media? It's simply too vaporous. No matter who is providing the program. If Chris Brogan or (even!) Jason Falls were offering it, the same problem would exist.

  • The concept of “social media certification” is the REAL issue – and not just the issue about “certification”. What IS this “social media” that we're “certifying”? To provide training, and a certificate that acknowledges skill acquired on a specific type of social media application (for instance, Facebook for Community Marketing – where there is a clear curriculum, a focused goal, and a competent leader like Mari for that subject) – I'm all in on that approach. And if someone figures that's worth 3K to them – great! But to say someone is certified in social media? It's simply too vaporous. No matter who is providing the program. If Chris Brogan or (even!) Jason Falls were offering it, the same problem would exist.

    • Great points, Steve. Thanks for the thoughts.

    • Hey Steve – thanks for your viewpoints. For sure valid and useful!

      I think social media could easily be called people media. Copywriting, speech communications, email marketing, online marketing, customer service, etc. etc….anything that touches PEOPLE, are all an integral part of social media.

      As Erik Qualman cites in his new Social Media ROI video, “social media touches every facet of business and is more an extension of good business ethics.”

      This blow-up of late has been most instructive. By overlooking the, um, “difficult” personalities, there are some gems being shared and we are listening at ISMA. ;-)

  • You rock, Michael. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Agreed. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Yes, for sure – ISMA will benefit tremendously from the collective feedback. Though some aspects of it were tough to stomach at the time (!), there really have been some excellent suggestions for improvement… including retooling the title. ;)

  • Ah, thanks Jason – what a lovely thing to say.

    Indeedy, I agree wholeheartedly about the “serving the community well” assessment.

    Whenever I do my talks and get off stage – I imagine you'll agree as a fellow speaker – the strokes are lovely and feel good at the time… but they don't really help us to grow and become even better. It's when folks provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement, that real growth can occur… provided we take action. ;)

  • Thank you, Whitney. I appreciate your props.

  • secretsushi

    Mike, somehow I knew you would end up here based on my comment. I am glad you chimed in. I have looked at Hubspot's materials and you guys are providing a well rounded package of information for free. However, charging should not be frowned upon if folks find genuine value in what is being offered.

    Jason, I think this goes back to your article on social media “purists”. I believe they have the most to say in opposition of what ISMA. Thanks for the great discussion guys.

  • One more thing… The social media players on the ISMA board is something that came into question. But, what if Olivier had accepted the invite? Then we would have heard of a certification course with speakers Jason Falls, Olivier Blanchard, and Mari Smith. All of the sudden, it seems a lot more legit and something that I might want to listen to right?

    Not saying Olivier makes it legit, or that you don't – because I didn't know you agreed to speak until now – but would be a nice lineup.

    I bring this up because her “lineup” seemed to be in question, when actually it seems as though she did contact a few of the big players in social media. Not saying I agree with her certification, just trying to see both sides.

  • Thanks heaps for the tweetout and your kind words here, Mary. You've summed it up in one phrase – “if you have a market who values your training.”

    Not only that, but time will also prove that the market for our grads will value the training they received. It's early days yet… but I have time, and patience, to deal with the naysayers and fencesitters.

    It's a brave new world and we're shaping social media together, collectively, collaboratively… nobody “owns” this space.

    As one of my mentors T. Harv Eker says, “How you do anything is how you do everything” ~ Kudos to Jason for publishing an intelligent post on this topic. My respect for him as an SM leader has elevated even further as a result.

  • I'm with you Jason. First of all, I think it's a little too early for certification. Alex mentioned that social media has been around for 7 years in 2010… Ok, maybe in some aspects (in development, in the works, on the verge, etc.) but come on. I was a young buck in college at that time. MySpace was founded in 2003 and Facebook in 2004 but they were still fairly new. Twitter wasn't around yet, people had old school Nokia cell phones, not smart phones, etc. Point being, it may have been around, but it was no where close to what it is today. People weren't connected like we are now. They came out as networking “tools” but it wasn't until recently (past what… 3 or so years?) that brands began communicating with consumers, joining the conversations, engaging, etc.

    With that being said, it's still a little too early for certification – granted that's just my opinion. However, if Mari wants to try it, then go for it.

    I also agree with the saw and carpenter analogies. I have an advertising degree and experience in copywriting, seo, etc., so I've got my foundation and I learn to tie social media into the overall objective by listening to people like you, brogan, etc. But I do think you need that foundation… Having a knack for social tools is great but you've got to know how to make it work.

    Now, I'm not opposed to certifications when the time is right… as we see, they are going to happen whether we like it or not. But, experience is very important. If I was a client, do you think I care if Jason Falls has a certificate?

    I say etc. quite a bit…

  • I'm with you Jason. First of all, I think it's a little too early for certification. Alex mentioned that social media has been around for 7 years in 2010… Ok, maybe in some aspects (in development, in the works, on the verge, etc.) but come on. I was a young buck in college at that time. MySpace was founded in 2003 and Facebook in 2004 but they were still fairly new. Twitter wasn't around yet, people had old school Nokia cell phones, not smart phones, etc. Point being, it may have been around, but it was no where close to what it is today. People weren't connected like we are now. They came out as networking “tools” but it wasn't until recently (past what… 3 or so years?) that brands began communicating with consumers, joining the conversations, engaging, etc.

    With that being said, it's still a little too early for certification – granted that's just my opinion. However, if Mari wants to try it, then go for it.

    I also agree with the saw and carpenter analogies. I have an advertising degree and experience in copywriting, seo, etc., so I've got my foundation and I learn to tie social media into the overall objective by listening to people like you, brogan, etc. But I do think you need that foundation… Having a knack for social tools is great but you've got to know how to make it work.

    Now, I'm not opposed to certifications when the time is right… as we see, they are going to happen whether we like it or not. But, experience is very important. If I was a client, do you think I care if Jason Falls has a certificate?

    I say etc. quite a bit…

    • One more thing… The social media players on the ISMA board is something that came into question. But, what if Olivier had accepted the invite? Then we would have heard of a certification course with speakers Jason Falls, Olivier Blanchard, and Mari Smith. All of the sudden, it seems a lot more legit and something that I might want to listen to right?

      Not saying Olivier makes it legit, or that you don't – because I didn't know you agreed to speak until now – but would be a nice lineup.

      I bring this up because her “lineup” seemed to be in question, when actually it seems as though she did contact a few of the big players in social media. Not saying I agree with her certification, just trying to see both sides.

    • You rock, Michael. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Great analysis Jason. I think Mari has handled the whole flap with grace. The whole problem with any of this is the “certification” term and like @MikeVolpe said – the market will determine the value of this training. Everyone is freaking out about who's qualified to teach who but if you have a market who values your training then that's all that matters.

  • Great analysis Jason. I think Mari has handled the whole flap with grace. The whole problem with any of this is the “certification” term and like @MikeVolpe said – the market will determine the value of this training. Everyone is freaking out about who's qualified to teach who but if you have a market who values your training then that's all that matters.

    • Thanks heaps for the tweetout and your kind words here, Mary. You've summed it up in one phrase – “if you have a market who values your training.”

      Not only that, but time will also prove that the market for our grads will value the training they received. It's early days yet… but I have time, and patience, to deal with the naysayers and fencesitters.

      It's a brave new world and we're shaping social media together, collectively, collaboratively… nobody “owns” this space.

      As one of my mentors T. Harv Eker says, “How you do anything is how you do everything” ~ Kudos to Jason for publishing an intelligent post on this topic. My respect for him as an SM leader has elevated even further as a result.

    • Agreed. Thanks for stopping by.

  • That is is, Whitney. Thanks for that perspective. I don't blame folks
    for pushing back a bit to make sure she's serving the community well,
    but I agree … she's an inspiration to a lot of folks.

  • That is is, Whitney. Thanks for that perspective. I don't blame folks
    for pushing back a bit to make sure she's serving the community well,
    but I agree … she's an inspiration to a lot of folks.

  • Guess that's a fair point, David. I certainly hope you run into a
    social media consultant some day that isn't what you describe. Perhaps
    we could meet some day. ;-)

  • Well said, Sam. Thank you!

  • Awesome, Chris. I'll make sure Mari sees the comment and put her in
    touch with you if need be. Thanks again for being so willing to offer
    constructive thoughts for them.

  • Wow. Great response, Rebeca. Thanks for that. And awesome Twit2Fit
    analogy!

  • David

    I've met my fair share of social media consultants… professionals… advisers… etc. I have yet to discern what makes them special, or what gives them the right to charge for their services when the information they are dispensing is almost always readily available on this wonderful thing we like to call the Internet. All they do is present it in a nice binder, make an appointment with a company, and then charge that company an arm and a leg when one of the company's paid employees could probably do the same stuff with a little bit of research.

    Certification, IMO, would only give these “consultants” an excuse to charge more.

  • David

    I've met my fair share of social media consultants… professionals… advisers… etc. I have yet to discern what makes them special, or what gives them the right to charge for their services when the information they are dispensing is almost always readily available on this wonderful thing we like to call the Internet. All they do is present it in a nice binder, make an appointment with a company, and then charge that company an arm and a leg when one of the company's paid employees could probably do the same stuff with a little bit of research.

    Certification, IMO, would only give these “consultants” an excuse to charge more.

  • David

    I've met my fair share of social media consultants… professionals… advisers… etc. I have yet to discern what makes them special, or what gives them the right to charge for their services when the information they are dispensing is almost always readily available on this wonderful thing we like to call the Internet. All they do is present it in a nice binder, make an appointment with a company, and then charge that company an arm and a leg when one of the company's paid employees could probably do the same stuff with a little bit of research.

    Certification, IMO, would only give these “consultants” an excuse to charge more.

  • David

    I've met my fair share of social media consultants… professionals… advisers… etc. I have yet to discern what makes them special, or what gives them the right to charge for their services when the information they are dispensing is almost always readily available on this wonderful thing we like to call the Internet. All they do is present it in a nice binder, make an appointment with a company, and then charge that company an arm and a leg when one of the company's paid employees could probably do the same stuff with a little bit of research.

    Certification, IMO, would only give these “consultants” an excuse to charge more.

    • Guess that's a fair point, David. I certainly hope you run into a
      social media consultant some day that isn't what you describe. Perhaps
      we could meet some day. ;-)

      • David

        Perhaps. :-) Thanks for taking the time to reply. BTW, if there are any social media consultants out there that are looking to hire, let me know. Clearly, there's money to be made…

  • I applaud @MariSmith for forming a paid membership site with a topic that she know a tremendous amount about.If you can turn your hobby or your career into a membership site while offering great content. The sky is the limit.

  • I applaud @MariSmith for forming a paid membership site with a topic that she know a tremendous amount about.If you can turn your hobby or your career into a membership site while offering great content. The sky is the limit.

    • That is is, Whitney. Thanks for that perspective. I don't blame folks
      for pushing back a bit to make sure she's serving the community well,
      but I agree … she's an inspiration to a lot of folks.

      • Ah, thanks Jason – what a lovely thing to say.

        Indeedy, I agree wholeheartedly about the “serving the community well” assessment.

        Whenever I do my talks and get off stage – I imagine you'll agree as a fellow speaker – the strokes are lovely and feel good at the time… but they don't really help us to grow and become even better. It's when folks provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement, that real growth can occur… provided we take action. ;)

    • Thank you, Whitney. I appreciate your props.

  • Let me say that I, for one, am not a fan of certification in an industry as young as ours. We are growing by leaps and bounds every week and new data is informing our decisions does as well. But there are plenty of industries that have gone through this type of growth and we can learn from them. Here's my take on 2 divergent approaches we've all seen within the last 5 years:

    1) The Wild West: Industry: Behavioral Targeting. Remember 3-4 years ago when BT was the golden ticket for marketing? A group of cutting edge technologies and marketers went to town but did little to in the way of organizing themselves. Questions arose about how much PII was being collected and consumers started to voice skepticism about how their information was being tracked/used. The as a result of the lack of organization it was blow WAY out of proportion and there were even congressional inquiries.

    2) Professional Guidelines: Industry: Email Marketing. In 2003ish there was little distinction between spammers and email marketers. In fact, many business shied away from using email as a marketing channel for fear of being considered as spammers. A group of technology vendors and email marketers banded together to create a set of guidelines that “good” email marketers would adhere to and even lobbied in favor of the CAN-SPAM act. The end result was an increased willingness for companies to use email as a legitimate marketing channel.

    My point is that the real benefit to us getting together as an industry to have these conversations is not about certification but rather protecting our industry against the negative (remember the outburst of emotion about astroturfing, imagine what is going to happen to us if people stopped trusting online reviews and comments) and helping business better understand the role social media can play in their operations. So lets not put the cart before the horse. Start with a real, honest conversation around the known practices in this industry and lets create a set of professional guidelines that we, as social media professionals, can agree to follow. With organizations out there like The Community Roundtable, ForumOne, WOMMA, and others we have means to get this done- we just have to make it a priority.

  • Let me say that I, for one, am not a fan of certification in an industry as young as ours. We are growing by leaps and bounds every week and new data is informing our decisions does as well. But there are plenty of industries that have gone through this type of growth and we can learn from them. Here's my take on 2 divergent approaches we've all within the last 5 years:

    1) The Wild West: Industry: Behavioral Targeting. Remember 3-4 years ago when BT was the golden ticket for marketing? A group of cutting edge technologies and marketers went to town but did little to in the way of organizing themselves. Questions arose about how much PII was being collected and consumers started to voice skepticism about how their information was being tracked/used. The as a result of the lack of organization it was blow WAY out of proportion and there were even congressional inquiries.

    2) Professional Guidelines: Industry: Email Marketing. In 2003ish there was little distinction between spammers and email marketers. In fact, many business shied away from using email as a marketing channel for fear of being considered as spammers. A group of technology vendors and email marketers banded together to create a set of guidelines that “good” email marketers would adhere to and even lobbied in favor of the CAN-SPAM act. The end result was an increased willingness for companies to use email as a legitimate marketing channel.

    My point is that the real benefit to us getting together as an industry to have these conversations is not about certification but rather protecting our industry against the negative (remember the outburst of emotion about astroturfing, imagine what is going to happen to us if people stopped trusting online reviews and comments) and helping business better understand the role social media can play in their operations. So lets not put the cart before the horse. Start with a real, honest conversation around the known practices in this industry and lets create a set of professional guidelines that we, as social media professionals, can agree to follow. With organizations out there like The Community Roundtable, ForumOne, WOMMA, and others we have means to get this done- we just have to make it a priority.

  • One of my early New Year's resolutions is trying to be pointed (even critical) without being offensive or unconstructive when needed. Some times I'm more successful that others :)

    Thinking through this a bit more, I see two possibilities for ISMA to consider:
    1. If serious about continuing to use the concept of certification, get in touch with folks from ASAE who can help guide the conversation in a direction that adheres to what the NCCA considers a rigorous certification process. And if ISMA needs intros to the right folks at ASAE, please let me know.

    2. Offer a certificate to certification process model. Everyone begins in the certificate program. This seems to be what ISMA is currently offering right now with their eight week program. It's simply training that ends with a certificate. Then, ISMA creates a true credentialing program for those who wish to become certified. At the end of the certification program, they will need to complete standards-based testing to receive their designation. This is a model used by the Coaches Training Institute (http://www.thecoaches.com/).

    My only recommendation is that if ISMA is going to do this, they commit to doing it in a way that emphasizes strong standards that will stand up to tests from within the growing industry and from the world outside.

  • This might be a little all over the place, so please forgive me.

    I believe the aspiring newbies to the social media consultancy world (or any practice for that matter) would be best served to take their time, research, listen and learn before jumping in full force to what some (myself included) might consider a “pricey” certificate-producing experience. That doesn't mean the certification lacks merit or won't satisfy the immediate needs of another individual. If it's the kick in the pants they need to commit to a new career path, so be it. I would caution those individuals to seek out as many resources as possible to keep the fire burning, however.

    Comparatively speaking, I feel that time and steady discipline will help some people reach their weight loss and fitness goals. Eating well, working off calories, strengthening muscles – this may take a year, two years, to pay off – but it can and will, and in a healthy way. Some people will spend their money on rapid weight loss products and magical fitness equipment – and it can definitely work for them. But you better believe if they go back to cupcakes and beer on a regular basis, they will be planning for the same old New Year's resolution again. How's that for a nice Twit2Fit analogy? ;) Mmmm cupcakes…

    The point is, we all have the free will to select the method that we feel will pay off for us in whatever time frame makes us feel comfortable. But just like the Photoshop class, if you don't use those skills, you lose them. And in this space, if you don't stay on top of the conversations, and broaden your listening scope, you will be at a loss.

    From someone who listens a lot and just tries to follow along and learn a thing or two, it's always disconcerting to me when people throw around lists of the Social Media heavyweights. Like Kevin Palmer mentioned in his guest post on SME earlier this year, ” …when composing these lists are the people constructing them even looking past the obvious? Are they actually exploring and listening? Or just repeating what has been told to them like a kid telling his friends the best team in a sport is the one his dad likes?” – like Beth replied on that post, there needs to be a starting point. But after a while we need to determine for ourselves where we can find MORE.

    I am glad you pointed out Olivier's post, because I wouldn't have found it otherwise, and I think the concerns he raises have merit. I've never heard of him before, but I will follow him now because it's another point of view that might offer me some great nuggets of information, or at the very least, more entries with engaging commentary.

    I'm actually surprised (though maybe I shouldn't be) that people took such issue with the assertion that they were acting in a “me-too” way. And lemmings was his word, not yours. Venomous was strong for my perception of the post, though I agree that there was a mean-spirited measure, like someone else had pointed out.

    “Many of us are concerned about the welfare of people who might be led to believe that a $2,995 'certification' will somehow prepare them to be social media professionals and perhaps even get a job in the industry” – I wonder at what point we stop holding people accountable for the decisions they make for themselves and their careers?

  • This might be a little all over the place, so please forgive me.

    I believe the aspiring newbies to the social media consultancy world (or any practice for that matter) would be best served to take their time, research, listen and learn before jumping in full force to what some (myself included) might consider a “pricey” certificate-producing experience. That doesn't mean the certification lacks merit or won't satisfy the immediate needs of another individual. If it's the kick in the pants they need to commit to a new career path, so be it. I would caution those individuals to seek out as many resources as possible to keep the fire burning, however.

    Comparatively speaking, I feel that time and steady discipline will help some people reach their weight loss and fitness goals. Eating well, working off calories, strengthening muscles – this may take a year, two years, to pay off – but it can and will, and in a healthy way. Some people will spend their money on rapid weight loss products and magical fitness equipment – and it can definitely work for them. But you better believe if they go back to cupcakes and beer on a regular basis, they will be planning for the same old New Year's resolution again. How's that for a nice Twit2Fit analogy? ;) Mmmm cupcakes…

    The point is, we all have the free will to select the method that we feel will pay off for us in whatever time frame makes us feel comfortable. But just like the Photoshop class, if you don't use those skills, you lose them. And in this space, if you don't stay on top of the conversations, and broaden your listening scope, you will be at a loss.

    From someone who listens a lot and just tries to follow along and learn a thing or two, it's always disconcerting to me when people throw around lists of the Social Media heavyweights. Like Kevin Palmer mentioned in his guest post on SME earlier this year, ” …when composing these lists are the people constructing them even looking past the obvious? Are they actually exploring and listening? Or just repeating what has been told to them like a kid telling his friends the best team in a sport is the one his dad likes?” – like Beth replied on that post, there needs to be a starting point. But after a while we need to determine for ourselves where we can find MORE.

    I am glad you pointed out Olivier's post, because I wouldn't have found it otherwise, and I think the concerns he raises have merit. I've never heard of him before, but I will follow him now because it's another point of view that might offer me some great nuggets of information, or at the very least, more entries with engaging commentary.

    I'm actually surprised (though maybe I shouldn't be) that people took such issue with the assertion that they were acting in a “me-too” way. And lemmings was his word, not yours. Venomous was strong for my perception of the post, though I agree that there was a mean-spirited measure, like someone else had pointed out.

    “Many of us are concerned about the welfare of people who might be led to believe that a $2,995 'certification' will somehow prepare them to be social media professionals and perhaps even get a job in the industry” – I wonder at what point we stop holding people accountable for the decisions they make for themselves and their careers?

    • Wow. Great response, Rebeca. Thanks for that. And awesome Twit2Fit
      analogy!

  • I've actually been asked about SM certification in the past, and it always takes me aback. Maybe it shouldn't at this point. Who knows?

  • I've actually been asked about SM certification in the past, and it always takes me aback. Maybe it shouldn't at this point. Who knows?

  • It's also a good business move for Hubspot. If you trust Hubspot enough to allow them to certify you, you're likely to go back to them when you encounter something you need an external consultant for.

    Brilliant.

  • Thanks Mari. Well said. I hope the feedback from people here and on Olivier's site can help ISMA become better. Still think it's a better approach to call it something other than certification, but again don't have a problem with anyone trying it. Happy to have you here to contribute.

  • Thank you, Chris. I certainly see your points about the ISMA's copy and lack of full disclosure on the training and benefits. I'm confident Mari and others there are taking the feedback into full consideration and changes will likely come from it. While the conversation has been somewhat frustrating for some, it's not come without benefits. We're discussing it there and here and behind closed doors as well. This will all be good and we all appreciate the perspective of someone who has been more involved in associations.

    As I've stated before my original offerings on Olivier's post had nothing to do with certification but about the almost attack-like stance he and some commentors seemed to have on the ISMA and Mari. Your comment above offers fair and seeming non-emotional, constructive criticism. I don't think many of the things said on Olivier's site had the same effect. My hope is that the conversation could come back to a constructive stance, which it has here and on Olivier's subsequent posts.

    Thank you for the constructive feedback on ISMA. I obviously don't speak for them, but know they're reading and making note of the opinions. In the end, this all should be good for them and all concerned. Appreciate your taking the time.

  • Jason, here are my thoughts and not much has really changed since my comments to Olivier's original post. If anything, I've probably become more staunch in my position. I spent too much time on the association side of things haggling with members over certification to see this as a minor issue.

    Let me start by saying the reason there are these misperceptions of the ISMA certification is because there is such little description of the process on the organization's site. After completing the process, what is an individual actually able to do? Additionally, they'd do better by first changing the URL link from http://www.ismaconnects.org/?page=mari and disconnect the program from any one individual. Is this Mari's certification or ISMA's? Finally, the marketing of the page also doesn't lend itself to professional credibility. Here's just one quoted piece: “Yes! You Can Establish Yourself As A Thought Leader And An Industry Expert, Create a Stampede of Top Paying Clients, Find Lucrative Joint Venture Partnerships, and Make TONS More Money…” What type of person is supposed to be attracted by this promotion? I think when a lot of us see this type of writing, we instantly see snake oil sales…regardless of whether that is the organization's intent. It's perception that creates reality.

    Secondly, I'm sorry but must I disagree with your decision to not delve into the semantics of what ISMA is offering is certification or training. I believe there's a huge difference here. I have former colleagues in the association world who worked their tail off to achieve a “Certified Association Executive” (CAE) credential that has the weight of not only a recognized body behind it (ASAE) and authority of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies but has the rigor of standards-based learning objectives. In order to achieve a CAE designation, you have to pass a test. So, in this way, training and credentialing are not mutually exclusive but go hand-in-hand.

    For me, what I would like to see from ISMA is something in line with the certification process of ASAE or PRSA. While there is always going to be controversy around any certification program, at least there is transparency in their processes that clearly states what someone who finishes the program is actually qualified to do. If ISMA is going to create a certification process, I believe that we should hold them accountable to higher standards than what we've seen so far. I really don't think that's too much to ask for.

  • Jason, here are my thoughts and not much has really changed since my comments to Olivier's original post. If anything, I've probably become more staunch in my position. I spent too much time on the association side of things haggling with members over certification to see this as a minor issue.

    Let me start by saying the reason there are these misperceptions of the ISMA certification is because there is such little description of the process on the organization's site. After completing the process, what is an individual actually able to do? Additionally, they'd do better by first changing the URL link from http://www.ismaconnects.org/?page=mari and disconnect the program from any one individual. Is this Mari's certification or ISMA's? Finally, the marketing of the page also doesn't lend itself to professional credibility. Here's just one quoted piece: “Yes! You Can Establish Yourself As A Thought Leader And An Industry Expert, Create a Stampede of Top Paying Clients, Find Lucrative Joint Venture Partnerships, and Make TONS More Money…” What type of person is supposed to be attracted by this promotion? I think when a lot of us see this type of writing, we instantly see snake oil sales…regardless of whether that is the organization's intent. It's perception that creates reality.

    Secondly, I'm sorry but must I disagree with your decision to not delve into the semantics of what ISMA is offering is certification or training. I believe there's a huge difference here. I have former colleagues in the association world who worked their tail off to achieve a “Certified Association Executive” (CAE) credential that has the weight of not only a recognized body behind it (ASAE) and authority of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies but has the rigor of standards-based learning objectives. In order to achieve a CAE designation, you have to pass a test. So, in this way, training and credentialing are not mutually exclusive but go hand-in-hand.

    For me, what I would like to see from ISMA is something in line with the certification process of ASAE or PRSA. While there is always going to be controversy around any certification program, at least there is transparency in their processes that clearly states what someone who finishes the program is actually qualified to do. If ISMA is going to create a certification process, I believe that we should hold them accountable to higher standards than what we've seen so far. I really don't think that's too much to ask for.

    • Thank you, Chris. I certainly see your points about the ISMA's copy and lack of full disclosure on the training and benefits. I'm confident Mari and others there are taking the feedback into full consideration and changes will likely come from it. While the conversation has been somewhat frustrating for some, it's not come without benefits. We're discussing it there and here and behind closed doors as well. This will all be good and we all appreciate the perspective of someone who has been more involved in associations.

      As I've stated before my original offerings on Olivier's post had nothing to do with certification but about the almost attack-like stance he and some commentors seemed to have on the ISMA and Mari. Your comment above offers fair and seeming non-emotional, constructive criticism. I don't think many of the things said on Olivier's site had the same effect. My hope is that the conversation could come back to a constructive stance, which it has here and on Olivier's subsequent posts.

      Thank you for the constructive feedback on ISMA. I obviously don't speak for them, but know they're reading and making note of the opinions. In the end, this all should be good for them and all concerned. Appreciate your taking the time.

      • One of my early New Year's resolutions is trying to be pointed (even critical) without being offensive or unconstructive when needed. Some times I'm more successful that others :)

        Thinking through this a bit more, I see two possibilities for ISMA to consider:
        1. If serious about continuing to use the concept of certification, get in touch with folks from ASAE who can help guide the conversation in a direction that adheres to what the NCCA considers a rigorous certification process. And if ISMA needs intros to the right folks at ASAE, please let me know.

        2. Offer a certificate to certification process model. Everyone begins in the certificate program. This seems to be what ISMA is currently offering right now with their eight week program. It's simply training that ends with a certificate. Then, ISMA creates a true credentialing program for those who wish to become certified. At the end of the certification program, they will need to complete standards-based testing to receive their designation. This is a model used by the Coaches Training Institute (http://www.thecoaches.com/).

        My only recommendation is that if ISMA is going to do this, they commit to doing it in a way that emphasizes strong standards that will stand up to tests from within the growing industry and from the world outside.

        • Awesome, Chris. I'll make sure Mari sees the comment and put her in
          touch with you if need be. Thanks again for being so willing to offer
          constructive thoughts for them.

  • Jason, your thoughtful post is such a valuable contribution to this industry discussion.

    I think one of the challenges with the “concept” of social media certification is folks make assumptions that anyone could just go through a course, hang up a piece of paper and start consulting.

    But it takes in-the-trenches experience to make a solid, credible professional… in any industry. It's results that matter, not the piece of paper.

    So you have a Catch22 – similar to when you leave school and go get a job: the prospective employer insists you must have experience. How do you get experience without a job?

    At ISMA (and my Mentor with Mari program prior), our students, graduates and instructors form teams, collaborate and work with real clients to gain tremendous collective experience and real case studies. Each individual draws on their own area of specialty and experience in related industries. We are fortunate to work with many high level clients in this way and produce significant, measurable success.

    And, there isn't one social media professional – seasoned or just starting – who can possibly fulfill the entire scope of one client's needs. (Some of my graduates have gone on to form their own consulting practice as a team).

    Social media is an emerging and rapidly evolving industry; training courses (certification or otherwise) need to include field auditing, ongoing support and additional advanced training to do the SM industry justice. Our certification course is only one aspect of our offerings… this is only the beginning. ISMA is all about continuing education, support, community, collaboration, resources. Much of our offerings are free of charge – thanks for pointing this out, Jason. :)

    I imagine there will always be vastly differing opinions on the topic of social media certification: whether it's needed, whether it's too soon, who conducts the trainings, who certifies, who certifies the certifiers.

    However as many individuals have pointed out in the past few days, there are already several organizations and courses on the market and this will only continue to grow.

    So, I encourage anyone who has any desire to make a profound difference on the planet – in the social media industry or otherwise – to go forth and make your own dreams a reality. If your intentions are honorable, and you're committed to upholding professional standards, you will succeed.

    As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The doors are wide open at ISMA to welcome other thoughtful, committed citizens.

  • Jason, your thoughtful post is such a valuable contribution to this industry discussion.

    I think one of the challenges with the “concept” of social media certification is folks make assumptions that anyone could just go through a course, hang up a piece of paper and start consulting.

    But it takes in-the-trenches experience to make a solid, credible professional… in any industry. It's results that matter, not the piece of paper.

    So you have a Catch22 – similar to when you leave school and go get a job: the prospective employer insists you must have experience. How do you get experience without a job?

    At ISMA (and my Mentor with Mari program prior), our students, graduates and instructors form teams, collaborate and work with real clients to gain tremendous collective experience and real case studies. Each individual draws on their own area of specialty and experience in related industries. We are fortunate to work with many high level clients in this way and produce significant, measurable success.

    And, there isn't one social media professional – seasoned or just starting – who can possibly fulfill the entire scope of one client's needs. (Some of my graduates have gone on to form their own consulting practice as a team).

    Social media is an emerging and rapidly evolving industry; training courses (certification or otherwise) need to include field auditing, ongoing support and additional advanced training to do the SM industry justice. Our certification course is only one aspect of our offerings… this is only the beginning. ISMA is all about continuing education, support, community, collaboration, resources. Much of our offerings are free of charge – thanks for pointing this out, Jason. :)

    I imagine there will always be vastly differing opinions on the topic of social media certification: whether it's needed, whether it's too soon, who conducts the trainings, who certifies, who certifies the certifiers.

    However as many individuals have pointed out in the past few days, there are already several organizations and courses on the market and this will only continue to grow.

    So, I encourage anyone who has any desire to make a profound difference on the planet – in the social media industry or otherwise – to go forth and make your own dreams a reality. If your intentions are honorable, and you're committed to upholding professional standards, you will succeed.

    As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The doors are wide open at ISMA to welcome other thoughtful, committed citizens.

    • Thanks Mari. Well said. I hope the feedback from people here and on Olivier's site can help ISMA become better. Still think it's a better approach to call it something other than certification, but again don't have a problem with anyone trying it. Happy to have you here to contribute.

      • Yes, for sure – ISMA will benefit tremendously from the collective feedback. Though some aspects of it were tough to stomach at the time (!), there really have been some excellent suggestions for improvement… including retooling the title. ;)

  • Thanks Jennifer. The one point that gets lost in this whole discussion
    is that you don't hear the marketing and brand managers complaining
    about the so-called social media experts. Because they're smart enough
    not to hire folks they can't prove are credible. Get certified all you
    want. It doesn't matter to them. Heh.

  • Fair points, Lisa. I think there is some benefit to a certification,
    but I've been certified by New Horizons because I took a course in
    Photoshop. Doesn't make me a graphic designer. They can be helpful,
    but are really only valuable based on the organization that backs them
    up and the knowledge you can provide as a result of the learning. In
    the end, though, I still say no one has ever asked me to produce any
    certifications that I know what I'm doing other than real world
    examples of my work. That's why I think this whole discussion is kinda
    pointless. Thanks for chiming in nonetheless. Appreciate your thoughts
    here.

  • Jason,
    Thanks for bringing the discussion back to the issue. I personally don't see what the big deal is with certification. What about private companies that are offering Virtual Assistant certification? As far as I know no one seems to mind this. Actually, it's rather nice for business owners to go to the certifying company and know that they can find a VA that has been trained and ready to start work.

    I get questions all the time about my personal recommendations for VAs and it's nice to be able to say check out this company who I know has great training and certifies VAs. This same thing could be said for social media.

    I recently heard a crazy stat that a huge number of people of Twitter with over 2,000 followers call themselves a social media expert. So I would think companies would be really confused on trying to find the actual people who can help them figure out the social media wave.

    To me it really seemed like people had an issue with the price point. And after watching Olivier's video he agreed that certification was ok, but just didn't like this group doing it. A lot of what I know now came from training after college. I don't see why just because it's at a college setting would make the training any better.

  • Jason,
    Thanks for bringing the discussion back to the issue. I personally don't see what the big deal is with certification. What about private companies that are offering Virtual Assistant certification? As far as I know no one seems to mind this. Actually, it's rather nice for business owners to go to the certifying company and know that they can find a VA that has been trained and ready to start work.

    I get questions all the time about my personal recommendations for VAs and it's nice to be able to say check out this company who I know has great training and certifies VAs. This same thing could be said for social media.

    I recently heard a crazy stat that a huge number of people of Twitter with over 2,000 followers call themselves a social media expert. So I would think companies would be really confused on trying to find the actual people who can help them figure out the social media wave.

    To me it really seemed like people had an issue with the price point. And after watching Olivier's video he agreed that certification was ok, but just didn't like this group doing it. A lot of what I know now came from training after college. I don't see why just because it's at a college setting would make the training any better.

    • Thanks Jennifer. The one point that gets lost in this whole discussion
      is that you don't hear the marketing and brand managers complaining
      about the so-called social media experts. Because they're smart enough
      not to hire folks they can't prove are credible. Get certified all you
      want. It doesn't matter to them. Heh.

  • Great thoughts, Gina. Thank you!

  • Very interesting post, Jason. Your point about social media being such a young medium is what really stuck out at me. And while there are plenty of free webinars and such, some offered by some fantastic teachers (some not), I think the key here is if a teacher has respect from their peers as well as the expertise to back it up, I also agree that if a participant chooses to pay for that particular teacher's course, then that's that person's choice.

    I further agree that the terminology “certification” can be misconstrued if it's not referred to an accredited source. If there is a way for the ISMA to attach their “certification” to something accredited & respected, then the term is used appropriately but if not, they need to revisit that choice in description.

    Similarly, I disagree with the commenter that said (basically) that “certification” doesn't mean a hill of beans, so to speak. On the contrary, most prospective employers don't just want to see a wealth of experience on the resume. Having a degree (sometimes ANY – Bachelor's, Associate's, Master's, Doctoral, or a certification) give educational credibility to the job seeker. Take my experience for example, I hold a Bachelor's in Elementary Education. While I am no longer teaching, having that degree has proved helpful in obtaining several jobs in the business field over the years. Most employers require a degree, preferably specialized, but they'll look at someone who has a package of experience to back up their application.

    Anyway, that's my .02. I could go on and on but why drag it out again? :)

  • Very interesting post, Jason. Your point about social media being such a young medium is what really stuck out at me. And while there are plenty of free webinars and such, some offered by some fantastic teachers (some not), I think the key here is if a teacher has respect from their peers as well as the expertise to back it up, I also agree that if a participant chooses to pay for that particular teacher's course, then that's that person's choice.

    I further agree that the terminology “certification” can be misconstrued if it's not referred to an accredited source. If there is a way for the ISMA to attach their “certification” to something accredited & respected, then the term is used appropriately but if not, they need to revisit that choice in description.

    Similarly, I disagree with the commenter that said (basically) that “certification” doesn't mean a hill of beans, so to speak. On the contrary, most prospective employers don't just want to see a wealth of experience on the resume. Having a degree (sometimes ANY – Bachelor's, Associate's, Master's, Doctoral, or a certification) give educational credibility to the job seeker. Take my experience for example, I hold a Bachelor's in Elementary Education. While I am no longer teaching, having that degree has proved helpful in obtaining several jobs in the business field over the years. Most employers require a degree, preferably specialized, but they'll look at someone who has a package of experience to back up their application.

    Anyway, that's my .02. I could go on and on but why drag it out again? :)

    • Fair points, Lisa. I think there is some benefit to a certification,
      but I've been certified by New Horizons because I took a course in
      Photoshop. Doesn't make me a graphic designer. They can be helpful,
      but are really only valuable based on the organization that backs them
      up and the knowledge you can provide as a result of the learning. In
      the end, though, I still say no one has ever asked me to produce any
      certifications that I know what I'm doing other than real world
      examples of my work. That's why I think this whole discussion is kinda
      pointless. Thanks for chiming in nonetheless. Appreciate your thoughts
      here.

  • Sorry about the typos. The wind here blew my usually fast fingers across the keyboard :)

  • Frankly, I think certifications are becoming a thing for social mecreddia because mainsteam businesses are reticent to hire people without some piece of paper that can be used to justfy their hiring. Certifications for other businesses (such as real estate) have come under fire because some have lost their credibility and are just now bringing the new-er ways of doing real estate marketing into the picture (e-agent types of certs).

    I think it was the price that kind of smacked me in the eyeballs. With the fluidity of social media's platforms, tools and applications of those, it makes sense to me that social media is more of a collaboration and thus does not command a high price for what appears to be a fairly static offering as far as I've seen. Even Hubspot didn't change a lot of content with the past offering, something which, if I were a presenter, I may not appreciate. People are starting to understand the very basic tenets of social and new media and that some things are consistent in application. However a method of presentation or references to newer platforms etc. could be essential to timeliness of the certification and training.

    Subsequent offerings from any of the certifying organizations will show value and whether or not people are willing to pony up funds. This also leaves the field wide open for the obvious busines decision to take advantage of the lack of certifying organizations within the sphere. With social media jobs going for either pennies on the dollar, an average of $80K/year (per recent survey) or a high roller price for top high-level thinking social media strategists, businesses will no doubt require some sort of evidence of knowledge.

  • Frankly, I think certifications are becoming a thing for social mecreddia because mainsteam businesses are reticent to hire people without some piece of paper that can be used to justfy their hiring. Certifications for other businesses (such as real estate) have come under fire because some have lost their credibility and are just now bringing the new-er ways of doing real estate marketing into the picture (e-agent types of certs).

    I think it was the price that kind of smacked me in the eyeballs. With the fluidity of social media's platforms, tools and applications of those, it makes sense to me that social media is more of a collaboration and thus does not command a high price for what appears to be a fairly static offering as far as I've seen. Even Hubspot didn't change a lot of content with the past offering, something which, if I were a presenter, I may not appreciate. People are starting to understand the very basic tenets of social and new media and that some things are consistent in application. However a method of presentation or references to newer platforms etc. could be essential to timeliness of the certification and training.

    Subsequent offerings from any of the certifying organizations will show value and whether or not people are willing to pony up funds. This also leaves the field wide open for the obvious busines decision to take advantage of the lack of certifying organizations within the sphere. With social media jobs going for either pennies on the dollar, an average of $80K/year (per recent survey) or a high roller price for top high-level thinking social media strategists, businesses will no doubt require some sort of evidence of knowledge.

    • Sorry about the typos. The wind here blew my usually fast fingers across the keyboard :)

    • Great thoughts, Gina. Thank you!

  • Awesome! Thanks for stopping by, Axel. I'm certainly glad you're doing
    what you're doing and being transparent about it. And the statement
    that certification is nothing but a document that confirms what a
    student learned is exactly what people need to remember. Coming from
    you, that's something people will listen to. Thanks again for chiming
    in here. Keep on keepin' on, my friend.

  • axelschultze

    Jason,
    I'm glad you picked up the topic and it seems to be a more professional, less emotional discussion here ;-)

    The “Industry” is now over 6 years old. I worked with LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guereke beginning in 2003 onwards to help introduce the concept. I was one of the first blogging CEOs in 2004 and helped other CEOs to understand and develop social media strategies since 2006. I never joined the “social media marketing” hype, but always focused on the business strategy side with topics such as “Cross Functional Engagement”, “Customer Experience Management”, Customer Advocacy Development”. In 2010 Social Media is at least 7 years old and it's about time to put some stake in the ground.

    A certification is nothing but a document that confirms what a student learned. Nothing more and nothing less. And whenever some now subject matter needs to be understood many will create certificates. Only time will tell which one are the best. And only time can polish and improve ones work.

    The Social Media Academy started with certifying students and we try hard to make it as transparent as possible.
    Here is what we certify:
    http://www.socialmedia-academy.com/html/certifi
    Here is our entrance exam
    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=7olqhNTyQ
    Here is our Alumni
    http://www.socialmedia-academy.com/html/alumni.cfm
    Anybody can touch base with any student and ask about their experience. We don't have “reference students”, or “What our students say” page. Instead talk to them directly – be social ;-)

    I guess the discussion is good for three reasons:
    1) It's vetting the concept
    2) It forces the ones who are teaching to be more transparent
    3) It shows that we actually ARE becoming an industry

    Axel
    http://xeesm.com/AxelS

  • axelschultze

    Jason,
    I'm glad you picked up the topic and it seems to be a more professional, less emotional discussion here ;-)

    The “Industry” is now over 6 years old. I worked with LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guereke beginning in 2003 onwards to help introduce the concept. I was one of the first blogging CEOs in 2004 and helped other CEOs to understand and develop social media strategies since 2006. I never joined the “social media marketing” hype, but always focused on the business strategy side with topics such as “Cross Functional Engagement”, “Customer Experience Management”, Customer Advocacy Development”. In 2010 Social Media is at least 7 years old and it's about time to put some stake in the ground.

    A certification is nothing but a document that confirms what a student learned. Nothing more and nothing less. And whenever some now subject matter needs to be understood many will create certificates. Only time will tell which one are the best. And only time can polish and improve ones work.

    The Social Media Academy started with certifying students and we try hard to make it as transparent as possible.
    Here is what we certify:
    http://www.socialmedia-academy.com/html/certifi
    Here is our entrance exam
    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=7olqhNTyQ
    Here is our Alumni
    http://www.socialmedia-academy.com/html/alumni.cfm
    Anybody can touch base with any student and ask about their experience. We don't have “reference students”, or “What our students say” page. Instead talk to them directly – be social ;-)

    I guess the discussion is good for three reasons:
    1) It's vetting the concept
    2) It forces the ones who are teaching to be more transparent
    3) It shows that we actually ARE becoming an industry

    Axel
    http://xeesm.com/AxelS

    • Awesome! Thanks for stopping by, Axel. I'm certainly glad you're doing
      what you're doing and being transparent about it. And the statement
      that certification is nothing but a document that confirms what a
      student learned is exactly what people need to remember. Coming from
      you, that's something people will listen to. Thanks again for chiming
      in here. Keep on keepin' on, my friend.

      • axelschultze

        Hi there,
        sorry, due to over 2,000 spam emails per day, I had to turn this
        email account down. Please contact me on my business email
        or through any of my social network sites (see below).

        Thanks

        Axel
        All my social network sites

  • Exactly Mike. You nailed it.

    I teach social media classes for the University of San Francisco, along with affiliate marketing, web analytics, email, usability, search, etc… Online marketing in general. It's all about learning. Education. People are getting way too caught up in the “certification”. It's not you get certified and now you instantly get a job with NASA as an astronaut.

    We all know that you earn your way into being an expert, this will make no difference. I applaud Mari's work to be one of the first to do this.

  • Thanks for the chuckle!

  • Great points, Rich. Thank you for those.

  • Some Carlos guy I met once. Heh.

  • Some Carlos guy I met once. Heh.

  • Well said, Suzanne. Don't disagree with you at all. Thanks for the
    comment.

  • Well said, Suzanne. Don't disagree with you at all. Thanks for the
    comment.

  • Who is responsible to certify the certifiers?

  • Who is responsible to certify the certifiers?

  • Jason

    I agree that this needs to be put to bed however here is my $.02.

    certification would/should mean that it comes from an accredited source to have any value whatsoever. I think that certification is the wrong term to use. The target for a program of this nature is newbies I would expect. If they are unaware that the cert would have no value at all in the inbound mkt realm then they are being misled. I have NEVER been asked by a client to whip out my CV to show where I went to college, how many bachelor degrees I have nor any training that I have. They want to see results for other clients and see how I can help them. That's all.

    While I appreciate what they are doing to help people learn social media, a certification is telling them that they can go and use it to possibly get business or a job. Not going to happen. There is NO way that people will walk out of a week long or however long series of webinars and be able to say they have learned it all and are ready to take on projects. Yes people have to start somewhere but the knowledge that you have certainly was not learned over a series of webinars.

    If people want to spend $3K then that is their choice. I think that they would be going about it wrong – if you want that kind of information, how about they hop on a plane to Louisville and take you to a lunch/dinner combo and pay you the $3K or any of the proven leaders in the industry. I am not making light of it but I think paying you or someone else the money they will walk away with more knowledge.

    That is my take.

  • Jason

    I agree that this needs to be put to bed however here is my $.02.

    certification would/should mean that it comes from an accredited source to have any value whatsoever. I think that certification is the wrong term to use. The target for a program of this nature is newbies I would expect. If they are unaware that the cert would have no value at all in the inbound mkt realm then they are being misled. I have NEVER been asked by a client to whip out my CV to show where I went to college, how many bachelor degrees I have nor any training that I have. They want to see results for other clients and see how I can help them. That's all.

    While I appreciate what they are doing to help people learn social media, a certification is telling them that they can go and use it to possibly get business or a job. Not going to happen. There is NO way that people will walk out of a week long or however long series of webinars and be able to say they have learned it all and are ready to take on projects. Yes people have to start somewhere but the knowledge that you have certainly was not learned over a series of webinars.

    If people want to spend $3K then that is their choice. I think that they would be going about it wrong – if you want that kind of information, how about they hop on a plane to Louisville and take you to a lunch/dinner combo and pay you the $3K or any of the proven leaders in the industry. I am not making light of it but I think paying you or someone else the money they will walk away with more knowledge.

    That is my take.

    • Well said, Suzanne. Don't disagree with you at all. Thanks for the
      comment.

  • Jason,

    Given that social media is part of communication, I might think of a social media certification as likened to being certified in hammering or sawing as opposed to being a carpenter. And given that such a certification program is likely to only skim (if it even includes) communication strategy, I suspect the model being presented is largely tactical in nature.

    While the concept has good intentions (though the price point is suspect), it doesn't seem to me that it will hold up given that universities are retooling their communication and/or journalism schools to include a much more grounded approach to education that includes, but is not limited to, social media.

    All my best,
    Rich

  • Jason,

    Given that social media is part of communication, I might think of a social media certification as likened to being certified in hammering or sawing as opposed to being a carpenter. And given that such a certification program is likely to only skim (if it even includes) communication strategy, I suspect the model being presented is largely tactical in nature.

    While the concept has good intentions (though the price point is suspect), it doesn't seem to me that it will hold up given that universities are retooling their communication and/or journalism schools to include a much more grounded approach to education that includes, but is not limited to, social media.

    All my best,
    Rich

    • Great points, Rich. Thank you for those.

  • Well said, Jeff. Thanks!

  • Great post, Jason.
    To the comments that prize experience over certification/credentials, I would agree. A certification may the “secret word” that gets you a second look, but what you've accomplished and the recommendations that follow from satisfied customers and contented colleagues. Not to say certifications are utterly useless, but the training they may represent and the opportunities they can open up to build upon that education with solid experiences are the real gold for your career.

  • Great post, Jason.
    To the comments that prize experience over certification/credentials, I would agree. A certification may the “secret word” that gets you a second look, but what you've accomplished and the recommendations that follow from satisfied customers and contented colleagues. Not to say certifications are utterly useless, but the training they may represent and the opportunities they can open up to build upon that education with solid experiences are the real gold for your career.

  • Wow. An organization charing for certification. Interested to see how
    Olivier and others respond to that one. Thanks Tom.

  • HI Jason:

    How about WOMMA which in today's email introduced their own certification program.

    http://womma.org/certificate/

    WOMMA is certainly a leader in this space with lots of leading vendors and clients participating and in the board – and providing leadership on a national level – FTC hearings and FDA SM hearings.

    For my $0.02? I could care less about certification. I care about experience.

    TO'B

  • HI Jason:

    How about WOMMA which in today's email introduced their own certification program.

    http://womma.org/certificate/

    WOMMA is certainly a leader in this space with lots of leading vendors and clients participating and in the board – and providing leadership on a national level – FTC hearings and FDA SM hearings.

    For my $0.02? I could care less about certification. I care about experience.

    TO'B

    • Wow. An organization charing for certification. Interested to see how
      Olivier and others respond to that one. Thanks Tom.

  • Amen, Mike. Thanks for the offering.

  • I don't think people should get up in arms about all of this stuff. The value of the certification will depend on how many people take it and what the quality of those people are when they talk to others in the marketplace, and the quality of the instructors. I think it will take the ISMA some time to prove that their certification is worth $3000, especially when there are other free or very cheap alternatives. But if it is good, and produces great graduates, it could catch on.

    Personally, I think it is a little weird to want to get certified in “social media” alone. It's like a carpenter getting certified in hammer skills. What about the measuring tape, saw, nails, level, and other tools? You can't do much with just a hammer. Just like you can't do much with only social media. The key is understanding how all the pieces fit together in terms of an inbound marketing strategy. In the next 1-2 years I think the industry will start to realize this, and no longer value specialists, but value those who understand integration and the complete picture.

    And yes, I am biased because HubSpot offers a free online training and certification (http://www.InboundMarketing.com) taught by industry visionaries with over 1,000 people having passed the exam and receiving certification.

  • The same issues have been swirling around search marketing for years, and search is a relatively mature discipline as compared to social media. As I see it, there are two big issues that training and/or certification programs try to address: snake oil salesmen (from the client side) and a viable point of entry into the career field (from the practitioner side).

    In my opinion, both in search and social, a training or certification program doesn't really address either effectively. That isn't to say there isn't value in training programs led by experienced professionals. But no one is going to hire you based on the fact that you paid for an completed a training program in social media (or search, for that matter) unless it's a social or search agency trying to weed out entry-level applicants and their choices are those with no training or experience, and those with training but no experience.

    Ultimately, true qualification in both fields comes with field experience. Period. There are different paths to gaining that experience (doing pro bono work for charities and non-profits seems, to me, to be a good path). But no number of hours staring at webinars is going to replace that.

    Just my opinion, FWIW.

  • The same issues have been swirling around search marketing for years, and search is a relatively mature discipline as compared to social media. As I see it, there are two big issues that training and/or certification programs try to address: snake oil salesmen (from the client side) and a viable point of entry into the career field (from the practitioner side).

    In my opinion, both in search and social, a training or certification program doesn't really address either effectively. That isn't to say there isn't value in training programs led by experienced professionals. But no one is going to hire you based on the fact that you paid for an completed a training program in social media (or search, for that matter) unless it's a social or search agency trying to weed out entry-level applicants and their choices are those with no training or experience, and those with training but no experience.

    Ultimately, true qualification in both fields comes with field experience. Period. There are different paths to gaining that experience (doing pro bono work for charities and non-profits seems, to me, to be a good path). But no number of hours staring at webinars is going to replace that.

    Just my opinion, FWIW.

  • And a valuable $0.02 it is, Chuck. Don't disagree one bit which is why I think the industry is too young to even start thinking about a blanket certification program. If ISMA and others want to sell some version of one, though, I don't have much problem with it. I think people are getting worked up over a relative non-issue. Clients don't ask me if I'm certified or accredited. They ask me if I can prove what I do will move the needle for them. If I don't, I get fired. End of story.

  • Amen, brotha Steve. Thanks.

  • Agreed. Certifications are seldom worth much more than the paper they're printed on unless they're government mandated and managed. It's the learning I'm more interested in. I think the ISMA can provide that.

  • Funny. I don't see Olivier and I having starkly contrasting viewpoints on certification other than I don't see a reason to get worked up over it. My original point and clarification here was that his original post attacked the credibility of the ISMA and its organizers, which I thought was unfair. The certification issue is adequately address, with my comments, on his second post on the matter “Let's get constructive about certification.” I added other thoughts here as well but I don't think they're diametrically on the opposite world of Olivier's.

  • Agree. Thanks Mark.

  • I don't see Hubspot's program any differently, other than I think they offer it for free. They're giving out a certificate saying you've completed a course and allowing people to claim a “certified” status. It's no different. Curious as to why no one wants to question them … probably because Hubspot is a reputable company and organization. ISMA is as well. I just don't think enough was done to verify that before the criticisms were unleashed.

    Thanks Adam.

  • Jason – Thanks for continuing the discussion about SM certification. Olivier's posts have definitely provided food for thought…

    Can I point out one problem with this entire line of dialogue? It's 100% inside baseball. At a moment when we're trying to get companies into the game, were sitting here debating who's most qualified to help them do it? Seriously? What if we talked about the best practices to getting started? What if we talked about the best practices in listening? What if we talked about the best practices in measurement? Are we already talking about these things? Sure we are, but we aren't anywhere near “institutionalizing” any of those concepts (at least in my view). I'd bet my 2010 salary that not a single company cares about social media certification. They want to know how social media can be used in their business, and then ultimately how the consultants they currently use can help.

    Anyway, just my $0.02.

  • Jason – Thanks for continuing the discussion about SM certification. Olivier's posts have definitely provided food for thought…

    Can I point out one problem with this entire line of dialogue? It's 100% inside baseball. At a moment when we're trying to get companies into the game, were sitting here debating who's most qualified to help them do it? Seriously? What if we talked about the best practices to getting started? What if we talked about the best practices in listening? What if we talked about the best practices in measurement? Are we already talking about these things? Sure we are, but we aren't anywhere near “institutionalizing” any of those concepts (at least in my view). I'd bet my 2010 salary that not a single company cares about social media certification. They want to know how social media can be used in their business, and then ultimately how the consultants they currently use can help.

    Anyway, just my $0.02.

    • And a valuable $0.02 it is, Chuck. Don't disagree one bit which is why I think the industry is too young to even start thinking about a blanket certification program. If ISMA and others want to sell some version of one, though, I don't have much problem with it. I think people are getting worked up over a relative non-issue. Clients don't ask me if I'm certified or accredited. They ask me if I can prove what I do will move the needle for them. If I don't, I get fired. End of story.

  • Nicely stated, Jason! As you can see by the comments of this and O.B.'s followup blog, the debate will be endless. Your approach cuts through the debate and gets back to the reality of the situation. Thanks. Now we can move on?

  • Nicely stated, Jason! As you can see by the comments of this and O.B.'s followup blog, the debate will be endless. Your approach cuts through the debate and gets back to the reality of the situation. Thanks. Now we can move on?

  • Certification is only as good as the reputation it brings with it. After all I hold 27 certifications in social media already-all 27 are my own little creations that I made up just now, but my point is that the ISMA certification will only be worth the “Certification” title if the reputation of its training is worth anything.

    Jason, you may be right. Calling it something else would probably clear up some of the rumblings. But as smart marketers I think calling it a certification gives them a leg up and will allow them to get more interest in the course. After all, the word-of-mouth created by this 'controversy' can't be all bad.

  • Certification is only as good as the reputation it brings with it. After all I hold 27 certifications in social media already-all 27 are my own little creations that I made up just now, but my point is that the ISMA certification will only be worth the “Certification” title if the reputation of its training is worth anything.

    Jason, you may be right. Calling it something else would probably clear up some of the rumblings. But as smart marketers I think calling it a certification gives them a leg up and will allow them to get more interest in the course. After all, the word-of-mouth created by this 'controversy' can't be all bad.

  • Certification is only as good as the reputation it brings with it. After all I hold 27 certifications in social media already-all 27 are my own little creations that I made up just now, but my point is that the ISMA certification will only be worth the “Certification” title if the reputation of its training is worth anything.

    Jason, you may be right. Calling it something else would probably clear up some of the rumblings. But as smart marketers I think calling it a certification gives them a leg up and will allow them to get more interest in the course. After all, the word-of-mouth created by this 'controversy' can't be all bad.

    • Agreed. Certifications are seldom worth much more than the paper they're printed on unless they're government mandated and managed. It's the learning I'm more interested in. I think the ISMA can provide that.

  • Jason, I can appreciate your position in this discussion. However, while I approve of social media training I cringe at the 'certification' aspect of their services. I think I have to stand with Olivier Blanchard on this.

  • Jason, I can appreciate your position in this discussion. However, while I approve of social media training I cringe at the 'certification' aspect of their services. I think I have to stand with Olivier Blanchard on this.

    • Funny. I don't see Olivier and I having starkly contrasting viewpoints on certification other than I don't see a reason to get worked up over it. My original point and clarification here was that his original post attacked the credibility of the ISMA and its organizers, which I thought was unfair. The certification issue is adequately address, with my comments, on his second post on the matter “Let's get constructive about certification.” I added other thoughts here as well but I don't think they're diametrically on the opposite world of Olivier's.

  • markwilliamschaefer

    As I mentioned in comments on the original O.B. post, certification programs will happen because money can be made. No use fighting it. This is not the first, and there will probably be lots more to come, whether I agree with it or not. With all the other snake oil out there impacting the reputations of social media marketing consulting, it is certainly not the worst thing happening in our field!

  • markwilliamschaefer

    As I mentioned in comments on the original O.B. post, certification programs will happen because money can be made. No use fighting it. This is not the first, and there will probably be lots more to come, whether I agree with it or not. With all the other snake oil out there impacting the reputations of social media marketing consulting, it is certainly not the worst thing happening in our field!

  • secretsushi

    Thanks for being so upfront with this Jason. I actually participated in a couple discussions with Axel Schultze from the Social Media Academy who was previously debating the issue of certification. I don't know where he ended up with it, but my points to him were this…

    Those who want to hire folks in the social media field are not quite sure exactly how to identify and qualify consultants or applicants. It is obvious there are “snake oil salesmen” and others looking to make a quick buck while the term is considered “hot”.

    Just like you said above “I don’t endorse or think the certification badge or certificate from the ISMA is worth much, but the training probably is.”. I think that is spot on. Ultimately those who go through the training will have an underlying foundation of principals, trends, etc. Other than that there are still plenty of distinguishing elements like reputation, proven track record, and all around professionalism that need to be considered by the hiring party.
    The buck doesn't stop at the “certificate”.

    I am not completely convinced one way or the other when it comes to certifying folks as “social media professionals” or any other title. The community is critical about who it is that provides the training and ends up being the certifying part.

    What are your thoughts on Hubspot's Inbound Marketing certificate program they have? http://inboundmarketing.com/university

  • secretsushi

    Thanks for being so upfront with this Jason. I actually participated in a couple discussions with Axel Schultze from the Social Media Academy who was previously debating the issue of certification. I don't know where he ended up with it, but my points to him were this…

    Those who want to hire folks in the social media field are not quite sure exactly how to identify and qualify consultants or applicants. It is obvious there are “snake oil salesmen” and others looking to make a quick buck while the term is considered “hot”.

    Just like you said above “I don’t endorse or think the certification badge or certificate from the ISMA is worth much, but the training probably is.”. I think that is spot on. Ultimately those who go through the training will have an underlying foundation of principals, trends, etc. Other than that there are still plenty of distinguishing elements like reputation, proven track record, and all around professionalism that need to be considered by the hiring party.
    The buck doesn't stop at the “certificate”.

    I am not completely convinced one way or the other when it comes to certifying folks as “social media professionals” or any other title. The community is critical about who it is that provides the training and ends up being the certifying part.

    What are your thoughts on Hubspot's Inbound Marketing certificate program they have? http://inboundmarketing.com/university

    • I don't see Hubspot's program any differently, other than I think they offer it for free. They're giving out a certificate saying you've completed a course and allowing people to claim a “certified” status. It's no different. Curious as to why no one wants to question them … probably because Hubspot is a reputable company and organization. ISMA is as well. I just don't think enough was done to verify that before the criticisms were unleashed.

      Thanks Adam.

      • I don't think people should get up in arms about all of this stuff. The value of the certification will depend on how many people take it and what the quality of those people are when they talk to others in the marketplace, and the quality of the instructors. I think it will take the ISMA some time to prove that their certification is worth $3000, especially when there are other free or very cheap alternatives. But if it is good, and produces great graduates, it could catch on.

        Personally, I think it is a little weird to want to get certified in “social media” alone. It's like a carpenter getting certified in hammer skills. What about the measuring tape, saw, nails, level, and other tools? You can't do much with just a hammer. Just like you can't do much with only social media. The key is understanding how all the pieces fit together in terms of an inbound marketing strategy. In the next 1-2 years I think the industry will start to realize this, and no longer value specialists, but value those who understand integration and the complete picture.

        And yes, I am biased because HubSpot offers a free online training and certification (http://www.InboundMarketing.com) taught by industry visionaries with over 1,000 people having passed the exam and receiving certification.

        • Amen, Mike. Thanks for the offering.

        • Exactly Mike. You nailed it.

          I teach social media classes for the University of San Francisco, along with affiliate marketing, web analytics, email, usability, search, etc… Online marketing in general. It's all about learning. Education. People are getting way too caught up in the “certification”. It's not you get certified and now you instantly get a job wish NASA as an astronaut.

          We all know that you earn your way into being an expert, this will make no difference. I applaud Mari's work to be one of the first to do this.

          • I've actually been asked about SM certification in the past, and it always takes me aback. Maybe it shouldn't at this point. Who knows?

        • secretsushi

          Mike, somehow I knew you would end up here based on my comment. I am glad you chimed in. I have looked at Hubspot's materials and you guys are providing a well rounded package of information for free. However, charging should not be frowned upon if folks find genuine value in what is being offered.

          Jason, I think this goes back to your article on social media “purists”. I believe they have the most to say in opposition of what ISMA. Thanks for the great discussion guys.

          • Agreed! Charging for some things can be good! It proves they are valuable because people will pay for them.

            All I am saying is that it is hard to launch a relatively expensive product in a market where there seem to be pretty good free/cheap alternatives (blogs, books, webinars).

          • Well said, Mike & Adam.

            I will add one thought here that I've been noodling. Mike's point hit
            on it. While it might be hard to launch a paid/expensive product when
            there are pretty good free/cheap alternatives, there are different
            audiences in question, I think. Social media folks wouldn't pay for
            it, but the average Joe or Jane might. I think that's a smart business
            move on Mari's part. No, I don't like the claims of teaching you to
            become a social media expert, etc., but I have had at least one CEO
            I've encountered in the last few years who was willing to pay a high
            hourly rate to just learn how to use the Internet (old school guy). If
            they're willing to pay, there will always be someone out there willing
            to take their money and provide the service.

            Just a thought.

      • It's also a good business move for Hubspot. If you trust Hubspot enough to allow them to certify you, you're likely to go back to them when you encounter something you need an external consultant for.

        Brilliant.