I'm warning you now. I'm on a rant. Just got wind a few days ago that there is a new certification program for Social Media Specialists. For the LOW LOW PRICE of
ONLY $2795 for platinum members!
*$2845 for premium members or $2995* for basic members
NOTE: if it works better for your cashflow, we do offer a split-pay option!
Contact us for further details: firstname.lastname@example.org
WTF? Who out there thinks they actually know what it takes to be a Social Media Specialist to come up with certification criteria?
Well, maybe it is a group of social media consultants who have been developing and implementing social media strategies and tactics for the last few years or run social media-related companies or have years of strategic Internet consulting experience who have come together and formed a coalition with the goal to create some standards in our industry. Sort of like the IAB back in the late 90s or the WWWAC in the mid-90s.International Social Media Association
I recognized the incomparable Mari Smith on the home page. But who was that man next to her?
Digging further, I first went to see their Board of Advisors. I was certain the mystery of this new organization offering certification in Social Media would be solved. Of course, I was expecting to see some of the clearly recognized social media thought leaders such as Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman, Laura Fitton, Tara Hunt, heck, even me (20+ years as an Internet consultant and 2+ years focused solely on Social Media consulting might be relevant credentials but I could be wrong).
But I didn't recognize anyone on the board except for Mari. Do you see anyone who has been associated with social media in any significant or "long-term" way (besides Mari) on this list?
Frankly, what I see are marketers and Web 1.0 folks and a few recent adoptees of social media who are jockeying for thought-leader positioning by using all the "right" buzzwords.
And the mystery man on the home page? The plot only thickens with his bio:
Mark Eldridge - as a serial entrepreneur he has built many successful companies including as Co-Founder & Chairman, a multimillion dollar internet marketing company that is one of the INC 5000 fastest growing companies in America. For the past 25 years he has been involved extensively in seminar promotions, builder of large sales organizations, research and course creation, Association development, and is the co-author of the bestselling book “The Obvious Expert”. Mark is extremely passionate about helping others become successful.
Not to pick on Mark - I'm sure he is a great guy - but this is the business he is in: starting/building organizations and then offering seminars and certification programs. It's a lucrative business. He's probably really good at it.
And goodness knows our industry needs some standards and some kind of cohesive training, but even more needed is some kind of vetting system where companies and nonprofits can make sure they are not getting scammed. However, I am incredibly wary of a new organization sprouting up, led by mostly non-social-media-marketers and mostly non-Internet types, charging ungodly fees for courses and certification.
But it is also a bit creepy to me that this happened without any input from actual "experts in the field," all of whom would tell you right off that bat that they cannot even call themselves experts because we are all in the early learning stages of what social tools are doing to our communications, marketing, and sales processes. It's never too early to try to come up with some standards and to offer some consistent training, but who should be the arbitrar of this?
In this and some other cases, it is too often whomever takes the initiative because they see a business opportunity and have the wherewithal to make something happen. This doesn't mean they have the authority, experience or credentials.
I'm not sure if the idea stemmed from Mari who then turned to someone with the expertise to build out the association or if Mark saw a money-making opportunity and turned to Mari to lend his group credibility. But whomever brought together their advisors clearly is out of touch with the thought leaders in the social media industry.
Even if they just went to all the folks who came out in the last 6 months with books about social media theories and tactics, they'd have a more appropriate advisory board.
And the worst part about how this organization formed is that it didn't even use any of the principals of social media to come together such as:
3. Crowd Sourcing
They already have 890+ people registered on their site and over 650 fans on Facebook not to mention over 3400 people following them on Twitter (they are following 3600+). I'd venture to guess most of these people are new to social media and looking for guidance. Because they are so new, how can they tell if the information they are getting from an organization like this is accurate, credible and useful?
I'm starting to see people announcing that they are now Certified Social Media Specialists which makes me cringe because it is not much different from people who think that "Social Media" is all the rage now so hang up a "Social Media" shingle over their "Web developer" shingle or their "PR Specialist" shingle and call it good.
Am I the only one troubled by this new development in this nascent industry?
I was there in the early 90s when the Web was a big question mark to everyone, and I was told as I tried to convince nonprofit organizations and companies that they'd benefit from a web site that they would never find a use for one (do you remember me coming to your offices, MOMA and The Met? 1995...)
Now since I'm such a loudmouth, I'm certain that even if this or other similar organizations decide to make good and ask some actual social media consultants to join their boards, they won't be asking me, but that's okay. I'd rather open this up for discussion and risk alienation than let this stuff happen without anyone asking questions.
What do you think about the new crop of Social Media certification programs and international associations led by individuals with little or no SM credentials?