Social Media Certification Is Absurd

Social media is not new. At this point, you don’t need a social media expert, you just need a good marketer (all marketers should understand social media by now). The term – once meaningful – has been overused to the point it has become nothing more than a buzzword in the hands of most. Social is simply what the web does, and as a net native who has watched the abuse of the term social media over the years, I’ve slowly become adverse to its use at all.

But unfortunately we have to use it. Too many businesses and clients are enamored with it, or perhaps feel if they don’t start throwing it around they will be viewed as passé.

This brings us to today’s topic:  the notion of “certification” in social media. It’s absurd. The idea of training in using social tools kind of makes sense, I understand some require hands-on assistance as there does still exist a business digital divide (sadly). But to be certified in social media?  Please.

It sits somewhere at the intersection of being certified in ability to fill out form fields on a web page/web app and talk to others. Because you can’t be certified at developing strategies, that’s like being certified at making art. Any real artist or strategist would scoff at such a notion internally even if they won’t admit it externally. Everything else is just marketing/PR/communications which has its own set of certifications already by reputable organizations who actually have authority.

The area it could make sense to be certified in are tactics, but who cares?  Social media tactics are simple to execute and this is not where the value exists. Sure, there is a facade of actual skill in this today, however that will evaporate when the future generation of net native marketers and PR pros joins the industry and everyone sees how easy it is to use social communications tools (that’s why they are so popular, they’re easy enough to use that anyone who bothers to try can learn). The real value in social media exists in developing successful strategies. Certification is unnecessary unless you want to position yourself as a drone instead of a strategist.

The social web makes results simple to display. Things like certification and pedigree are just not as meaningful here, you either have successes to share or you don’t. Results and social proofing are what matter – certification is meaningless when compared with experience, case studies, and experimentation.

Businesses – if you’re hiring vendors or consultants merely because they are “social media certified” and that certification is one of their prime selling factors, you’re likely getting snake oil. It’s a veil for hiding lack of actual digital marketing chops.

Firms/agencies – if you’re hiring team members that are certified in social media but don’t have any actual case studies of strategic success they personally developed (not ones they simply took from their previous employer) you’re hiring those capable of using social media tools. If your current team can’t do this, you have bigger issues.

There are other discussions around the web calling out specific organizations that have sprung up out of nowhere with zero authority offering social media certification, however I’m not going to call anyone out today (read these posts if you want to see some examples). The reason I’m not calling anyone out is I don’t think I need to:  the premise is inherently flawed.

Social media certification appears to me as nothing more than an attempt to profit from those gullible enough to be taken-in. Thoughts?