Is Social Media Certification The Solution Or A BandAid For The Symptom?

Is social media certification a game-changer or something else?A few weeks ago I shared a post that claimed that social media certification was a game changer for social media professionals. The thread from the post exploded with people on both sides of the fence. The two camps seemed to line up around long-time industry professionals that were opposed to the idea and those that see it as something that is badly needed.

Here are some of the comments and views from the two sides of the debate:

The For Certification As A Solution Camp:

1) Brands need in-house employees to be trained.

2) Important for business to understand the strategic role and benefits of social media in the total marketing mix.

3)  It’s a sign the industry is getting more cred that certification is needed to separate some of the wheat from the chaff.

4)  This is an important step to corporate credibility.

5) A call for validation and certification means the industry is gaining credibility and acceptance

6) We do need something in the industry for certification and accreditation, proof of ethical standards

The Against Certification As A Solution Camp:

1) I find that most of the people teaching the courses have never worked in social media and don’t know anything about doing it successfully.

2) A certificate does not mean you are an expert any more than a college degree says you are ready for the business world.

3) Social Media changes so frequently it will be outdated before it’s even printed.

4) I have an issue with this program. Who is teaching the certificate program? IMO the best and brightest in our industry actively working to serve their clients. I do however, think we all have a responsibility within our industry to teach through internships, etc so that we continue to grow our talent pool for future hires.

5) Social media is evolving way to rapidly to have a certificate in it.

Sometimes a piece of paper does not truly reflect someone’s natural ability in social media, initiative, work experience, passion or a common sense marketing approach. Ultimately if you don’t understand the customer and their marketing goals and strategy then it’s unlikely a certificate will provide all the answers.

6) Anyone can create a certificate program on anything. Calling this a game changer only indicates how few people actually get what SM is all about.

Certifications are very important to the companies that sell them…

7) Basically what they are doing is taking money from people who are gullible enough to believe that this will all be relevant in a month or two.

My Summary On Social Media Certification:

At the end of the day, social media certification is not an entirely bad thing, nor is it anything close to a game-changer. As the industry evolves, brands and professionals will need ways to educate their teams and most don’t have internal resources for this. On the other hand, the questions surrounding who is creating and teaching the curriculum for such certifications is troublesome. If the intent of these certifications is to ensure that someone understands theory, terminology and concepts, it could be a good starting point for many. Unfortunately I fear that the ways these certifications are marketed by providers and certification holders alike, leaves much to be desired about the required knowledge and experience required to execute effective social media marketing. Brands and businesses that don’t know anything about social media marketing could be easily duped by people touting their certification with no more ability or experience in social media than my 15-year-old daughter.

What’s your view on this topic?

Reference Article:


20 thoughts on “Is Social Media Certification The Solution Or A BandAid For The Symptom?

  1. Well, I think that it’s step in the right direction. Unfortunately, considering how badly a lot of people, including self-proclaimed social media gurus/experts, use social media, it could do more harm than good right now.

    First, this industry is everything but regulated. It’s like the Wild Wild West, with at least 90% claiming something that they are not able to deliver.

    Certification programmes will work if every university or educational institution agrees to create uniform guidelines.

    1. There are certainly positives and negatives on this issue Cendrine. Thanx for your thoughts and feedback. I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.

  2. I definitely recognize some of those arguments Robert and wholeheartedly agree with your summary of the situation, although I suspect your 15 year old daughter is extremely social media savvy.

    1. hahaha Anjlee, she’s pretty savvy all the way around, but not as social media savvy as you might think. Teenagers often avoid what their parents do a lot of. :-)

      1. Very true, but I’m sure she’ll have the basics covered and by the time she’s ready to make a career move, she’ll have the skills and, perhaps more importantly, the connections to make a real impact in the world.

  3. Good question, here are some of my thoughts:

    personally, as someone who is teaching social media at no point do I suggest that I am an expert and I know it all – I don’t think there is a person who can claim that really. What I do know is that there are basic principles which we need to follow when certifying others and these would apply to most social media platforms.

    So, for me certification is great – if done correctly that is! It opens your eyes beyond the basic “chit chat” with your friends to a use of this increasingly important tool for business development.

    Yes, there are challenges in terms of keeping up to date with the latest network or a tool but the theory and principles of relationship marketing have not really changed much. We might call it now “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” but a good certification will have prepared you for this change already ;-)


    1. Aleksej, Yes, given how you make money, it is only proper that you would think certification is great. But that begs the questions…

      What qualifies you to be teaching social media to anyone?

      What successes and experience of managing social media marketing for a brand that drove real profitable results?

      See the paradox here?

      1. Well, I see your point.

        However, two questions to you – what makes Social Media Marketing different from traditional Marketing when it comes to teaching how to achieve success?

        Secondly, what is the difference between certification of programmers who are facing similar challenges to social media professionals – when it comes to working in a constantly changing environment?


      2. Aleksej,

        Traditional marketing is very established with accepted measurements and understandable by most business people, whether they know how to do it or not. Social media marketing is anything but mature and is full of “teachers, speakers and authors” that have never really done it profitably for anyone other than their own self-promotion for speaking and training gigs. I’d say that’s a pretty clear distinction and difference.

        Programming and social media marketing is like apples and giraffes. Not similar in nature or execution. The only thing that is similar is that having a certification in either does not mean you are effective at your “profession” whatsoever. Believe me, I have worked with many programmers in my career and am on my 8th patent on internet technologies, so I think I can speak to this a little.

      3. There is definitely a paradox here, but it is possible to create partnerships between business and academia to allow for formal education to play its part in training and certification.

        With the Search & Social Media Marketing course at Salford University, I believe it’s still a ratio of one in every 4 hours of teaching time that is given by an industry guest speaker. Aleksej, can you confirm that’s still accurate? So, in effect, the content is driven by industry success and expertise.

        Obviously, this course only skims the surface and there is no substitute for real campaign experience, but it does lay the foundations and that is true of the vast majority of the formal education system.

        This debate keeps resufacing, so there may well be a need for something that provides Chartership style accreditation with ongoing CPD requirements. However, this would be a huge undertaking and would require substantial industry and academic cooperation.

      4. So they are getting case studies from these “industry guest speakers” to prove they actually have done effectively what they are teaching and have a track record of said results with what they teach? I highly doubt that is being done.

        I am just not sure that it can be done with any degree of effectiveness. Time will tell.

      5. I’m talking about a ten week intensive training course designed to provide a basic foundation. I certainly wouldn’t say that that particular course on its own would qualify someone as an expert, but the same is true of any training or certification without practical knowledge and experience.It’s also up to each individual industry speaker to determine what insights and case material they include in their presentations. I am still on the speakers list, so I can tell you that I have referred to actual accounts and campaigns in my content:

        The one significant benefit of courses like the one I’m referring to is client education. A large percentage of the people that take the course seem to be traditional sales and marketing representatives or small business owners who need an understanding of digital, so that they can communicate with their in-house experts or the agencies that they are dealing with and make sure that everything is being done as it should be.

      6. Regarding the last paragraph… That doesn’t require certification, in fact that devalues the certification in my mind quite a bit.

  4. Hi, yes, that is the case. Our training staff have industry experience and teach the constantly updating theory side, also developing and encouraging critical awareness and core knowledge. The industry speakers are working at the coal face on successful projects and present case studies and Q & A – theory in practise. It’s been a very effective course so far. Clearly, a course like this isn’t for everyone, but it is certainly been very useful and popular for the people that have undertaken it.

    1. True, but this is more of a CPD style course than an academic qualification. A couple of years ago it was offered in conjunction with SEMPO online training, but that was discontinued for a number of reasons.

      I believe Salford now offer social media as a component in various degree courses and I know the Manchester Metropolitan University have a Digital and Social Media Marketing Subject Cluster, even offering a Master’s degree in Digital Marketing. We are seeing a lot of innovation coming out of the academic sector; how what is being taught is transferred into practical business applications is undetermined.

      The education system as a whole is undergoing massive changes and we need disruption in traditional education to move us beyond the devaluation of degrees and meaningless qualifications.

  5. About a bezillion years ago, I worked as a technical writer in the computer industry when there were no educational or certification programs for that field because it was so new. Everybody who did it had come from MilSpec writing (military or military contractors) or, like me, were just good writers who were given a chance by people hastily forming departments to produce documentation for tech companies. Eventually a bunch of respected educational institutions got on board and created not just certification programs but actual majors and degrees. That is already happening in social media. However, three years ago I was solicited for a degree program from a major west coast university that was SO expensive it took my breath away. I don’t think independent consultants can easily afford this, so you need an employer to plunk down the cash. Let them take the risk of buying an education that could quickly become outdated…

    1. Unfortunately, the well respected people I know in this industry are too busy actually DOING great work to be involved in such things. Therefore, you’re left with the industry celebrities, wannabes and “consultants” driving said certification that is all money driven. This represents a serious problem IMHO.

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