Social Media Certification Programs Are Worthless

Jeff Espo wrote a great post on why you shouldn’t fall for bullshit social media certifications.

As someone who has beaten the “there ARE social media experts” drum for the last few years, you’d think I would be all for them. After all, if you earn enough certifications, you win. You’re the expert.

The problem is, the social media industry is lacking several important criteria to make these certifications carry any impact:

  • There is no centralized authority. A certification means something if the entire industry is behind it. But social media is so fragmented, and no one can claim ownership of the industry voice. Until we have one, we can’t have a meaningful certification.
  • The granting organizations don’t have any credibility. Who is granting these things? In Espo’s post, he’s talking about the PR News giving a certification for people who attend four conferences. The PR industry can’t even measure their own efforts. How can they claim authority in someone else’s industry?
  • There is no standardized knowledge. We’re getting there, especially as more professional marketers and PR flaks adopt this as a channel. As they adapt and create more best practices, the knowledge will standardize. Until then, a lot of what is “best” is going to be based on opinion and personal experience.

But while these three issues exist, we can’t/won’t/shouldn’t accept a certification program that claims to declare people have amassed a certain body of knowledge. We can barely do this with college degrees. Otherwise, we wouldn’t favor degrees from certain colleges over others.

So avoid any programs that claim to certify you or grant you special status. Until then, these are just seminars that give you a piece of paper when they’re done.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Joe Frost says

      I kinda agree, but also disagree.

      We just started offering a Certified Social Planner program for people that want to learn how to achieve ROI from their Social Media efforts. We have been providing this service for entrepreneurs and nonprofits for several years. We are issuing the certificate only after people can complete the 1.5 day course AND demonstrate their abilities to execute.

      In this vain, people will be certified on the fundamentals of Social Media that carry accross different networks. They learn to build the plan, how to create engaging content, and how to be found. It includes 100s of how to action plans on everything. So, for someone to go through our program and be “certified” they are actually armed and ready to perform.

      I know other programs that “certify” you for attending a webinar or series of classes without any further requirements. These programs should be avoided. Our program, however, is different and shouldn’t be lumped in the same category.

      • Me too, Joe. Kinda agree, but also disagree with what you’re doing.

        To me, there’s a difference between “receiving a certificate” versus “receiving a certification.” I have no problem with getting a piece of paper that says “Erik Deckers completed this course of study.”

        But I do feel queasy about groups that say, “Erik Deckers has been certified as a social media professional.” If a group tries to pass itself off as granting an industry-wide certification, I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be “certification worthy.”

        BUT, if a group says, “we have a rigorous course of study, and this person has passed our requirements,” then that’s more acceptable. It’s like saying, “we have our own rigorous set of qualifications to be included in our own group, and this person is good enough to be included in our group.”

        Compare that to “there is a standard set of knowledge anyone can know, and if they possess it, they can do JOB X.” THAT is what I have a problem with.

        It sounds like you’re saying you are putting people through your course of study, which I can get behind.

    2. This is a great post, Erik. The experts are communication professionals that understand human relationships and how to translate that into meaningful communication online. The tools are just tools.