Social media is and has been a rapidly expanding field, from basics like Twitter and Facebook to newer tools like Pinterest. Social media skills are becoming more and more in demand, and so – somewhat naturally, one might suppose – there are classes on social media, consultants (like me) specializing in social media, and last but not least, social media “certificates.”
Several universities and companies – including Harvard University – are offering certification courses on social media, some of these programs costing outrageous amounts of money. Most of these programs take about eight weeks, at the end of which, if you’ve completed all your projects, you will receive a social media certificate.
“Hang on,” you might be thinking. “If social media is such a vital skill, why is it a bad idea to get a certification in it?”
It’s as simple as this: social media, like any other field, requires study, practice, and close examination of social media tools and shifts over a somewhat lengthy period of time. Would you trust an economist who took an eight-week crash course and was certified in economics? What about a nurse who only studied nursing for eight weeks? Of course you wouldn’t – and social media is no different.
Both employers and prospective employees should be skeptical about these so-called “certificates” – social media is a valuable field, and skills in it are increasingly necessary to promote and sustain a business, but the concept of social media certifications seems like a rush to just cash in on it, and feels scammy at best. Social media is a dynamic and consistently expanding field, and it takes much longer than eight weeks to declare yourself a savant.
How, then, do you demonstrate your proficiency in social media? First of all, keep track of your records and impact around the web. I keep a spreadsheet that I update regularly (about once a month) to measure my audiences on social media networks, along with other relevant details like retweets and shares, replies, and so on.
Tools like Klout and Twitter Grader can measure your influence on the web and return a score number to you – the higher, the better (a good Twitter Grader score is anything above 80, and a Klout score above 40 is considered good). MyWebCareer is a somewhat new but invaluable tool to measure your audience, internet footprint, and the overall quality and success of your online profiles. These number scores tend to fluctuate – you will see highs and lows over lengthier periods of time – but if you’re doing your work right, you shouldn’t see a dramatic downward shift at any time.
If you’re looking for something more concrete, Smarterer offers up crowdsourced testing to determine your knowledge of a given area. The downside to Smarterer’s testing is that you can’t retest, but you’ll consistently get updates when new questions are available for tests you’ve previously taken, and the team monitors questions and allows feedback on individual questions, particularly from expert users.
To sum up, all these are tools that you can utilize for free to show an employer your proficiency, as opposed to taking an eight-week certification course and spending inordinate amounts of money on it.