The Social Media Snake-Oil Salesman

The Social Media Snake Oil SalemanAs Social Media joins the mainstream there is a disturbing new trend emerging. Someone who three months ago never even heard of Social Media is now calling themselves an expert. Recently I saw a website offering “Social Media Certification”. This was from someone many in the community had never heard of before. We rolled our eyes at the gall of such a product offer. Naturally this “certification” was being offered for a hefty fee.

You may wonder why I consider this disturbing.

I’m all for folks discovering, learning and sharing Social Media. Heck, I’m a huge fan of the whole “Learn, Share, Grow” motto of the UnConference world. I spend a lot of time doing just that. From organizing annual events like Podcamps, Barcamps, Startup Weekends to monthly gatherings like Social Media Club and Social Media Breakfast events in my community. I am a huge advocate for taking the knowledge of the Social Media and Online Tools to the Community at large. The fact that what only a few early adopters used and understood for years has now become part of the general public’s daily media consumption is what I have been promoting since 2005.

What I find disturbing is that at exactly the same time Social Media is becoming widely known, the scammers, spammers and snake-oil salesmen are discovering it, too. For many folks who are just now entering this space, the “Social Media Certification” probably sounds like a good deal. What they don’t know is that the only certification you can receive is by doing social media. You actually have to dig in and participate in the conversation. You must take the time to develop the relationships. Regardless of what kind of “certification” you have in your hand if you don’t take the time to actively participate on the networks, you wasted your hard-earned money.

You may be wondering who to trust in the Social Media realm. How can you tell who is legit and who is a snake-oil salesman? My recommendation is to look at their Social Proof. If you are going to take a course, webinar, workshop or class take a look at the person teaching the session. Do a Social Media Background Check. I recently saw an advertisement for a LinkedIn teaching session. I was curious and searched for the person who was presenting on LinkedIn. Turns out they had joined recently and only had 5 Connections.

Please note that I am not trying to say that someone new to a network doesn’t have something to add to the conversation. Not at all. However, I do take a stand against that person saying they are a Social Media Expert. I’ve been involved in Social Media since it’s inception and even I am hesitant to call myself an expert.

Things are changing every single day. There are constantly things to learn. So before you pay good money to anyone for Social Media education, take the time to conduct your own research. Take a look at their Social Proof. It is easy enough to find out if they are who they say they are on the networks. Google and the networks themselves are your best source of information.

This topic is one which I know we haven’t seen the last of. I welcome your comments and stories.

image from The Voice for School Choice