Education, Certification & Democratization Of Knowledge

There has been a lot of discussions recently about the social media education and certification programs and who has the “right” to certify. I think at the end of the day the concern is understandable. Too many people with too many opinion and too many people who claim to have the knowledge or don’t need a certain knowledge.

As one of the leading institutes we’d like to help people think through those topics before you signup with any education – including our own.

1) Learning differences
There are people who learn by doing. They don’t really want an education and just learn by reading through whatever they get and invest the time to play and explore what is out there. Those autodidacts typically don’t need a training session or class room.
Then there are people who prefer to enter a class room or work in an online class, get taught and go apply it. Typically people with less time and more focus on getting a certain job done.

Unfortunately the first group doesn’t tolerate the second and believes everybody has to learn the way they learn.

2) Content
Teaching – especially social media – is a daunting task. Huge variety, many different ways, reasons and motives to apply it and equally many changes during the change of the media. But that doesn’t mean we give up and tell people “Sorry we can’t teach this”. But we need to be very transparent what we teach and VERY careful what we promise. The Social Media Academy has a very transparent list what the Leadership Class or the Masters Class (For experienced Social Media practitioner) offers and certifies. Too many trainings promise to get a job fast, get rich, and whatever. Be careful as those promises typically end up in deep frustration. The very best way to learn about the “real thing” is to ask former students.

3) Certification
Endless discussions about certification. Mainly because a consultant who is also teaching is in competition with those who just teach. More so consultants are super afraid that the people who teach take away the business of those – primarily superficial consultants. Of course, a good school teaches to develop a strategy, make an assessment, develop a social media plan and get rather demanding when they hire a consultant. The key however is that whoever certifies and whatever gets certified again is totally transparent. Here is the content of the SMACAD certification We don’t claim to have any authority, and we believe nobody can – we just document what people learned.

Why certify?
A student who went through a marathon class of 2 month, worked every day with other students on projects and exercises, read through material, listen to instructors and get their brain through a whole new world, rightfully want a document that they did. Somebody who hires such a person either as an employee or consultant may simply be interested where the foundation of the knowledge comes from, what methods were taught and what models and strategies they follow. This is not a GO or NOGO certificate but just one more piece in the puzzle.

Who certifies the certifyer?
The oldest question. In the past this was difficult and important. Today, with social media, the market will. If an education does well, the market will know. If an education is rather moderate or bad – ten times as many people will know.
A personal note on that topic: I was worried about a British advertising agency that calls themselves The Social Media Academy. I knew their image wasn’t good and was wondering if that would hit us. Not at all. People know more about the difference than I did. Similar with ISMA, co-founded by one of our students. The market determines whats right or wrong. The market certifies the certifyer.

Why consultants should endorse – not prevent certifications
Well trained customers are quickly successful customers. Yes, maybe a bit more demanding but also MUCH better in their execution. Because in this super transparent field only a well executing customer is a reference. Everybody else cost more than the profit. Endless questions, misunderstanding, perceptions, arguments and much more. And then again a consultant need to know WHAT they learned. Did they learn about certain methods, models and frameworks or is it just blowing out the “message” through this new “channel”?

Democratization of knowledge
And last but not least there is this old thinking still today that the customer doesn’t need to know – just hire me and I do it for you. That is why most social media projects die – and why most businesses are not successful with social media. Only a knowledgeable customer can execute a social media strategy with their entire team. If a consultant plans a campaign and the rest of the customer does business as usual – how could that ever be successful in the eye of their customers? Consultants do their best job by HELPING TO PLAN but unlike any other business case – they cannot try to be social for their client, the client as to be social themselves.

More about the Social Media Academy

Axel Schultze
Founder of the Social Media Academy
http://xeesm.com/AxelS
(my social map)


  1. marita roebkesmarita roebkes12-19-2009

    Really like it.

    Want to know more about me

    check out
    http://xeesm.com/maritar

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