Should There be an Aptitude Test for Social Media Professionals?

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As someone who teaches as part of the Rutgers University Social Media Marketing Mini-MBA Program, I find myself being called an “educator” more and more. Whether it is through teaching, consulting, coaching, blogging, writing, or speaking, my end goal really is to educate professionals and businesses on social media and help them cross the chasm to become more efficient and strategic in how their companies utilize social media.

The background for a social media aptitude “test”

However, if you’re a social media professional looking for a job in social media, or if you’re a company looking to hire a professional with social media expertise, how do you know the aptitude that person might or might not have for social media above and beyond their taking a certification course?

After publishing Maximize Your Social, I was looking for a way to create some sort of program to make this concept a reality. That is when I was approached to be an early adopter of an exciting new platform I will be introducing below.

First, is there need for a social media education?

Before I introduce this new platform, though, there is still some debate amongst some about the need for a corporate social media education and why a Social Media MBA or taking additional education provided at universities is a valuable investment to make. To me, this is a no brainer. I think anybody who has gone through one of these programs will tell you the same thing. If 93% of U.S. businesses are utilizing social media for marketing, and now many are starting to use social media beyond marketing and throughout the enterprise, shouldn’t there be some education about social media included in business courses?

The first thing that people tell me when I tell them I am teaching a Social Media MBA program is that everything that you learn is irrelevant a few months from now, so how can you charge people money for something that is a fleeting, soon to be irrelevant type of subject matter?

I think the problem is that what some people provide in social media training, whether it is corporate training or consulting or if you read books or blog posts, they basically go over the technical specifications for the various social media sites and provide precious little insight that you couldn’t find yourself going through the help screens and tutorials of these sites on your own.

So, yes, to some degree you can figure out some of this stuff yourself. True, taking these classes can give you a quicker time to market and you may learn a few tips and tricks. But consider this analogy: It does not come down to the specifications of your smart phone. It comes down to what you can do with the applications on and functionality of your smartphone, right?

Social media education is about applicable concepts, not technical specifications

In social media, similarly, it comes down to concepts that you can use and apply to the various social networks. When I teach about social media platforms, I bring up various concepts that show people that although the platform may change, a lot of the core concepts whether how they use metrics to help determine social media ROI, the need of constant experimentation, creating a social media strategy, the existence of news feed algorithms, different ways to micro-target your social media advertisements, et. al. don’t change.

These are all core concepts that are platform independent. Meaning, these are the concepts that can be applied across all the platforms. I like to show a slide at the end of my presentations that says “social media is here to stay.” It has a bunch of boxes, like someone just moved into a new apartment. There are names of different social platforms on each box. The names on the boxes might change, as many have (the image I use includes Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit and doesn’t have Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus!), but the key message is that social media truly is here to stay. It is about understanding how to apply the concepts to any given social media platform that help you leverage the opportunity at hand to Maximize Your Social.

So, if there is a need for social media education and programs like the one I teach at Rutgers, I argue there is a similar need to have some sort of system to measure aptitude for both those that do take these courses as well as those that don’t. And if no one else was going to create one, I would. 

Introducing CredSpark

Enter CredSparka new way for people to showcase the specialized knowledge and skills they’ve acquired. CredSpark believes that diplomas, resumes, and online profiles don’t tell the whole story. Employers want to better understand job candidates, and individuals want recognition for very specific things they’ve learned along their journey including in social media!

On the flip side, CredSpark believes that Experts (I’m one of the first ones they invited to participate in the platform) are in a great position to validate a person’s specialized knowledge. Their platform allows Experts to easily develop and publish ‘Challenges’ based upon specific topics in their area of expertise. By taking Experts’ Challenges, individuals gain validation and recognition for what they know, as well as guidance from the Expert about how they can learn more and ‘up their game’ in their field.

If you’re curious, about CredSpark’s credentials, the New York City-based startup was launched in late 2013 by edtech veteran and Harvard MBA Lev Kaye, a former executive at both Kaplan and The Princeton Review. Excited by the tectonic shifts in the education landscape, Lev wanted to create a better way for people to ‘show what they know’ outside of formal diplomas and certificates. In addition, Lev’s glad that people have a deeper way to engage with and learn from Experts, so as to foster their career growth.

After I got to know Lev, I realized that he had created the platform that would allow me to realize my own dream. Our vision was one and the same.

Introducing my first social media “challenge” (because “Test” is a four-letter-word!)

With that, I introduce to you the very first challenge for social media professionals that I have created: A Google Plus challenge. It is actually Lev who chose this particular platform of G+ first after reading Maximize Your Social. Now, some of you are undoubtedly going to be skeptical about the concept, but I did get positive feedback from many of my fellow social media professionals, and I look forward to continuing to receive YOUR feedback as I create and implement more of these educational challenges in the near future.

More importantly, I see these challenges as another way of engaging with social media professionals and educating them on things they may have overlooked or not have experience on when managing different social media platforms. In other words, I think you’ll find that the challenge in itself will provide you an educational opportunity!

What are you waiting for? Take my Google Plus challenge by clicking this link, and let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
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Comments

  1. says

    Neal, just took your test (I passed – yay!). I think this is revolutionary and necessary to weed out some of the people who’ve jumped the “social media consultant” bandwagon, but don’t have the skills or background to charge clients for “work”. Awesome – and thanks so much for sharing!

  2. says

    Great article Neal, I remember a similar service like Credspark which I used last year for one of my client hiring a social media person. And yes, I do agree these kind of tests can give a fair understanding of how apt that person is based on your needs!

  3. says

    I thought after being active on Google+ for over 2 years I would have scored better than 80% ?

    I echo echo Brooke’s sentiments! Many people proclaim to be a SMM Consultants yet lack the REAL SMM skill-set one could/should have to provide REAL value to their clients.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Neil. Part of the test was not only to look at G+, but to compare it holistically with other platforms. I think there are some questions (two in particular) where may failed, but 80% is still passing! It’s less about getting an 80% or 90% and more about weeding out those that don’t get a 70% yet claim that they are “gurus,” right?

  4. says

    We face a similar issue all the time in my field (mass communication). How do you provide career-ready skills, but not be the flavor of the month in terms of technology. I start with principles, and then use today’s technology as an example of the principles.

    • says

      Hi Amanda – thanks for commenting! I had this same conversation yesterday with another university using Maximize Your Social as a textbook – NOVA Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I think we are all in agreement that it’s about the principles and concepts. I did a podcast with the professors – be on the lookout for it next week!

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