IT Career JumpStart

Mar 5 2014   3:51PM GMT

A Worthy Vendor-neutral Social Media Cert: SMS

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

SMS stands for “Social Media Strategist” and it’s a serious, well-implemented credential for aspiring IT professionals seeking to labor in the general arena of social media. I spent half an hour on the phone this morning with Eric Mills, the founder of the National Institute for Social Media (NISM), the organization behind this credential. You know you’re dealing with a start-up when the founder is the guy who picks up the phone when you call the organization’s main number, and Mr. Mills certainly evinces the mixture of enthusiasm, passion, and subject matter expertise that you expect from an engaged and committed professional who’s “all in” for his chosen career path.


The NISM’s Social Media Strategist cert could be a “case study” on how to do IT certification right!

Whenever I reach out to a cert organization that’s new to me, this always involves a mixture of anticipation and dread. I’m driven by the desire to identify quality programs that can add value to those individuals who decide to “go for it” when it comes to professional development, and I’m always pleased to identify a new program or certification that appears to qualify as such. That’s what causes the anticipation when I make contact. The dread comes from my repeated observation that many so-called certification programs are little more than thinly-veiled promotional techniques designed to fill seats in training classes, or to generate revenue from sales of exams, prep materials, and other related certification costs. My dread, alas, is all too often realized when I make attempts to reach out to any organization heretofore unknown or unfamiliar to me, and I either can’t make contact, get a straight story, or determine a real value proposition for the programs or credentials under the microscope.

That’s why I’m very pleased to recognize the SMS as a well-researched and painstakingly developed vendor-neutral certification in a growing field that’s mostly populated by vendor-specific credentials right now (see this SkilledUp story to get a sense of what’s up in this space: “Social Media Certifications: 8 Places to Get Certified in Social Media“). Mr. Mills explained his development methodology and timeline to me, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the depth and breadth of coverage and content that’s emerged. It’s a standard “big-ticket” cert development path, made all the more weighty by its adoption in a bootstrap, start-up situation:

1. Recruit a posse of subject matter experts
2. Identify key job roles and the job tasks that go with them for practitioners in the field of social media
3. Build an open-ended inventory of topics, content, and related exam questions designed to measure knowledge and best practices
4. Employ standard psychometric techniques to develop and select exam items and exam coverage
5. Develop a standard curriculum to present key information to teach certification content
6. Establish academic and industry partnerships to drive an ongoing life cycle for certification both to vet current content and coverage, and to keep task analysis, coverage, and exam items in synch with ongoing industry evolution and new technology introductions

NISM has done all this, and more in building the Social Media Strategist certification. They’ve established a 32 hour base curriculum that’s being taught as a certificate track in some colleges and¬†universities, and as an outright cert exam prep sequence at others. They’re reaching out through a content development and delivery organization called Logical Operations (which numbers New Horizons among its network of learning delivery outlets) to create a 5-day ILT offering with an accompanying textbook to make their content and certification attractive to professional learners and the corporations that employ them. Though NISM may be in for some licensing fees or royalties, they are taking the partnership route to delivering cert training and prep materials, which means the bulk of the revenue from their efforts goes to their partners, and that they have decided to focus on the quality and integrity of their credential rather than making money. This is the best of all possible approaches for would-be certification earners, when it comes to evaluating any cert program or credential.

In short, NISM has made all the right moves in developing the SMS certification. For practicing (or aspiring) IT professionals interested in one of the fastest-growing sectors in IT, and some of the best employment and career advancement opportunities around, the Social Media Strategist certification deserves a close look, and serious consideration, as one option to get in on this incredible business and technology phenomenon. Check it out!

4  Comments on this Post

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  • ericmills
    Thank you for this thoughtful article about our SMS program, Ed.  We encourage everyone who is in search of credential in the area of social media to do their homework.  There are many certification options to choose from, as you mention many of which are focused on vendor/platform-specific topics.  However, we take the perspective that social media is much more than just the platforms themselves.  Most people who are seeking a certification in social media should be building a full range of skills for a specific job, and should be given the opportunity to obtain a credential based upon whether their abilities match the job requirements that employers are presenting.  We feel strongly that our program provides job seekers with career-building value, and employers with a tool to help them to identify talented practitioners within the field of social media.
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  • JackSimpson
    Looks as though Mills and his NISM are a sham.  Guy was sued in Georgia and then again in Minnesota for Fraud and Trademark infringement.
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  • JackSimpson
    Just found this as well.

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  • Ed Tittel

    Dear Jack:

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I've done some homework now, and here's what I have to report about this situation as near as I can tell what's going on:

    The legal dispute in question is over a trade name in the general area of social media strategy brought in connection with a Georgia-based training and certification company named Social Media Marketing University (

    In no way, to the best of my professional judgment, does this pending lawsuit (a similar suit in the Plaintiff's home state of Georgia was dismissed without prejudice) affect the value, the content, or the methodology of the NISM in creating its SMS credential. I don't believe that Mr. Mills and his NISM are a sham, by any stretch. I'm digging into the offerings from Social Media Marketing University now to see how they pan out. I've got a call into the company's PR representative, Ty Mays, right now.

    I must observe that being party to a lawsuit does not by any means make either defendant or plaintiff guilty of anything. That's for the legal process to decide. But the focus of the suit hangs on the names being used, not the concepts or content they cover. That's why I'm not worried about the fallout for prospective cert candidates for the NISM credential(s), whatever names they're given.


    PS: IP2Location puts Mr. Simpson's location in Lawrenceville, Georgia. SMMU is based in Alpharetta, about 10 miles away. I'm sure this is just an incredible coincidence, aren't you?

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