Open post to the pied piper of the online world

Hi, Mari, I don’t know you personally, and you don’t know me personally. So this isn’t personal. However, yesterday I read something on Twitter about an initiative you took, I wanted to post about.

I can’t tell it to you in person since we live in completely other parts of the world and since sending a DM via Twitter or trying to contact you otherwise most of the time results in ‘My inbox is so full now’ or ‘I am so busy now’ messages.

I truly think you’re very busy so no offense taken for that. But of course you want to be busy. I mean; you are everywhere: a Facebook profile, a Facebook fan page, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, 3 accounts on YouTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg, Plaxo, Posterous, EzineArticles, your blog, I guess the list doesn’t stop here.

It’s normal that you’re so present in social media. In the end, it’s how you market yourself: a Relationship Marketing Specialist, everybody has to make a living, right? Today, your Twitter page contains a message from Tweetie about Christmas, and it says “love this life”. I bet you do. 57,961 followers, your Twitter page says. And there’s nice pictures too: you with Richard Branson, you with… etc.

They called you the ‘pied piper of the online world’, that’s not your fault of course. And now you founded the International Social Media Association. And you’re the president too. Well, why not? There is a Web Analytics Association too, for example, and the people that founded it were experts like you, so no harm in that, right?

Readers of this post: you can even join the International Social Media Association for free, so go ahead and become a member (and Mari is on the site everywhere, so you can see and hear her at work!).

However, if you want to use the logo of the association and some more stuff, you’ll have to pay. But not much. For 149.5 USD per annum, you are a Premium member. That’s a lot cheaper than other ‘professional associations’. Hell, I pay over 3,000 USD just to be a member of the IAB in my small country and the benefits are nothing, in comparison to those of the International Social Media Association.

If 5000 people join the International Social Media Association in one year with that basic Premium membership, that makes only 747,500 USD, probably hardly enough to pay for the costs of the Association and the energy the founders have to put into it. I hope 50,000 people join.

Now, before part of your  57,961 Twitter followers starts to say all kinds of dirty things on my little blog and crash it (I have a small TypePad account), let me get to the point, dear Mari.

Again, I don’t know you in person, and you might be the most wonderful and caring person, wife, mother, etc. in the world. But, please, could you reconsider your “ISMA Social Media Certification program” that “only” costs 2,845 USD for Premium members (those that pay 149.5 USD per annum to become member). Please!

And then that message for Europeans who want to be ‘certified’ by the “Association”: “Although we would love everyone to come together and really be social, we know that some circumstances will prevent that.  The two-day session will also be available virtually for those who cannot attend in person”.

You know better than me, Mari, that building communities takes time.  Creating associations too. However, creating decent certification programs, well that takes a very long time and a lot of work from a lot of people.

Furthermore, you can become a certified Google Analytics expert, for example, but a certified “social media whatever” (is it “expert”?)?  Well, I rest my case.

Let me conclude by saying I like many things you say and write, and I truly wish you all the best. However, sometimes people should think twice.

PS: for the Mari Smith followers and lovers; if you feel I insulted Mari; it was not on purpose but fire away. That’s what social media is about, right? Conversations, user generated content and freedom of speech. I don’t moderate the comments on my blog so shoot!

Update: it seems Mari was not called ‘the pied piper of the online world’ as she states (the online world is big) but ‘the pied piper of social media’ and ‘the pied piper of Facebook’. Whatever.