This article can be summarized like this: "You get what you pay for". I wouldn't write about this topic just to say that you should hire me instead of going to a free seminar or webinar. However, I have been to a couple of seminars recently that are handing out incorrect information and that upsets me.
However, I will say that even the free seminars and webinars I have attended haven't been a waste of time. Face-to-face events always provide for networking opportunities, so even if I don't learn anything, I meet great people. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about webinars because they are not set up for networking, but they don't require travel time, either.
Recently, a few seminars and webinars I attended left me disappointed or frustrated. If you are going to advertise that your seminar will teach folks social media for small businesses, then that is what you should deliver. One in particular that I attended was advertised as such but actually delivered training on how to be an affiliate marketer. Let me explain why this is so disappointing for me. I know that most of the folks in the room really needed basic social media training. The speaker told them that they don't need a website and they should use a blog instead. The bulk of the meeting was talking about how to put affiliate ads on your blog to make money when people buy those products if they find them through your blog. What was not mentioned is that if someone clicks on the ads on your website or blog, they are clicking away (and will probably lose) the product or service YOU are selling. If the core of your business is something other than affiliate marketing, then I wouldn't recommend it.
This particular speaker also showed her Facebook profile with almost 5,000 "friends" and admitted that she was using her profile as her business presence. She either didn't know or didn't care that this practice is against Facebook's policy and was telling the group to do the same. When someone asked how to do it, she told them to just use a different e-mail and phone number to set up a separate Facebook profile for yourself. The correct way of handling this is to have one personal profile and one (or many) professional or business pages. Go to Pixel Coaching for the correct information on Facebook marketing. Stacey does a great job of explaining it and has pictures on her site so it is easy for beginners to understand.
Now for the webinars. Free webinars are always produced by a company that hopes you will purchase their program or package after the webinar and that is why they are spending the time and money out of their marketing budgets to offer you a free webinar. Sometimes the content can be pretty good. However on two separate occasions (two different companies), the speaker says, "there are certain times of the day to post to XYZ social media application". When a viewer submits the obvious question: "What is the magic time of day or day of the week?", the speaker says, "You will have to purchase our program to find out. We can't give away all of our secrets for free!" In my humble opinion, that just makes the speaker or company look like they only care about making money and not about helping people. Would you want to hire someone like that?
There are many types of social media groups you can join and many of them have a presence on meetup.com. Some are organized by companies that offer individual consultation. Some are organized by volunteers who want to share their knowledge and experience with others. On a philosophical level, the problem I see with seminars is that the speaker automatically adjusts the content to the highest level learner in the group, in an attempt to make everyone happy. What you need to look for in a seminar is a clearly defined knowledge expectation. If the group is advertised for beginners, make sure that the description clearly states that the session is for beginners only. If you belong to any other professional organizations, ask them to bring in a speaker on social media if the majority of your association is at the same knowledge level.
I will say it again. "You get what you pay for." If something is free it likely has some kind of hidden cost associated with it or it is just bad content. If you are a digital immigrant, you need to hire someone to sit down with you, at your computer, and walk you through the steps to create your online presence.