Editor’s Note: Education and training are two vastly different courses, in our view. The education comes first, then the training. Like a new employee, we brief them on the how and the why of our business before we shift to “on the job training”. If you’re using social media professionally, the same approach applies with social media education. Being prepared for modern social communications and marketing means not only being ready yourself, but also as a brand representative and more. Mistakes or a faux pas can be much more painful with far reaching effects. Todd defines here what he sees as the intelligent approach to identifying meaningful sources of education to get you prepped for social media engagement.
Social Media Education
Learning opportunities are everywhere and fall somewhere on the spectrum from quality social media education to sales pitches disguised as education. Critical in approaching social media is awareness that it takes time to learn how to use this communications channel effectively. It also takes a reasonable amount of time to sift through the plethora of sites and opportunities out there that are actually focused on helping you learn how to use social media professionally, not just veiled sales pitches disguised as education. Then again, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.” If you are new to using social media professionally, you won’t have the experience to distinguish quality social media learning opportunities or nothing more than the sales pitch.
Not to mention, some of the social media “best practices” education programs out there aren’t necessarily valid. Yes, they may have worked for the so-called “expert” who is famous for that strategy, but has it worked for others and does it allow for customization? What worked for one person may not work for another. With that said, when seeking social media educational opportunities, here are some of my recommendations on what to look for in a quality learning opportunity.
Programs that have agendas that describe what will be covered, learning objectives (what the course is designed to accomplish and what YOU should get out of it), as well as time commitment. How much time will it take you to complete the program? This will help you know what you are getting yourself into.
How will you know you are successful in acquiring the knowledge? Some really good programs out there offer exams that test your knowledge retention. I know we all enjoy taking exams (yes I’m being sarcastic), but the reality is that it’s an effective way of testing learners and subconsciously we feel accountable to try and score well. Tests force us to study, practice, and apply ourselves to the cause.
Things such as learner guides, templates, job aids, and Action Plans are all designed to serve as resources to help us APPLY the knowledge that we have gained. After all, “knowledge without action is pointless.” How many times have we all taken a course and never applied what we have learned in the real world? Support materials, for the most part, help us hold ourselves accountable to use what we have learned.
Given that most sales pitches disguised as education won’t spend the time to develop an extensive program as I’ve explained above, you can now eliminate many of the social media educational programs that you see available. Formal courses are also not the only learning opportunities. Over the years, I have attended formal social media courses, but have read far more blog articles, spoken with individuals whom I have built relationships with via social media, and watched countless hours of tutorials and tips available online. In other words, the social media education should not be one-dimensional. Take a blended learning approach.
Take some self-paced courses, attend workshops or conferences on the topics, and read about what’s working and for whom. Last but not least, put it all into place and practice. Regardless of how you learn the “knowledge” the only way to develop the “skill” of using social media is to actually do it. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Place all fear aside and take action. That is where the learning really happens! It can be scary because you are essentially practicing in front of the entire world! Now that’s not your typical role-play activity (for those who have gone through a sales training or two) which most people fear doing. We all make mistakes and we have all seen how they play out on social media, but there are millions of mistakes being made every minute on social media and not all of them make headline news, so don’t focus too much on that.
Take your time, use common sense, and be strategic in what you do. Have a plan, constantly update the plan, and focus on bringing value to your audience. If you find you are helped by educational sources, share those with others. It allows you to also help others as you experience success! Pay it Forward!