Editor’s Note: Todd’s exploration of the learning process really hits home. All of us have been guilty at one time or another of focusing only on the lecture format for teaching and training. That is certainly effective for introducing concepts and beginning down the road of cultivating new skills – but its not at all the primary focus. Especially with a channel as interactive and perhaps volatile as social media, insuring this perspective on training makes it into our educational planning will be very beneficial.
In many organizations, the strategy for training employees is to get them in a room, deliver a presentation, and expect results. Judging from what I have seen, this tends to be the approach applied to training on social media as well. There are inherent flaws in this philosophy and it begins with how adults learn. This topic in particular should involve a more diverse learning strategy than simply a lecture. The word “social” in social media should be indication enough that collaboration and interaction should be part of how you teach this type of topic.
Floating around for decades, the “Cone of Learning” also known as the “Learning Pyramid” among other names, has been a staple when discussing learning events. Common knowledge may indicate that most of what we hear will be forgotten within a reasonably short time frame. However, getting involved in a discussion after a lecture or interacting with the tools being taught (hands-on) during the lecture would increase the likely-hood of information being retained long-term. The image depicting a “Learning Pyramid” represents the hypothetical levels of our ability to retain information. While this is not a precise measurement, it does present some interesting things to consider when designing training around any topic.
Depending upon your timeline and training budget, you may want to consider a blended-learning strategy when teaching social media. The goal of training in this case would be to teach a subject and change a behavior. For many in the financial services industry, this will be a challenge for several reasons. Adding social media is a behavioral change that is outside of their comfort zone due to regulatory scrutiny and it changes the way we communicate. Let’s be realistic, “old habits die hard.”
To demonstrate a blended learning strategy, let’s discuss some options in three different stages of learning.
Stage 1: Introduction and Exploration
In this stage, I would recommend offering training in the form of live instructor-led training, live or recorded webinar (only if attendance and completion is measurable on recorded events) or an online course that provides an overview of social media marketing in general. If you can’t develop it, attend a training event that breaks down the basics of each platform. GOAL: To understand the landscape of what is available, type of audience that may be found on each primary (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube) platform, and understand what impact it may have on their business and why it matters. If the learner doesn’t see the value, there’s a good chance that they won’t be committed to the learning process and should not move on to Stage 2 of their learning plan.
Stage 2: In-Depth Learning & Application
In this stage, take your learning to the next level. If you build or attend a course teaching social media, one possibility would be lectures that also contain activities. An example would be to have periods of instruction followed by small group activities consisting of brainstorming or strategy sessions designed to get the audience thinking about how they will apply what they have learned while also beginning to map out their own implementation roadmap. The activities should be carefully planned and may even have handouts providing guidelines for the small groups of what should be accomplished in the time allotted for the activity. Upon completion of each activity, the instructor should debrief and solicit feedback from each group (creating collaboration and interaction amongst the attendees). When learners interact within the classroom walls, it is probably that they will interact outside of the classroom (ideally on social media as well). GOAL: Get the learner to interact with what they are learning and begin the process of applying it to their own role within their business. If they can see themselves doing the work, you increase the potential that they will apply it and change or add the behavior long-term.
Stage 3: Focus Groups & Measurement
Learning is an ongoing process. When implementing training (especially on a topic that is constantly evolving), build in opportunities to continue the learning process over the long-term. Social Media activity must be tied to measurable company goals and your team’s approach may change regularly. I recommend scheduling on-going focus groups/brainstorming sessions as a great way to get teams within your organization talking about what works and what doesn’t when reviewing performance and goal attainment. They also serve as opportunities to share experiences, teach new strategies and concepts, and learn from each other. At this point, the learner may potentially become the instructor. In most cases, encourage one person to lead the discussion so that the conversation does not get off topic. Perhaps focus on a particular goal that you are trying to reach using social media and facilitate the discussion around that particular need or challenge. GOAL: Provide opportunities to learn through collaborate and maintain the learning process beyond the initial learning even. Leverage the creativity and experience within your organization to teach others.
Social Media is a complex system for communication, interaction, and learning. It is constantly changing and requires ongoing experimentation, testing, and maintenance. Therefore, your process for teaching this topic should be collaborative, continuous, and constantly updated to address the changing landscape.