Social Media Training…It’s Not Just for Problems. Six Best Practices to Get it Right

Social media training is usually undertaken to prevent future problems.  Most companies build programs to ensure that employees will understand what to do with negative comments or how to behave in the face of a crisis.  That is important and necessary work.

However, successful social media training should extend much further than a discussion on “How to prevent problems.” Instead, it should aim higher, identifying and developing relationships with online advocates that could support a company’s business and marketing objectives.

The ideal social media training session will help participants better understand the significant differences between social platforms, learn how to engage and share with their desired audiences and build or extend meaningful professional friendships.

Here are 6 training best practices:

  • Define or refine general materials for individual participants:  In order to save budget, some companies make the mistake of providing “one size fits all” digital media training materials and counsel.  Instead, the best sessions occur when the session is adapted to speak to a listener’s needs.  That might include a rich geographic focus, a “deep dive” into an industry or a close look at a particular audience segment.
  • Understand and combat social media anxiety:  Most professionals have heard tales of at least one or two online crises.  They are aware that an online situation can sour very quickly.  A good training session certainly helps them understand how to manage in a difficult situation.  But a great session identifies how a particular individual will gain confidence in online marketing.  It’s different for everyone. Some might choose to “shadow” another professional, some prefer to have a peer identified to vet their responses and others may need to have a business case made as to “why social media is really necessary.”
  • Expect your training programs to evolve as your company’s social media maturity evolves:  When a company establishes a set of social media channels, it will likely only have a few approved online ambassadors.  But as social media marketing gathers momentum within the organization, the number of ambassadors typically increases.  A good training program diagnoses what program makes sense.  Forrester believes that programs will start off casually, escalate into a more structured format before finally becoming “formal.”  In order to define the right training program for your company, consider four dimensions: content, delivery, participants, and measurement.  See the specific diagram here.
  • Determine how the legal and marketing departments can work together:  Never very comfortable companions, it’s important these groups spend time together before the actual training sessions to work through any potential differences.  We need training participants to see the two departments as a collaborative, in sync team.  It may require some additional preparatory work, but it’s well worth the time.  Trainees should feel that the entire organization is behind newer ventures like social media.
  • Discuss expected outcomes at the beginning of the training session:  An effective executive media training session may cover a broad range of topics, from “Why does my company require me to become involved in social media” to “What is an influencer” to “How do I size a photo for Facebook?”  Since the topics can range from general behavior to very technical activities, ensure that the group needs the same kind of information.  If they don’t, trainers should break the group into smaller groups or create separate modules for specialized tasks.
  • Ask yourself if, after you share the rules, you have offered enough “freedom:” Social media works if people feel they are speaking to a person, not a company.  If there are too many boundaries in place, professionals will either avoid social media activities or stick to only the most conservative behavior.  That could make them “the most boring person at the party.” Look for ways to make trainees feel safe enough to be authentic.

As a parting thought, social media training is well worth “doing right.”  According to an Altimeter study, “companies that provide employees with social media training and open access—rather than simply blocking social sites—experience fewer crises.”

We’d go even further than the study…your company is likely to have better relationships with its prospects and customers. And that’s just smart marketing.

Have you spent time leading or participating in a social media training session? What best practices would you add to the list?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley on Flickr

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