Can Social Media be Taught?

school

I imagine there are two camps: those who believe you can teach someone how to use social media and those who think it’s absurd to teach people to do what they can learn on their own.  The term “Social Media” covers such a gamut of technologies, approaches, tools and lessons learned that it’s challenging to think about how a training course could be packaged and would stay current, but I’d like to explore what a course could achieve.

There Is No Set Formula

When it comes to leveraging social media for marketing, there is no set formula.  In other areas of online marketing, there is a formula, skill sets and disciplines.  For example, pay-per-click and online display advertising can be measured in terms of return on investment to several decimal points, and there are proven methods that work in each discipline.  The social media space is constantly changing – there is no set formula for success and whether or not you believe the ROI can be measured, every tool/community/approach is different.  If someone tries to sell you a discrete formula for success, chances are they are trying to get rich quick over the hype.  And if you buy their formula, please contact me, I’ve got some contacts via email who are looking to connect folks like you to a late Russian tycoon’s inheritance.

Others may suggest that (aside from spam) there is no wrong way to use social media really.  I see arguments on this front all the time, especially when it comes to using specific tools.  People use Twitter in all sorts of ways – as a broadcast channel, as a conversation channel, for work, for play, for distractions and for adding value.  If what is right for you works, how could there be another right way that works for someone else?

Resources Galore

There are a lot of great books, blogs, conferences and people to learn from.  I’ve attended many local and industry events and have had the pleasure of meeting several folks who are influential in the social media industry.   A key part of learning about social media is to immerse yourself in it – subscribe to blogs, connect with people on social networks and really use it.  If you can commit to do a little each day, it can start to pay dividends over time through the relationships you build – whether its for your own personal use of for your business.  If you are looking for recommendations on people to connect to that you can learn from (and who show an interest in sharing that knowledge), some of the best include Amber Naslund, Chris Brogan, Beth Harte and Jay Baer.

What a Course Could Provide

A training course in social media could consolidate a lot of the disparate sources of information out there.  A part of the training could capture how tools work, define terminology and give examples of successes or failures.  The course could showcase case studies where companies or individuals took risks in specific industries.  There are lots of approaches and strategies that can be covered – often the advice is to “start with listening,” but a course could provide details on how to set up monitoring stations, the differences between free tools like Google Blog Search and enterprise tools like Radian6 or SM2.  The course would need a dynamic element to it – I could easily see the case studies become dated and the technology changes and new tools making it difficult to keep up.

Can you package up enough in one course to make it worthwhile? The folks at SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association, are trying.  I was honored to be asked by the SEMPO team to review the course outline for one of two new summer sessions available, covering Social Media.  (My agency, Rosetta, is a SEMPO member.)  I’m curious to see how the course will fair and what the participants think of the content.

Which Camp Are You In?

Would a training course in social media appeal to you?  What do you think a training course could achieve?  If the course is focused on how the tools work, the implications and risks, case studies, etc then I don’t have a problem with it.  But if the course is going to claim that it can guarantee success by building followers and following someone’s specific formula, avoid it like the plague.  Thoughts?

Photo credit: foreversouls via flickr

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  • Adam – fascinating discussion. I’m not 100% sure where I stand, to be honest. I think it would be a mistake for colleges and universities to stop talking about online strategies (which also includes social media in most instances) to their students simply because they feel as though it is a “you get it or not” channel.

    However, I don’t think there is a “users manual” for many of these sites. The way you use your blog is different than the way I use mine, or how anybody else uses there’s for that matter. The only way you really understand how to build, and cultivate a community (regardless of social network) is to get out there and do it. Read blogs like this one. Read the blogs of the folks you mentioned above (they are all great). You’ll slowly pick it up.

    Long and the short of it I guess is that the strategies should still be taught, but people should largely fend for themselves when learning the tactics.

    Am I rambling or does that make sense?

    @chuckhemann

  • Adam – fascinating discussion. I’m not 100% sure where I stand, to be honest. I think it would be a mistake for colleges and universities to stop talking about online strategies (which also includes social media in most instances) to their students simply because they feel as though it is a “you get it or not” channel.

    However, I don’t think there is a “users manual” for many of these sites. The way you use your blog is different than the way I use mine, or how anybody else uses there’s for that matter. The only way you really understand how to build, and cultivate a community (regardless of social network) is to get out there and do it. Read blogs like this one. Read the blogs of the folks you mentioned above (they are all great). You’ll slowly pick it up.

    Long and the short of it I guess is that the strategies should still be taught, but people should largely fend for themselves when learning the tactics.

    Am I rambling or does that make sense?

    @chuckhemann

  • I think there is definitely a hands on component to social media. Having said that, I think a training course can be very helpful to get people ramped up, engaged and using social media quite effectively. Here in Seattle, the University of Washington’s Masters of Communication in Digital Media, http://mcdm.washington.edu/overview.shtml has a fantastic degree program focused on:
    * Social Media (community and distribution)
    * Storytelling (effective content creation)
    * The business of digital media in communication (revenue models,
    marketing and regulation)

    They are even offering a course this summer on Twitter, http://twitter09.wordpress.com/syllabus/

  • I think there is definitely a hands on component to social media. Having said that, I think a training course can be very helpful to get people ramped up, engaged and using social media quite effectively. Here in Seattle, the University of Washington’s Masters of Communication in Digital Media, http://mcdm.washington.edu/overview.shtml has a fantastic degree program focused on:
    * Social Media (community and distribution)
    * Storytelling (effective content creation)
    * The business of digital media in communication (revenue models,
    marketing and regulation)

    They are even offering a course this summer on Twitter, http://twitter09.wordpress.com/syllabus/

  • Adam;
    Really enjoyed your post though I may be biased because my company developed and is currently presenting a well received 2 day social media course .

    I agree with your perception that “The social media space is constantly changing – there is no set formula for success and whether or not you believe the ROI can be measured, every tool/community/approach is different” . But I do think that people can be taught how to effectively, safely, and ethically participate in Social Media. And having been taught the basics, go on to learn more and hone their skills to achieve their personal and professional goals through actual participation in the social media space. After all you need to walk before you run…

  • Adam;
    Really enjoyed your post though I may be biased because my company developed and is currently presenting a well received 2 day social media course .

    I agree with your perception that “The social media space is constantly changing – there is no set formula for success and whether or not you believe the ROI can be measured, every tool/community/approach is different” . But I do think that people can be taught how to effectively, safely, and ethically participate in Social Media. And having been taught the basics, go on to learn more and hone their skills to achieve their personal and professional goals through actual participation in the social media space. After all you need to walk before you run…

  • Chuck – I agree that the “user manual” for any of these services could at best include what features and functions do. They could showcase successful examples though. I tend to learn 10X better by doing rather than watching or being taught, but I think there is a place for instruction. For example, when I first signed up for Facebook I was using the status like Twitter – before I found Twitter. Today I keep them separate since it’s hard to have a conversation via FB status updates. Everyone can find what works for them, but maybe training can give people a leg up on getting started.

    Warren – thanks for chiming in. I’m blown away at the thought of a Masters in Digital Media – hopefully people don’t abuse the degree or title. A course on Twitter too, wild. Thanks for sharing.

    • Great post and discussion, Adam. I agree with your comment to Chuck, particularly with respect to Twitter specifically…understanding the power of it and uses are best “learned” by doing and immersing yourself in it. Getting a sense for the information that’s being shared and what can be gained from the discussions, to me, can really only be accomplished by jumping in and joining the conversations.

  • Chuck – I agree that the “user manual” for any of these services could at best include what features and functions do. They could showcase successful examples though. I tend to learn 10X better by doing rather than watching or being taught, but I think there is a place for instruction. For example, when I first signed up for Facebook I was using the status like Twitter – before I found Twitter. Today I keep them separate since it’s hard to have a conversation via FB status updates. Everyone can find what works for them, but maybe training can give people a leg up on getting started.

    Warren – thanks for chiming in. I’m blown away at the thought of a Masters in Digital Media – hopefully people don’t abuse the degree or title. A course on Twitter too, wild. Thanks for sharing.

    • Great post and discussion, Adam. I agree with your comment to Chuck, particularly with respect to Twitter specifically…understanding the power of it and uses are best “learned” by doing and immersing yourself in it. Getting a sense for the information that’s being shared and what can be gained from the discussions, to me, can really only be accomplished by jumping in and joining the conversations.

  • Interesting article. I’m in the camp of “yes it can be learned”, but with prerequisites. Having a solid understanding of traditional marketing and PR is essential. Knowing a little bit about technology also helps. Learning the tools of SM is easy, learning how to use them is a different story.

  • Interesting article. I’m in the camp of “yes it can be learned”, but with prerequisites. Having a solid understanding of traditional marketing and PR is essential. Knowing a little bit about technology also helps. Learning the tools of SM is easy, learning how to use them is a different story.

  • I’m not sure if social media is something that can be taught in a classroom setting. Perhaps the business end of things or basic strategies can be easily summarized in a lecture, but when it comes to how social media can be applied to an individual or a specific company or business, other factors that cannot be streamlined come into play. It seems that what is most suited for learning about new media is on-the-job training or training sessions provided by outside groups. This way, as social media continues to change, a class you took would not become swiftly outdated and you have access to those who specialize in this field.

  • I’m not sure if social media is something that can be taught in a classroom setting. Perhaps the business end of things or basic strategies can be easily summarized in a lecture, but when it comes to how social media can be applied to an individual or a specific company or business, other factors that cannot be streamlined come into play. It seems that what is most suited for learning about new media is on-the-job training or training sessions provided by outside groups. This way, as social media continues to change, a class you took would not become swiftly outdated and you have access to those who specialize in this field.

  • There is a real need for practical support and training to enable the majority of the business community to engage social media effectively and in ways that delivers tangible results. There are huge barriers to this, management culture, awareness of the tools, which ones to use, how to use them, integration into marketing strategy, fears around security, staff productivity…I could go on.

    We decided some time ago to offer proper social media awareness seminars and workshops for management and decision makers back up with traditional on-site consultancy, support and training to help implement social media safely and effectively.

    Most of the social media training that is available – which is not a lot and not of good quality – is online, so it’s only accessible to those that are a) online anyway and b) can learn in this way. This is not the growth area. The growth areas are businesses that are mainly offline, busy doing business, that think Facebook is all there is and a waste of time at that, and certainly do not have time to try and figure it all out at the desktop.

  • There is a real need for practical support and training to enable the majority of the business community to engage social media effectively and in ways that delivers tangible results. There are huge barriers to this, management culture, awareness of the tools, which ones to use, how to use them, integration into marketing strategy, fears around security, staff productivity…I could go on.

    We decided some time ago to offer proper social media awareness seminars and workshops for management and decision makers back up with traditional on-site consultancy, support and training to help implement social media safely and effectively.

    Most of the social media training that is available – which is not a lot and not of good quality – is online, so it’s only accessible to those that are a) online anyway and b) can learn in this way. This is not the growth area. The growth areas are businesses that are mainly offline, busy doing business, that think Facebook is all there is and a waste of time at that, and certainly do not have time to try and figure it all out at the desktop.

  • Interesting question, Adam. I’m glad you’re going to provide advice to SEMPO since you taught ME so much about social media.

    There are certainly plenty of books available the attempt to teach people about how to use social media, and there are even more blogs on top of those. I’ve read many of them, and I’ve learned something from them all. With so much valuable material available in books, I definitely think there’s room to further augment that knowledge with more formal education. But part of a true education in anything — be it social media, marketing, cooking, creative writing, etc. — is experience. Getting training in social media is not a substitute from actually participating in social media, but it can certainly give someone a nice head start.

  • Interesting question, Adam. I’m glad you’re going to provide advice to SEMPO since you taught ME so much about social media.

    There are certainly plenty of books available the attempt to teach people about how to use social media, and there are even more blogs on top of those. I’ve read many of them, and I’ve learned something from them all. With so much valuable material available in books, I definitely think there’s room to further augment that knowledge with more formal education. But part of a true education in anything — be it social media, marketing, cooking, creative writing, etc. — is experience. Getting training in social media is not a substitute from actually participating in social media, but it can certainly give someone a nice head start.

  • Great thoughts, Adam. I’ve been asked to teach a social media course at my alma mater that will draw students from the journalism and public relations programs. To Emily’s point, I’m also wondering how it will play out in a classroom setting. However, there is a lot of information out there, so it’s better to informed and armed before bumbling around.

    @tvdeegan

  • Great thoughts, Adam. I’ve been asked to teach a social media course at my alma mater that will draw students from the journalism and public relations programs. To Emily’s point, I’m also wondering how it will play out in a classroom setting. However, there is a lot of information out there, so it’s better to informed and armed before bumbling around.

    @tvdeegan

  • Great Read, I would put myself squarely in the middle. Personally, I have picked up social media and just gone running with it. But as a self professed social media whore, I’m considering starting a seminar locally to train others how to appropriately use social media and preach netiquette if you will. Great read though sir. If i ever do get a chance I prolly could use a conference…

  • Great Read, I would put myself squarely in the middle. Personally, I have picked up social media and just gone running with it. But as a self professed social media whore, I’m considering starting a seminar locally to train others how to appropriately use social media and preach netiquette if you will. Great read though sir. If i ever do get a chance I prolly could use a conference…

  • CharityHisle

    While my kids participate in social media activities without a single ‘how-to’; my parents and my grandparents would definitely need direction. Social behavior comes natural, we spend our lives learning to stifle it. Those who haven’t used it, have lost it and therefore could benefit from a course or two.

    The courses could also assist when considering a company-wide implementation of the use of social media tools. Most adults I speak to still don’t see the value in participation. Kids, however, need no explanation or reason why they should participate. Hence, I go with offering the courses. Just because I know how to do something, doesn’t mean everyone does!

  • CharityHisle

    While my kids participate in social media activities without a single ‘how-to’; my parents and my grandparents would definitely need direction. Social behavior comes natural, we spend our lives learning to stifle it. Those who haven’t used it, have lost it and therefore could benefit from a course or two.

    The courses could also assist when considering a company-wide implementation of the use of social media tools. Most adults I speak to still don’t see the value in participation. Kids, however, need no explanation or reason why they should participate. Hence, I go with offering the courses. Just because I know how to do something, doesn’t mean everyone does!

  • Great article! I think there are benefits to courses to be had for some but it is very dependent upon the stage they are at. I’m finding that one-on-one training sessions tailored to a specific business is the most beneficial use of the company’s time. I can really get in and help the learn the most from their exact starting point. It is targeted and customized to their needs and goals and so far seems to be a useful way to learn how to navigate the emerging media world.

    I also host a weekly “Coffee with Kendall” session for businesses to join in the conversation in person and learn more. It is a great way for businesses to see how much there is to learn and new ways for them to engage.

    I’m still deciding about the mass conference style as I’ve gone to events like that and been frustrated when there hasn’t been a lot of take away.
    Thanks for the interesting article!

  • Great article! I think there are benefits to courses to be had for some but it is very dependent upon the stage they are at. I’m finding that one-on-one training sessions tailored to a specific business is the most beneficial use of the company’s time. I can really get in and help the learn the most from their exact starting point. It is targeted and customized to their needs and goals and so far seems to be a useful way to learn how to navigate the emerging media world.

    I also host a weekly “Coffee with Kendall” session for businesses to join in the conversation in person and learn more. It is a great way for businesses to see how much there is to learn and new ways for them to engage.

    I’m still deciding about the mass conference style as I’ve gone to events like that and been frustrated when there hasn’t been a lot of take away.
    Thanks for the interesting article!

  • This is such a relevant topic right now for me I had to respond. I myself am “throwing myself” head first into the social media arena. While it took me some time to get comfortable with some of the details (such as figuring out what tools can help me stay on top of all the incoming twitter chatter, figuring out the best and fastest ways to update blogs and other feeds at the same time, etc), what did not take me any time at all, was to figure out the best way to take advantage of these tools. That simply comes from having a marketing background and a marketing “brain” so to speak. I simply think in terms of marketing and that makes it much easier for me to wrap my brain around this new medium. So while I think you can easily “teach” the techniques involved in social media, whether it be to a 4 year old or a 94 year old, what you can’t teach, is the ingenuity to think outside the box on how to use it.

    I think a course or even just good blog post to teach people the time saving techniques and the little unknown facts about using the tools, would be very valuable for those of us who just have to get over that initial hump of getting started.

    Really great food for thought. Thanks!

  • This is such a relevant topic right now for me I had to respond. I myself am “throwing myself” head first into the social media arena. While it took me some time to get comfortable with some of the details (such as figuring out what tools can help me stay on top of all the incoming twitter chatter, figuring out the best and fastest ways to update blogs and other feeds at the same time, etc), what did not take me any time at all, was to figure out the best way to take advantage of these tools. That simply comes from having a marketing background and a marketing “brain” so to speak. I simply think in terms of marketing and that makes it much easier for me to wrap my brain around this new medium. So while I think you can easily “teach” the techniques involved in social media, whether it be to a 4 year old or a 94 year old, what you can’t teach, is the ingenuity to think outside the box on how to use it.

    I think a course or even just good blog post to teach people the time saving techniques and the little unknown facts about using the tools, would be very valuable for those of us who just have to get over that initial hump of getting started.

    Really great food for thought. Thanks!

  • Sure, social media can be taught. At least tools and fundamentals can be. One can gain at least a conceptual understanding and a familiarity with tools from classroom settings. Achieving mastery, of course, is another matter. That requires personal investment and hands-on experience. But I’m not sure that’s really any different from any other practical-application subject. As I think back to what I learned in school, my education gave me familiarity and awareness, but it’s only those areas where I have subsequent personal experience that I can even approach mastery.

  • Sure, social media can be taught. At least tools and fundamentals can be. One can gain at least a conceptual understanding and a familiarity with tools from classroom settings. Achieving mastery, of course, is another matter. That requires personal investment and hands-on experience. But I’m not sure that’s really any different from any other practical-application subject. As I think back to what I learned in school, my education gave me familiarity and awareness, but it’s only those areas where I have subsequent personal experience that I can even approach mastery.

  • Pierre Faillettaz

    Great subject Adam, very timely, although I’d say you’ve barely scratched the surface. I agree with Anne, that the major growth in public learning about Social Media is offline with businesses needing to know better lest they be left behind by rapid marketing change. I suspect that any marketing firm without a fully integrated SM program will be left behind too or partner with a SM specialty firm able to keep pace with change. So I see the “industry” as change, but with a purpose driven by web based consumer participation interests and personally by the very real opportunity to rediscover oneself online. After 18 months of full-time immersion I’m finally getting used to being baffled on a daily basis, and imagine and evangelize a human future where everyone’s life is governed by web activity. Can you teach an aptitude for change? I suppose not, but this may be the big hurdle for anyone not spending their developmental years in full immersion.

    Simple orientation, skills and principles of SM can be packaged for all who want a solid launch personally or for whatever level of intention a student may have. To gain and establish a competitive edge in the new mediascape, a sense of “mastery”, as Mark puts it, one might do best to join a practical learning community with a solid curriculum behind it. However powerfully motivated, the learning curve is steep, and the name of the game may be community anyway. namaste

  • Pierre Faillettaz

    Great subject Adam, very timely, although I’d say you’ve barely scratched the surface. I agree with Anne, that the major growth in public learning about Social Media is offline with businesses needing to know better lest they be left behind by rapid marketing change. I suspect that any marketing firm without a fully integrated SM program will be left behind too or partner with a SM specialty firm able to keep pace with change. So I see the “industry” as change, but with a purpose driven by web based consumer participation interests and personally by the very real opportunity to rediscover oneself online. After 18 months of full-time immersion I’m finally getting used to being baffled on a daily basis, and imagine and evangelize a human future where everyone’s life is governed by web activity. Can you teach an aptitude for change? I suppose not, but this may be the big hurdle for anyone not spending their developmental years in full immersion.

    Simple orientation, skills and principles of SM can be packaged for all who want a solid launch personally or for whatever level of intention a student may have. To gain and establish a competitive edge in the new mediascape, a sense of “mastery”, as Mark puts it, one might do best to join a practical learning community with a solid curriculum behind it. However powerfully motivated, the learning curve is steep, and the name of the game may be community anyway. namaste

  • As someone who has recently graduated from a public relations program, I am happy to say that social media was part of the curriculum. It was only officially taught in one course but mentioned in many. For the most part, professors would tell us to keep an open mind and try to learn as much about it (outside of the classroom) as possible. As for the class that did teach social media, the guest speaker showed us a number of popular networking sites and told us how to use them.

    I think it is important for professors who teach marketing, PR, communications, etc. to stress the importance of implementing social media into a marketing/communications plan. In my opinion it doesn’t make sense for instructors to spend too much time explaining how each site operates. The focus should be spent on using social media as a business tool. I think it would be helpful for teachers to ask students to brainstorm ideas on how to use social media tools to deliver specific messages. “Here’s a sample marketing plan. How can we deliver these messages through social media sites?”

    Thanks for the interesting post, Adam.

  • As someone who has recently graduated from a public relations program, I am happy to say that social media was part of the curriculum. It was only officially taught in one course but mentioned in many. For the most part, professors would tell us to keep an open mind and try to learn as much about it (outside of the classroom) as possible. As for the class that did teach social media, the guest speaker showed us a number of popular networking sites and told us how to use them.

    I think it is important for professors who teach marketing, PR, communications, etc. to stress the importance of implementing social media into a marketing/communications plan. In my opinion it doesn’t make sense for instructors to spend too much time explaining how each site operates. The focus should be spent on using social media as a business tool. I think it would be helpful for teachers to ask students to brainstorm ideas on how to use social media tools to deliver specific messages. “Here’s a sample marketing plan. How can we deliver these messages through social media sites?”

    Thanks for the interesting post, Adam.

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  • Hi, Adam …. at its core, your question has been at the center of “the academy” for a very long time. That center (IMO) is this: what is the “proper” balance between skills and theory in a liberal arts education?

    If all we did was teach a student how to “use” a new social media tool — set up an account, become familiar with its inner workings as though it were a piece of software (which it is!) — then we would certainly be doing the student a disservice, in my opinion. And that’s because we are at such an early stage in this new communications space that it is impossible to predict which tool will survive. At some point, the “skills” part will be taught at community and technical colleges around the country, just like they teach software skills today. Of course, that tension at the university will not go away in my lifetime — because there will always be new tools!

    What we strive to do in the MCDM program (that Warren mentioned, above) is provide students opportunities for applied critical thinking. That means understanding how we got to “today” — how the legal environment for digital communication/media are changing — how the business economics are changing. How and why.

    Our students come from around the world. They come from a variety of disciplines and job titles. They want to understand how digital technologies are impacting their businesses and organizations and how they can lead/leverage.

    That’s why we are studying Twitter this summer. We’re writing an eBook on how businesses and organizations are using Twitter: because there is no “one way” to use the tool. Just like there is no “one way” to use the telephone! Or like there was no “one way” to use the telegraph!

    What we are hoping to uncover, however, are universal “right ways” that transcend industry sectors (eg, travel, nonprofits, government, commerce) and communication verticals (eg, media relations, marketing, customer service). In other words, best practices. To that end, we are identifying hundreds of possible organizations to profile. We are looking for nominations for organizations as well as suggestions on questions. Just check out the class website!

    Finally (sorry, I know this is a long comment), as someone who teaches undergraduate students, I can assure you that there is nothing in the air or water that makes an 18-year-old automatically understand “the web.” Yes, most of my students are facile with Facebook. But they haven’t thought about privacy. They don’t all know how to shoot pictures, record audio, make videos, start a blog. In other words, please don’t buy into the idea that all millennials are fully net-savvy and technically expert. Because they aren’t.

  • Hi, Adam …. at its core, your question has been at the center of “the academy” for a very long time. That center (IMO) is this: what is the “proper” balance between skills and theory in a liberal arts education?

    If all we did was teach a student how to “use” a new social media tool — set up an account, become familiar with its inner workings as though it were a piece of software (which it is!) — then we would certainly be doing the student a disservice, in my opinion. And that’s because we are at such an early stage in this new communications space that it is impossible to predict which tool will survive. At some point, the “skills” part will be taught at community and technical colleges around the country, just like they teach software skills today. Of course, that tension at the university will not go away in my lifetime — because there will always be new tools!

    What we strive to do in the MCDM program (that Warren mentioned, above) is provide students opportunities for applied critical thinking. That means understanding how we got to “today” — how the legal environment for digital communication/media are changing — how the business economics are changing. How and why.

    Our students come from around the world. They come from a variety of disciplines and job titles. They want to understand how digital technologies are impacting their businesses and organizations and how they can lead/leverage.

    That’s why we are studying Twitter this summer. We’re writing an eBook on how businesses and organizations are using Twitter: because there is no “one way” to use the tool. Just like there is no “one way” to use the telephone! Or like there was no “one way” to use the telegraph!

    What we are hoping to uncover, however, are universal “right ways” that transcend industry sectors (eg, travel, nonprofits, government, commerce) and communication verticals (eg, media relations, marketing, customer service). In other words, best practices. To that end, we are identifying hundreds of possible organizations to profile. We are looking for nominations for organizations as well as suggestions on questions. Just check out the class website!

    Finally (sorry, I know this is a long comment), as someone who teaches undergraduate students, I can assure you that there is nothing in the air or water that makes an 18-year-old automatically understand “the web.” Yes, most of my students are facile with Facebook. But they haven’t thought about privacy. They don’t all know how to shoot pictures, record audio, make videos, start a blog. In other words, please don’t buy into the idea that all millennials are fully net-savvy and technically expert. Because they aren’t.

  • Adam, great post and topic. I think about this a lot as I observe people who make varying use of social media and derive varying degree of value from it.

    I believe you can teach anyone how to use the tools, like you can teaching anyone to play a musical instrument or write fiction. But I think “social virtuosity” relies on natural talent – including psychological/lifestyle preferences like extroversion (where social interaction adds energy, doesn’t subtract it), public life, and networking behavior down to innate qualities like empathy, authenticity, humility. People can learn to emulate these qualities but the people who will truly excel in the use of social media will be the “naturals.”

  • Adam, great post and topic. I think about this a lot as I observe people who make varying use of social media and derive varying degree of value from it.

    I believe you can teach anyone how to use the tools, like you can teaching anyone to play a musical instrument or write fiction. But I think “social virtuosity” relies on natural talent – including psychological/lifestyle preferences like extroversion (where social interaction adds energy, doesn’t subtract it), public life, and networking behavior down to innate qualities like empathy, authenticity, humility. People can learn to emulate these qualities but the people who will truly excel in the use of social media will be the “naturals.”

  • Adam
    great post!
    I do think a ‘hands on’ dialogue (new term for a course?) could be helpful: to provide some useful tips and an overview–but I so agree that SM is something that you have to jump in and experience for yourself; to listen, learn and try new things–and most importantly to meet new people and broaden one’s thinking…

    From my experience in healthcare and even with friends not yet really in the SM space– there are many who would appreciate an overview of all the key social medias packaged for them with easy to use ‘how to manuals’, but peraps with a chance to setup their own SM platforms including time built in to experiment. Net a different type of learning course where an outcome is to actually set up and start twittering for example (after they have outlined their personal or bus objectives…) and include on-going learning from course leader and other ‘students’…
    One aspect that I am a little torn over is with regard to making it too easy- so to speak- as I hate for people to think that anyone can be an expert too quickly…its about having the appetite for on-going learning and engagment that can bring sucess or reward for SM efforts…perhaps this is why there is so much ‘start and stop’ with different SM platforms? People aren’t really committed? Or is it that they don’t really understand what they’re signing on to and its benefits? …This needs to be considered before ‘signing’ up for such a course!! Who wants to ‘teach’ people who aren’t really committed to learning beyond just doing what everyone else is doing this minute?

  • Adam
    great post!
    I do think a ‘hands on’ dialogue (new term for a course?) could be helpful: to provide some useful tips and an overview–but I so agree that SM is something that you have to jump in and experience for yourself; to listen, learn and try new things–and most importantly to meet new people and broaden one’s thinking…

    From my experience in healthcare and even with friends not yet really in the SM space– there are many who would appreciate an overview of all the key social medias packaged for them with easy to use ‘how to manuals’, but peraps with a chance to setup their own SM platforms including time built in to experiment. Net a different type of learning course where an outcome is to actually set up and start twittering for example (after they have outlined their personal or bus objectives…) and include on-going learning from course leader and other ‘students’…
    One aspect that I am a little torn over is with regard to making it too easy- so to speak- as I hate for people to think that anyone can be an expert too quickly…its about having the appetite for on-going learning and engagment that can bring sucess or reward for SM efforts…perhaps this is why there is so much ‘start and stop’ with different SM platforms? People aren’t really committed? Or is it that they don’t really understand what they’re signing on to and its benefits? …This needs to be considered before ‘signing’ up for such a course!! Who wants to ‘teach’ people who aren’t really committed to learning beyond just doing what everyone else is doing this minute?

  • Adam –
    Interesting question, and one that I’m faced with a lot. First, thanks so much for including me in your list of good sources. Honored to be in the same sentence with Beth and Chris and Amber.

    I make a good portion of my living doing all-day social media training workshops – mostly for public relations firms. In fact, I just got back after a 3-day midwest tour, doing those workshops. So, I can say first-hand that social media understanding and techniques can be taught.

    However, what is much more critical is the fact that social media understanding, and social media excellence are not the same. I know how to iron. Yet, I do not iron well. Why? Because I don’t like ironing. The same is true with social media. You, me, or any number of other people, blogs, books, conferences, Vulcan Mind Melds can show folks the ins and outs. But ultimately, it comes down to one thing: PASSION.

    As I say in every speech I give, if you don’t LOVE social media, why bother? It will end up being a chore, not a joy, and that will negatively impact your contributions to whichever communities in which you choose to participate. Social media participation cannot and should not be at bayonet point. It’s not required (although 4 out of 5 social media consultants recommend you get involved RIGHT NOW) 😉

    That’s why, in a corporate setting, I suggest finding the people who have a passion for social media, and empower them with the time and the institutional insights to communicate to fans and prospective fans. Your social media team doesn’t always have to be the CEO, VP, Directors, etc. and unless they really dig it, don’t bother making them do it. Their social media efforts will inevitably die a slow, painful death. And you know who gets blamed then? Not the CEO who couldn’t keep up the blog because he doesn’t really have passion for it. The agency or the marketing team gets blamed.

    It’s about people and passion, not logos and titles.

  • Adam –
    Interesting question, and one that I’m faced with a lot. First, thanks so much for including me in your list of good sources. Honored to be in the same sentence with Beth and Chris and Amber.

    I make a good portion of my living doing all-day social media training workshops – mostly for public relations firms. In fact, I just got back after a 3-day midwest tour, doing those workshops. So, I can say first-hand that social media understanding and techniques can be taught.

    However, what is much more critical is the fact that social media understanding, and social media excellence are not the same. I know how to iron. Yet, I do not iron well. Why? Because I don’t like ironing. The same is true with social media. You, me, or any number of other people, blogs, books, conferences, Vulcan Mind Melds can show folks the ins and outs. But ultimately, it comes down to one thing: PASSION.

    As I say in every speech I give, if you don’t LOVE social media, why bother? It will end up being a chore, not a joy, and that will negatively impact your contributions to whichever communities in which you choose to participate. Social media participation cannot and should not be at bayonet point. It’s not required (although 4 out of 5 social media consultants recommend you get involved RIGHT NOW) 😉

    That’s why, in a corporate setting, I suggest finding the people who have a passion for social media, and empower them with the time and the institutional insights to communicate to fans and prospective fans. Your social media team doesn’t always have to be the CEO, VP, Directors, etc. and unless they really dig it, don’t bother making them do it. Their social media efforts will inevitably die a slow, painful death. And you know who gets blamed then? Not the CEO who couldn’t keep up the blog because he doesn’t really have passion for it. The agency or the marketing team gets blamed.

    It’s about people and passion, not logos and titles.

  • Trying to teach someone to be successful with social media is like trying to teach Richie Cunningham how to be the Fonz, you either have it or you don’t. There are ways that people can benefit from social media (ie. driving traffic to a blog or website) but the long-term benefits require consistency and a good personality that people enjoy being around.

    I personally don’t believe that you can “teach” someone how to be successful with social media, but you can definitely teach them how to use it. With social media, you are only as good as your content, and creating good content is a skill.

  • Trying to teach someone to be successful with social media is like trying to teach Richie Cunningham how to be the Fonz, you either have it or you don’t. There are ways that people can benefit from social media (ie. driving traffic to a blog or website) but the long-term benefits require consistency and a good personality that people enjoy being around.

    I personally don’t believe that you can “teach” someone how to be successful with social media, but you can definitely teach them how to use it. With social media, you are only as good as your content, and creating good content is a skill.

  • Any Red Sox fan is a friend of mine, Adam.
    Really liked this thought-provoking post, and tied it into a blog post at http://www.valleyprblog.com today. Thanks for starting a great conversation.

  • Any Red Sox fan is a friend of mine, Adam.
    Really liked this thought-provoking post, and tied it into a blog post at http://www.valleyprblog.com today. Thanks for starting a great conversation.

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  • Thanks for starting a great conversation, Adam! I blogged about this topic today at http://www.valleyprblog.com.

  • Thanks for starting a great conversation, Adam! I blogged about this topic today at http://www.valleyprblog.com.

  • Short answer, yes social media can be taught.

    I think there’s a difference between teaching the mechanics of using a particular social media technology and what strategies you might use for social media engagement. One is dependent on the technology, the other, well… I think there are fundamentals that cut across social media.

    * Transparency
    * Dialogue
    * Personalization
    * Authenticity
    * Outreach

    You could have a course on Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and teach different information depending on the technology, but there will be some strategy basics that are relevant for every social media technology.