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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Social Media Marketing Training: 5 Tips for Breaking Through The Knowledge Barrier.

Huh Knowledge is powerful. But when it comes to companies moving into social media, lack of knowledge is absolutely paralyzing.

While social media adoption rates are exploding among consumer and professional audiences alike--and companies are attributing far more attention and budget to social media efforts--education remains one of the biggest barriers to social media adoption.

More to the point, lack of know-how is one of the biggest reasons that so many social media programs fail to perform. Take these recent findings on the knowledge barrier:

  • According to a recent study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, the marketing and HR executives surveyed who are not using social media on a corporate basis say non-implementation is primarily due to concern about confidentiality or security issues (40%), employee  productivity (37%) or simply not knowing enough about it (51%).

Since one of my practice areas is social media marketing training, I wanted to share 5 key training tips on how best to educate, prepare and guide companies to succeed in the Social Web:

#1: Transitioning is the goal--training is the vehicle that gets us there.

When I'm educating clients, my focus is shifting their thinking not just their marketing activities. Thus, while the sessions are categorized under "training" my goal is transitioning them to new mindsets, practices and programs.

Fact is, because the complex, customer-driven Web 2.0 landscape is so vastly different from all other media and environments, companies can't otherwise succeed by simply going through the marketing motions. And I measure my success on how many "a-ha!" moments I witness when... *poof*...all of a sudden, social media and the BIG shift that's driving this space truly clicks with my clients. Because in order to transition, a meaningful change in one's mindset and views must first take place.

#2: Don’t start with tools. Tools are the end of the educational process, not the beginning.

As I often say, the tools are easy, the environment is tough. Plus, tools change all the time. Many training programs focus specifically on learning how to use a tool, and they have much merit... it's just not at all where I advocate starting the educational process. Until companies have established a set of goals, a viable strategy and a unique program set, they won't know which tools are even appropriate for them (especially given there are so many tools, and more debuting daily).

And a company can't determine any of these tactics until they firmly grasp the profound shifts in trends, mindsets, markets, rules of customer engagement and purchasing behaviors--and understand how those changes specifically affect their marketing practices and internal processes.

#3: Address fears early and often. Knowledge is a barrier, but fear is a brick wall.

Telling executives to "Put their fears to the side and focus on joining the social media conversation!" doesn't work. Why? Because humans aren't wired that way and businesses absolutely, positively must limit risk as they have a responsibility to their stakeholders.

Instead, bring the fears front and center and walk them through each and every one of them so as to teach them how to (1) avoid and dramatically decrease risks and (2) overcome a troubling situation if one should occur.  When you address the fears--no matter if those fears are real or perceived--you'll come a long way in replacing concern with confidence. So slay all those "fear demons" because while knowledge is a barrier, fear is a BIG brick wall.

#4: Make everything hyper-relevant and be prepared to go old school when explaining new media.

For those of us who are highly engaged with these media, they're so natural to us and we frequently wonk out with our geek speak. But, that is not the case for 99% of the world. When you're educating, you're a guide, and a guide needs to show the way by using examples, analogies and metaphors that students ALREADY understand so that they have a basis from which to learn, and build upon their existing knowledge.

Here you'll likely need to go analog and use plenty of metaphors and off-line examples so that all the "Web 2.0 wonky stuff" becomes relevant and meaningful. Otherwise you're talking another language and so much will be lost in translation.

#5: All silos and specialties must come together. (Yes, in the same room!)

There needs to be at least one session with all departments who will be affected by the company's use  and participation with social media. Because it's unrealistic to believe that Legal won't need to be a part of the discussion around setting the organization's social media policy, and it's imperative that the Research & Development Group understands that the feedback from social media monitoring will help them in their jobs.

From customer service to corporate communications to management and more, a company's social media efforts affect all these groups in some fashion and thus, they all need to be involved. If you can't get representatives from all departments in the same room, then prepare the marketing team for the conversations that they'll need to hold with these groups--because everyone needs to feel comfortable, be heard, have their concerns (and fears!) addressed and learn how social media can make their jobs better, instead of feeling like it's an added burden.

Bonus Tip! Build the business case for how social media improves business performance. Because that's your audience's imperative.

Make no mistake about it, you're building a business case on how these media can improve business performance. As such, you'll need to clearly outline the benefits that are important to them, including how to increase revenues, how the company can build new customer relationships and exponentially broaden its reach, how to facilitate positive online WOM that will lead to purchases, and how the company must remain relevant... and not let their competitors gain ground while they remain asleep at the Web 2.0 wheel.
(And for the B2Bs out there: this post will help you build your business case).

Even though the professionals that you are training are interested in and excited about social media, they will more than likely need to champion this business case to other departments in their organization, so arm them well.

I'll likely outline more social media marketing tips in future posts, but these are my BIG ones for breaking through the knowledge barrier. Hope they serve you well.

Social Media Tips Social Media *Extras* Social Media Training Contact CK


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Points #1 and #2 are well taken. So many business people want to get on Facebook, Twitter or have a blog but to what end? Without a clear set of goals you can't possibly pick which tools you need.

"Without a clear set of goals you can't possibly pick which tools you need." Well, some companies do it to secure their brand. Even with no set goals or objectives, it's a good idea to create your accounts on all popular social media networks before someone blocks you off.

Those are surprising numbers. I can't believe 51% of companies still don't know the magic of Internet marketing. How can anyone miss it? All their customers must have social networking accounts.

"Don’t start with tools. Tools are the end of the educational process, not the beginning." Good call. Some people are fooled by absurd promises of software that supposedly make everything easy, but social media marketing is not that simple.

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