By Kevin Green, Vice President of Marketing and Social Media, Digital Influence Group
If your organization’s social media training program for employees is limited to just tools and features, prepare to waste time, money and energy—and you’re likely not seeing the returns from your social media efforts that you should. Whether training 10 employees or 10,000, providing webinars, seminars, and certification programs on “How To Use Facebook” is limited in impact at best. A short-sighted view and process focused on 101 training alone will result in a more educated staff for the immediate term, but does little to move the needle for long-term adoption, understanding of how to use social media for business, and brand marketing success.
Consider the following two examples of employee training and how each supports your business:
Software Training: Employees are often trained on new software as organizations update their systems. Training is provided to each existing and new employee to ensure that each understands the basic functions and can perform the job effectively.
Management Training: The best managers in any organization are constantly looking for new tactics and approaches. These skills are frequently honed, adapted and improved. As new generations join the workforce with unique demands, management styles need to adjust to meet these needs and ensure success.
If your current social media program is structured similar to Software Training, complete with a shiny certificate of completion, you may be missing an opportunity to develop Social Business Employees –employees willing to serve as ambassadors for your brand across social media channels. Before creating your training program, consider these five tips to help you move beyond just “checking off the box” for social tools training and actually creating a culture that is passionate about participation:
1. Account for Varying Skill Levels
Not everyone in your organization is a social media novice. With the rise of the Millennials, odds are that several of your youngest employees understand social media better than you do. Understanding the various skill levels and adapting training to their specific needs will ensure an appropriate use of their time. Making them sit through Twitter 101 would be a waste of time and money if they already have a solid understanding. Consider that the focus for this group should be on using social media within a corporate environment or for brand advocacy, rather than explaining what a hashtag is.
2. Plan Long Term
Social media evolves everyday as new platforms and tools are launched. Considering Facebook updates the platform on nearly a weekly basis, the guidance you provide today may be out of date and ineffective tomorrow. If the current training program relies on getting mass amounts of employees into a room for scenario-based activities and helpful quizzes, how can you sustain this practice multiple times each year to keep up with the ever-changing landscape?
While some employees may certainly be astute enough to learn on their own and stay up to date without continued guidance, many will miss key changes and opportunities. Remember, the majority of your employees have other responsibilities: the work you hired them to do.
Plan for the long term by developing a process that allows you to engage with all employees and keep them apprised of changes and adjustments – whether it be for a tool or an update to brand messaging and positioning. Make it easy for employees to access information at their leisure and through means or platforms that they are already comfortable with.
3. Look at the Social Media Universe
Do your training materials only cover Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or YouTube – and now, Google+? While these may be the most recognized, and certainly provide a significant opportunity to reach the masses, they may not be right for all of your employees – or to reach your brand’s target audiences. Consider the key functional areas of your organization. Where is your technology team engaged with their peers? Most likely, places like Reddit and Stack Overflow.
The social media universe is vast and your employees are best suited to know where there is value in engaging based on their core competencies. While the big social networks offer scale and mass awareness, employee participation may be more successful in the niche communities where their expertise can really shine.
When creating your social media training program, be sure to consider your employees and their needs. Depending on your goals and objectives, a site like Stack Overflow will create more opportunity for the business rather than trying to convince the team they need to be active on Twitter.
4. Create a Feedback Loop
Some of the best social media ideas within an organization come from places other than the marketing and communications department. Employees are interacting with customers every day and have the best insights into their needs. Many of these employees may also be early adopters of new technologies and communities. When that knowledge is combined, amazing things can happen in terms of providing value to customers.
Any successful training program needs to be informed by the people who live and breathe the activities on a daily basis. A sales associate may be using Twitter to successfully drive foot traffic into brick-and-mortar locations by monitoring issues around competitor products and offering alternatives and a personal connection. The brand may be monitoring this conversation as well, but having an individual make a connection with a potential customer around a specific need, provide a resolution and engage on a local level can mean instant results.
With the appropriate feedback loop in place, you can identify these tactics and determine the potential for success and the appropriate process to scale this activity throughout the organization. Just be sure to recognize each employee that is going the extra mile and is essentially driving your organization closer to becoming a successful social business.
5. Measure and Monitor
Social media ROI has been discussed ad nauseam in the marketing world. The focus has mainly been at the brand level to determine what the value of the conversation is and whether or not social programs are generating results. Unfortunately, that mindset has not been applied to employee social media participation for many reasons; which include not knowing where employees are engaged, not wanting to be too “big brother,” or simply the fact that participating in social channels is not included in most employees’ job descriptions.
However, understanding where employees are engaged and participating is important to longterm success. While metrics like number of followers and friends are bandied about as success factors in social campaigns, there are additional factors to consider when measuring employee participation:
- Which platforms are the most popular?
- Where are our brand mentions/conversations happening?
- Who are our internal and external influencers in social media?
- What is the rate of adoption and how is activity being sustained?
Having access to this data can help the organization make smart decisions about upcoming social media programs and guidelines. If 50% of the organization is actively using Twitter, and has been consistently for several months, it would make sense to include Twitter as a core feature in upcoming programs (and I don’t mean adding your Twitter handle to the latest TV commercial). If 25% just started using vYou to broadcast their lives, it’s probably a destination to watch.
Once you know where employees are, take the time to understand how they are participating.
- Are they creating content or just listening?
- Are they having a dialogue or promoting new products?
- Are they providing value to customers and nurturing leads or asking for input and feedback?
When armed with accurate data and information, you may find that the support you need to have a successful social program is within the walls of your organization. Do you know who they are? Do you know how to motivate them? Do you know how to help them grow?
I have a diploma hanging on my wall, but it doesn’t mean I should stop learning. A certificate is just a piece of paper without the right mentorship, support and opportunity. Give your employees the ongoing training they need to confidently serve as brand ambassadors and your organization will be well on its way to becoming a successful social business.
Kevin Green is Vice President of Marketing and Social Media at Digital Influence Group, a full-service digital marketing agency with social media at the core. You can contact Kevin by email at Kevin (at) digitalinfluencegroup (dot) com, on Twitter @KevinMGreen, or at his personal blog Green Matter Thoughts.