Need Social Media Training? 4 Steps to a Better Program

4 steps to create the perfect social media training program for your employees.
January 03, 2013

Social media has been around long enough for most companies to realize it’s not a fad. And now that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is starting to issue guidelines about employee use of social media, more businesses are recognizing the importance of creating their own company guidelines. So, where does a company start?

Here are four steps for building a social media training program for your small business.

1. Assess Your Training Needs

Conduct an assessment: Why does your company need social media training? What is the goal of the training session? Who will attend the training?

"Companies should establish social media guidelines and conduct social media training to educate employees on best practices, opportunities, potential pitfalls and requirements of leveraging social media on behalf of the company," says Justin Levy, senior social communications manager at Citrix.

Whether a company is using social media extensively or on a limited basis, you have to discern what your company needs. Be warned, the worst thing you can do is make assumptions about your customers' level of competency.

"Many people don’t understand some basics, like how to use privacy settings," says Jane Bozarth, author of the book Social Media for Trainers. "There are a lot of misunderstandings around some tools. Some, for instance, don’t realize that to participate in Facebook groups or pages you don’t need to 'friend' anyone. Many folks just don’t know what to make of Twitter. Training in the basics of using tools and providing solid examples of how they are being used in business can help demystify them and encourage use." 

2. Plan the Training Content

Once the training session has a goal, it’s time to decide on the content. Jay Shepherd, employment lawyer and author of Firing at Will: A Manager’s Guide, emphasizes the need to teach employees how to excel using social media. "Concepts are way more important than the ever-changing details of specific platforms. Instead, teach employees how to be effective ambassadors for your organization and good social media citizens. Include techniques for making their posts interesting, relevant and useful. The world doesn’t need any more cat videos."

Bozarth agrees that concepts are more important than tools. "Tools morph, and what an organization uses today could change tomorrow. Most tools can be used for most purposes. For example, you can have conversation and share links and a community on almost any platform; depending on how you define 'community,' you can now get that on Twitter and Pinterest," she says. Bozarth suggests including training information on personal privacy, elements of a good profile and the basics of digital citizenship.

Another key consideration is the audience. Levy reminds us that the level of detail depends on who is taking the training class.

"If training is an extension of the company’s social media guidelines, it's not necessary to teach specific platform usage, because the intent of that training would be to educate employees in a manner that would be applicable across all social media channels. If the social media training is for employees who will be directly engaging on behalf of the company, specific social platform training should be provided to help the employees understand how each platform differs and the brand’s social voice in each of those channels."

3. Establish Training Frequency

Some businesses may be reluctant to engage in social media training because of how fast the social media world operates. Changes to platforms and privacy settings occur regularly—sometimes without notice, resulting in frustration.

Bozarth says a company with strong social media channels should use that social media to update employees about changes, not create separate training events. Once employees are trained, use social media as a delivery mechanism for future training updates.

 “Social media education should be ongoing and evolving as the industry changes. Sometimes this will require significant updates due to changes in federal laws or it may be minor tweaks due to changes on specific platforms,” Levy says.

4. Create an Employee-Friendly Program

When Citrix, for example, created its social media guidelines, it came up with the following four rules:

  • Be transparent
  • Be discreet
  • Play nice
  • Play by the rules

Citrix also developed a training video for members of its worldwide marketing team, covering best practices from industry leaders as well as working with third parties, moderating comments and running contests. For team members engaged in regular social media activity for the company, Citrix provides ongoing educational opportunities and specific platform and toolset training.

Creating a social media training program to complement your organizational strategy doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. It also doesn’t have to take days (or even hours) away from work. What can be challenging, time-consuming and pricey is when companies leave the responsibility for learning social media to chance.

Read more articles on social media training.

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