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HOW TO: Conduct a Hands-On Social Media Training

Social Marketing TrainingForrester Research found that only 16% of online consumers who read blogs trust them, and Marketing Profs and Junta 42 reported only 28% of marketers think podcasts are effective.

But if blogs and podcasts are so ineffective, why is it that some use them successfully, while other fail? What is it that bloggers like Chris Brogan and Brian Solis, and podcasters like Mitch Joel and Shel Holtz do differently to make these channels work?

The answer is, they’re digitally literate. They’ve invested to time and energy and learned how to communicate effectively through conversational, inclusive media.  They’re learned by doing, trail blazing a path. The war against digital illiteracy will not be won by attending social media conferences. What’s required is hands-on training. Not keynotes and panel sessions, but actual training in a wired classroom with broadband access, step-by-step exercises and expert instruction.

In my book Social Marketing to the Business Customer with Paul Gillin, we cover every aspect of what marketers who get social media right do differently. They listen, create interesting, useful content in a variety of formats and ask meaningful questions.  They leverage the latest online tools and services to do more with less. They understand that the message, independent of the media, must have merit. They appreciate the difference between marketing and editorial content.  But most importantly, they have a high-level of applied social media literacy.


The fact is, most companies think social media marketing is launching a Twitter feed and a Facebook Page and spamming the community with links.  They lack the skill and stamina to locate buyer-oriented conversations or steer purchasing decisions.  And they regard social media as mass media, so they broadcast promotional messages and wonder why it’s not working.

There’s a real lack of practical, applied social media training opportunities out there, and not enough employers are investing in developing social media literacy in the workplace.  I’m not talking about the dozens of social media conferences where speakers cover, at a high-level, case studies and success stories.  I’m talking about a training environment where you bring your laptop, participate in exercises and gets hands-on training.

Thanks to PRSA and my clients, I’ve had the opportunity to lead over 100, two-day social media training courses over the last five years. I’ve trained Fortune 500s, government agencies, the military and nonprofits.  If you’re interested in developing your digital literacy level, I have a Social Media Marketing Workshop in Los Angeles June 30 – July 1, 2011.

When I first started, we called it new media training. Then it became new media and social media training. Now, with social becoming a component of destination site, search and database marketing as well, we just call it social media training.

I’ve had a chance to spend a lot of time thinking about how to advance social media literacy rates.  So if you’re considering conducting a social media training class, or even starting your own social media training business, here are my top tips for what it takes to lead an outstanding web 2.0 training:

  • Live Demos – Teaching people how to use social media via PowerPoint borders on criminal. Make sure you have high-speed web access and do live demos.  And don’t do canned demos. Conduct actual keyword research for someone in the course so everyone can see how it’s done. Before I lead a social media workshop, I look over the list of registered attendees and make sure I’m prepared to focus all my demos around their particularly areas of interest. And I also make sure my case studies are applicable to them.
  • Lead Exercises – Most conferences have woken up to the fact that wireless connectivity is like air conditioning. But in a social media training course, broadband access for everyone is mandatory.  Live demos may engage your audience, but the knowledge transfer process gets cemented through experience.  Have your attendees bring their laptops and lead them through a series of exercises.  These are some of my favorites:
    • Keyword Research – Show attendees how to use Google Wonder Wheel to discover relevant keyword phrases, Google Insights to get a handle on search volume, Google Keyword Tool to analyze your competitor’s website for keyword recommendations, how to check a site for meta keywords and how to use a density analyzer to check for keywords when no meta keyword data exists.
    • Competitive Analysis – Once they have an understanding of the keywords that are relevant to their business, show then how to see who else is out there already, competing for the attention of their audience. Have them search the keywords and analyze the top results in Yahoo! SiteExplorer for inbound links from external domains, and Compete.com for uniue visits.  Then have them do the same for their own site.  If their competitors have established an overwhelming lead, ask them to reconsider their keywords. Show them how to add keyword modifiers to compete in the long tail of search. They may reach fewer prospects, but those who do find them will have a higher probability of conversion.
    • Social Media Monitoring – Once they got a better handle of what they should be listening to, show them how to pull Google News and Google Blog Search RSS feeds into Google Reader.  Then show how to monitor Twitter, forums, Wikipedia, YouTube and Linkedin by keyword via RSS as well. There’s a chapter that walks you step-by-step through these first three bullets in my book.
    • Social Media Mapping – Once people start to see how difficult it is to drink from a firehouse and retain intelligence, show them how to use a social bookmarking service to build influencer lists.  Demo Delicious or Diigo for tagging useful content and thought leaders, and show them how they can collaborate with colleagues to divide and conquer broad swaths of information. By monitoring and mapping, you find those hot pockets of activity I mentioned earlier.  Then, you can strike where the iron is hot.
    • Launch a Blog – Instead of just talking about the benefits of blogging, show them how to launch a blog for the purposes of education only.  It doesn’t need to be a blog they are going to maintain. Use Blogger as a digital sandbox to show people how easy it is publish and mash-up content from other sources on the web.  Have them all write an innocuous blog post, embed a Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo, blog a YouTube clip, install a Facebook “Like” button, add a Tweet Button, a Linkedin Share Button and install Google Analytics.
    • Record a Podcast – Record a short, one-minute interview with a session attendee, edit it in Audacity, ad an intro with royalty free music, compress it to an MP3 and ID3 tag it in iTunes, right in front of everyone.  Then show them how to get a podcast listed in the iTunes directory.  Pull a streaming audio widget and show attendees how to embed a podcast episode in a blog.  The show them how to record and upload audio from a smart phone with Cinch.
    • Distribute a Live Stream – Use a consumer video camcorder and an MacBook Pro with firewire ports to live stream to Ustream. Have the attendees embed the stream in their blogs. Then show them how to live stream from a smart phone with Qik.
    • Launch a Facebook Page – Show them how to establish a Company or Brand page on Facebook, install a few apps and show how to check a page’s usage statistics in Insights.  Head on over to the “Marketing” tab in the Facebook Page admin console and Create an Alias, Add a Like Box to your Blog and Get a Badge to install as well.
    • Set Up an Engagement Dashboard – Show them how to use the “Send To” function in their Google Reader to curate content for posting to their blog, their Facebook Page and their Twitter account.  If there’s time, use TweetDeck or HootSuite, and show everyone how to pull their Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts in so they can spend more time engaging, and less time going from site to site.
    • B2B Options – If your audience is interested in B2B social media, show them Linkedin and SlideShare as well.  On Linkedin, demo Groups, Answers, Signal and Linkedin Today.  On SlideShare, show them how to upload a deck and embed it in their blog.
  • How to Format the Take Away Info – In the old days, people used to print out their PowerPoint decks and hand out hard copies. But if you’re workshop is all about online tools and services, that’s a whole lot of URLs for people to have to write down and remember.  What I do is link any JPEG I show in a slide back to the URL where I got it from.  And I number each slide in the upper right-hand corner.  I upload the deck to SlideShare so everyone has a copy.  All they have to do is advance to the slide and click on the image to get to the site I’m showing. Here’s how I format my decks for sharing:

  • Solicit Recommendations – If you want to go into the social media training business, you need people who have taken your workshops to recommend it to others. Linkedin Recommendations is a great way to get testimonials, because they have to actually be written by another Linkedin member, and they can be rescinded at any time, so they’re more credible.  I’ve built up plenty of recommendations for my social media trainings on Linkedin, and send people a link if they’re on the fence about enrolling in one of my courses.

I thoroughly enjoy leading social media training workshops. It’s incredibly inspirational to see others awaken to the possibilities of social media marketing.  If you would like to use my training materials to lead your own workshop, go right ahead. I ask only that you attribute my slides to me, and that you share them as well with whoever you show them to.

If you’d like to hire me to conduct a social media training, or would like attend one of upcoming public sessions, please check my availability and contact me directly.

About the Author
Eric Schwartzman (@ericschwartzman) provides social marketing researchsocial marketing servicesand social marketing training to businesses, government agencies and nonprofits. His book Social Marketing to the Business Customer with Paul Gillin is the first book devoted exclusively to B2B social media marketing.

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