Teach Social Media Savvy

With social media tools present on over 87% of organizations’ intranets (regardless of organization size) no one can dispute the impact these tools will have on business and internal communications. But in order for employees to adopt them as critical business tools an effective training program needs to be part of your social intranet strategy.

Gartner predicts by 2014, 20% of organizations will rely on social media rather than email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications, mirroring our experience in which the intuitiveness and social appeal of this new technology is displacing e-mail in our internet activity.

But even though social media is easy to use, organizations need to understand the barriers that are preventing their employees from becoming social media gurus within their organization. Just because the tools are provided, does not necessarily mean employees will use them effectively and consistently. As mentioned in Prescient’s Social Intranet whitepaper, employees need to be educated to use these tools until they become repetitive action that is part of culture.

Companies like Dell and Intel have introduced highly successful social media training programs that give their employees the tools to drive business results, providing valuable lessons about how to educate employees.

Introduce social media to your employees

With over 600 million Facebook users, 200 million Twitter users generating 64 million tweets a day and 100 million profiles on LinkedIn, social media has become a mainstream form of personal and professional communication. While the popularity of social media is skyrocketing, it is inaccurate to assume that all of your employees have the skills and knowledge necessary to leverage social media tools. An introduction to social media may be necessary for some employees. This can be accomplished through introductory video and tutorials posted to your intranet.

It is also important to note the various levels of social media expertise within your organization. The same training program should not be used for the social media superstar and the user who doesn’t know the difference between a Tweet and a wall post. Employees can complete a simple survey to benchmark their social media awareness and capabilities before training begins.

Introducing social media platforms is important, as is explaining the business purpose and relevance to the organization. Prescient’s Intranet 2.0 Global Study determined the greatest barrier to web 2.0 implementation is a lack of business case. In training, organizations need to communicate the benefits of these platforms and how users can leverage them to drive business results.

Intel: Digital IQ Training Program

Intel introduced the Digital IQ training program in 2008, and since its inception more than 20,000 Intel employees have completed the training. Employees are required to complete an initial test to determine their level of competence, after which, they plan a curriculum path of both required and elective courses. Required courses are determined by performance on the initial benchmarking test.

As mentioned in 10 Steps to a Social Intranet, examples of the Digital IQ courses include:

  • Tweet Like You Mean It: The Right Way to Tweet Your Brand

  • The Importance of Brand Identity in Social media

  • WOM (Word of Mouth): The Anatomy of Buzz

  • Social Media Measurement

  • Viral Marketing

  • Mobile Marketing: Wide Reach of a Small Screen

  • China’s Social Media Landscape

Dell: Social Media and Communities University

The Social Media and Communities (SMaC) University was founded in July 2010 and has trained more than 5,000 employees so far. Employees receive an overview of Dell’s Social Media principles and policies and then move on to strategy-based courses that focus on how to use specific platforms to connect and converse with customers. These courses are highly scenario-based, using case studies to help employees think about how they would act in certain situations.

Dell employees share best practices with one another as well as tips for engaging with users on each platform. All social media training documents are stored on the intranet and Dell uses Salesforce’s collaboration tool, Chatter, to facilitate conversation among employees who have taken the training.

This brings about our next point – what happens after the training is over?

Support and Recognition: Congratulations – you’re a SM Superstar!

Social Media platforms are constantly evolving and new technologies are introduced everyday. It is not realistic or productive to have employees go through a new training program every time a new tool is introduced.

As seen with Dell, employees can continue to learn from one another, sharing new tips and strategies for using the evolving technologies. Collaboration tools like Salesforce’s Chatter provide an excellent opportunity for employees to keep in contact and discuss what is working, what is not, and brainstorm new ideas.

In addition to learning from each other, continued learning should be available for those who wish to develop new competencies or leverage new social media platforms for their business areas.

Recognition is an important element in supporting employee engagement of social media tools. Users want to know that their contributions and input are valued and producing real business results.

Microsoft has an MVP program, which recognizes the most prolific and helpful content creators within the organization. This program has proven extremely effective in motivating employees to contribute quality content with many employees working aggressively to achieve MVP status. Similar employee recognition programs could provide that extra push to get your employees engaged.

Culture of Continuous Learning

The ultimate goal of a social media and training program is to foster a culture of innovation, knowledge sharing and collaboration. Additionally, organizations should encourage their employees to get excited about learning these new technologies and to think of creative ways to integrate social media into business practices.

Creating a culture that welcomes continued learning and adoption of new technologies will lessen the burden of change management and the disruption that occurs when introducing new business tools.

This type of culture is displayed at both Intel and Microsoft. Employees at Intel are so excited about social media that they complete many additional courses after receiving their Digital IQ certification. Similar enthusiasm is seen at Microsoft, where the status of MVP is so significant that employees note the accomplishment on their resumes.

In order to cultivate this type of culture, organizations must assure their employees that these platforms are supported and valued by upper management and are here to stay.

Training and continuous learning is necessary for any business tool, and social media is no different. Employees cannot be expected to take their knowledge of a personal social media platform, for example Facebook, and repurpose their skills to leverage the same platform for business purposes. Teaching your employees how to use these platforms will help increase their satisfaction and competence with social media tools – making your organization ready for the next steps in communication and innovation.

Register for the related webinar on April 28, 2011.

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