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Do People Need Social Media Training? Yes. And (Much) More.

Earlier this year I shared my thoughts about online social learning communities in response to a Forbes post by Meghan Biro. This post supplements those ideas by reflecting on a 2012 series written by Shel Holtz about social media training:

I'm always glad to see others write about the need for education and training, which becomes more important as the gap between technological and human capabilities continues to grow. I especially appreciate the thought and effort leaders like Shel Holtz put into helping leaders understand why the issue is important and how it can be addressed most effectively.

But just as marketing is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the applications of new communications technologies, so is social media training when it comes to Digital Era competencies. Based on my own research and writing on the subject, as well as the preliminary results of some focus groups on digital competencies I've been conducting, I offer the following considerations for both individuals and organizations:

1. As internal applications and implications of social and digital technologies expand (and will become far more pervasive and relevant to workers of all types), the training provided by organizations will need to expand as well. The focus must move beyond external discussions on public platforms to internal communication and collaboration on private digital networks. No functional area is exempt.

2. Our prevailing LIY (Learn It Yourself) attitude may have some limited effectiveness for personal uses of new technologies, but it is both inefficient and ineffective for professional uses. Most people - and especially later adopters - need help to develop the competencies they need. There has to be a balance between formal and informal learning, with different weights applied to each depending on an individual's baseline competencies. The ultimate goal, however, should be to enable people to engage in self-directed learning.

3. Education and training will have to range from high-level concepts to specific skills. Everyone should know how to do basic tasks like insert and crop an image and hyperlink text, for example, but they should also have at least a basic understanding of things like the role of mobile technology in commerce and legal considerations for both individuals and organizations.

4. Similarly, we have to focus on both the simple and complex. Yes, learning can often be boiled down to a few simple points, but those points hardly reflect everything someone needs to know. For example, knowing basic accounting principles like "assets = liabilities + owners' equity" and "revenue - expenses = net profit" is important, but that knowledge hardly qualifies someone to be a bookkeeper, let alone a CPA or CFO.

5. Education and training must also address strategic and tactical considerations, again to varying degrees depending on the learners and the learning objectives. In addition to knowing what they need to do and how, professionals - and especially organizational leaders - need to understand why they should be be doing it.

6. Not everything can or should be taught in house. Some aspects of education and training should be customized, but general concepts and skills can be developed through more standard approaches. We need more valuable services to provide what organizations need - and organizational leaders must be willing to make the necessary investments in those services.

7. Higher education - especially in professional schools like business - has a critical role to play in developing competent Digital Era professionals and effective Digital Era leaders. There is MUCH more that they can and should be doing to create the necessary foundations for ongoing professional development of all types.

You can learn more about Digital Era competencies and the need for education and training through the Related Resources listed below. I encourage folks to share additional resources and especially welcome comments and questions about the challenges faced by digital rookies and what they need to bridge their own digital divides.

- Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

Related Resources

10 Digital Era Truths

Social and Digital Tech Trends: 9 Take-Aways for YOU

Digital Era Adaptation in 2013: A Long and Winding Road

The New Digital Divide: Thoughts for Leaders and Laggards

Digital Era Competencies: How Do You Stack Up?

What's Your Social Media Sophistication? The SMQ (version III)

Social Media Education and Training: Pro or Con? Please Discuss…

Social Media Education & Training: Where We Are. Where We’re Going.

A Master’s Degree Specialization in Social Media & Online Communities

Digital Era Leadership: The Role of Business Schools

What's Your Social Media Sophistication? The SMQ (version III)

For even more resources, check out slides 35-42 from my closing Impact99 keynote, The Road Forward: Striving for Balance. More recent pieces can be found in the blog archives from December to the present.

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