, ,

Social Media: Resources for Beginners

I was just asked “should I take this class on social media.” Here’s my somewhat complex answer to what seems like a simple question.

Like any new field, learning how to use social media well isn’t a matter of taking one class, but rather of learning a variety of skills and mental models, and then learning by doing. And staying on top of it is a matter of reading blog posts about social media, watching videos, playing with new tools as they emerge, etc.

As you dive in, I’ve found there are three levels of understanding:

  1. What is this? Just learning what Facebook is, or Twitter, etc.
  2. I know what the tools are, but how can we use them for government purposes?
  3. I know how we can use social media tools to meet our mission; now I need instructions on specific tools (e.g., how do I set up an and manage an account)?

As you research training, it’s helpful to know which level you are. Learning how to manage a Facebook account isn’t helpful if you don’t really grasp what that tool can do for you.

The single most important thing to know is that social media is just a set of tools to help you accomplish your mission. They’re free, but only in the sense of the tool cost; using them well, and accomplishing your mission, takes work.

There are also quite a few legal and ethics requirements around gov’t use of social media. For example, you can’t use a social media tool unless we’ve signed a special federal gov’t-friendly terms of service.

All of this can seem daunting, but your agency likely has people in your public affairs, legal, and IT shops to help you figure out how to do it well and do it right.

There are literally thousands of ways to get started. Here are several resources I’ve created or know about. I’d recommend watching and reading all of it before even going to a class.

Now it’s your turn: in the comments, please recommend other stuff to help people begin learning how to use social media for their agencies.


List updated February 21, 2012

Social media policies:


My blog posts (each of which has a presentation embedded at the bottom):


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Andrew Krzmarzick

Awesome, Jeffrey! Feel like you and I have been carrying this training torch for the last few years and completely agree on the three elements. That’s exactly how I structured my “101” courses:


Over the years (like you), I’ve been building out several other courses (and working on a new one now re: “Managing a Workforce of Social Media Users” for senior execs), including:

Monitoring and Measuring Social Media

Advancing Your Government Career

Social Media and Recruitment

Those are just three and I have more…I know Steve has done variations of these, too. We’re working on some Guides, too, and have a bunch of blogs on the subject…quite a repository among the various folks in the space teaching about this stuff, eh?

Jeffrey Levy

Great stuff, Andy! Thanks for sharing. I’m very amused you mentioned me in your blog post as if dropping my name would mean anything. 🙂