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The need for social media training is larger than ever

I had the honor of chatting with the Boston SPIN group yesterday during their monthly meeting. The group, primarily engineering minded professionals, developers, QA, project managers, turned out to hear me discuss the topic of extending thought leadership positions via social media. Now, to be honest with you, I had expected to have a small turnout as the phrases social media, thought leadership, personal branding, all reek of marketing and turn off many engineering folks. I was surprised, however, to have a respectable number of somewhat skeptical folks turn out.

While the US economy has added back many IT jobs in the last two months the unemployment rate is still high (yes, I know, insightful commentary on my part :-) ). Many of the technology folks in the room were either looking for work or were underemployed. Too often this is the time that people first begin their networking efforts, far too late for it to be effective. Start now, while you are happily employed. It is no longer enough for engineers, or any other profession, to sly be good at their core job competencies. All of us must work on our writing skills, on our speaking skills, on our ability to get an idea across and to discuss, perhaps argue, our view points.

What struck me as I did my presentation and conversed with the audience was the fact that many of us are living in a world unto ourselves, far from the mainstream where people have never heard of people like Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang. When I mentioned these thought leaders to the audience, most people had no clue who they were. Now…. I do not favor building a country of devoted social media junkies but I do favor a society that understands the need to market their skills, their capabilities. Many of these people have no idea how to raise awareness of who they are much less why they might want to do so. Look, if you end up unemployed and looking for work do you want to just begin your marketing efforts then?

Here are a couple of tips to get you started, please use these now.

  • Are you using LinkedIn? If not, get on it now. If you are, make your profile your resume. LinkedIn is your work profile and it should always match your resume. Do some people disagree? Yes, but this is my blog, not theirs. :-)
  • Raise your profile by joining groups on LinkedIn and answering questions being raised in these groups. Spend 15 – 20 minutes a day doing this. It does not require a lot of time.
  • Join Twitter and use it, spending 5 – 10 minutes after lunch and before the end of your work day (or when you get home). Look, I thought Twitter was nonsense before I joined it. It is not nonsense, it is a valuable part of your social media efforts.
  • Are you on Facebook? Decide if you are going to use it for personal or professional purposes. I recommend keeping it for personal use and not friending co-workers and others you do not know. Keep in mind, I break this rule but it will make your life much easier if you do not.
  • Setup your Google Profile. It is free, use it.
  • Make sure your profile and your photos match on every social site you use. You want one view of who you are.

If you feel that you have more than the hour a day I’ve laid out above start a blog. However, only start a blog if you are going to make the time to update it 3 or 4 times a week. Keep it fresh, keep it interesting.

Take your career seriously and see if you can find a friend who already understands this social stuff. If that doesn’t work, call me and I can help you out but, of course, I am not cheap so the friend route is always a smart starting point.

A final point for my friends in HR. If you are not in the 38% of companies that are spending their time blocking social media access and are in the 29% of companies with a solid social usage policy please setup a social media training class for your employees. Help them learn how to position themselves, and your company, in a professional and positive manner. It will benefit everyone.

John

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Profile Photo John Moore

Absolutely agree re: Govloop. In fact, when I was chatting with the Boston SPIN group, doing my presentation, I mentioned GovLoop as a place to be, a place I enjoy hanging out.

Profile Photo Ari Herzog

How much time did you spend suggesting people create profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and GovLoop — vs showing them how to use them? Focusing on Twitter alone and the fact 83% of accounts become inactive after a month, the primary reason is because people are told to create accounts but once they do, then what?

Training is necessary, but less about the WHAT and WHY and much much more hands-on training about the HOW.

Profile Photo John Moore

Ari, I agree with you on the need for the how but that was clearly not the point of my Boston SPIN session, or this post. People need to understand the what and they why first, then be guided through the HOW. That is why training is needed. We agree.

Twitter alone would never be my recommendation. However, using twitter as part of your efforts is important, is sensible, and is recommended.

Thanks Ari. I always appreciate your thoughts, comments, and insights.

John

Profile Photo Bill Brantley

@John – Have to disagree with you on LinkedIn. I set up an account several years ago and followed the steps you talk about. I even bought the professional upgrade. I spent the time answering questions in groups and received some feedback but nothing compared to the days when I was active in email groups.

In contrast, I joined GovLoop last year but only really became active this year. Even so, I am finding much more value in the last three months on GovLoop than in the three years I have been on LinkedIn. I believe that this is because GovLoop has a more focused purpose than LinkedIn.

As to Twitter: I use it sporadically but I haven’t found much value with it. Maybe it’s the people I am following or I don’t Tweet well but I find better interaction in commenting on blog posts than I do on Twitter.

I agree with Ari – you have to have a reason for using the tool rather than just because it is the latest and greatest. And with the number of tools out there, I believe you are better off using a few well rather than using many tools poorly.

Profile Photo John Moore

Agreed Bill that you must have a strategic purpose first before you start using any set of tools. GovLoop is the best there is for government interactions and exchanges, but LinkedIn can also be valuable IF you are able to become active in the right groups. Twitter is the same way with groups being defines as those in your community.

Thanks for the comments, they are truly appreciated.

Profile Photo John Moore

It comes back to what your strategic goals are. The process I have used is:

– Define goals. For me, government 2.0, crm (social or otherwise), social media.
– Follow up with those I trust on groups they are in around these topics. Which are active, which are not.
– Use LinkedIn Group Search to find other groups that match these critiera.
– Join. You can have 50 groups.
– Evaluate. Are these groups discussing topics, and are they active enough, for you to meet your needs?

This is my approach. Does anyone have anything to add to refine/improve this approach?

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Hi Folks – Here’s how I’ve been doing the social media/government 2.0 training over the past couple years:

1. What is Government 2.0?
2. What is Web 2.0?
3. What is [insert tool here]?
4. Who is using it effectively (case studies)?
5. Why would you use it in your organization?
6. How do you set it up?

If I were consulting, #5 would be my starting point…mission first, always!

Profile Photo John Moore

Great feedback Andy. Without the focus on strategy, the WHY as you state in #5, all is for naught. Too many people seem to focus on the HOW first, always a key for failure. I have been considering adding consulting services on social media, collaborative strategies, government 2.0 because of this need. A question, is there enough of a demand in the market for it?

John