Can You Teach Social Media Skills?

Tweeting Leadership“Can it be taught?” 

She asked me point-blank. She’s swimming upstream, trying to get her leaders to properly engage in social media—to capitalize on the potential. I hear this a lot. Some leaders won’t even consider it. Others stumble in awkwardly trying to peddle their wares and services from day one. The question was honest.

“Can you teach someone social media skills?”

“Yes,” I said, “however…” The caveat:

There are two types of rookie social media fumblers: The ones who have trouble connecting with others in any context and those who just aren’t used to this new environment.

For those who generally can’t connect with others, they need to grow their social muscles. First, they must see the need—they must understand why connecting with others is beneficial—both for themselves and for the people around them. Then they need to review (or learn) the basics. You know, the kindergarten stuff:

1. Treat others as you want to be treated.

2. Listen before you speak.

3. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

4. Smile.

5. Tell the truth.

6. Share what you have.

7. Help others out.

The second group, those who are just uncomfortable in new media, need to use the social muscles they already have. I freely admit that social media isn’t for everyone. However, before one can honestly make that decision, I think one should understand what social media really is.

Social media is simply another context for humans to connect with one another. Fundamentally, it’s no different from having a pen pal, calling your mother, or meeting someone for lunch. All the basics—including those listed above—still apply. My advice to social media novices:

1. Go hang out. Listen. Listen some more. Learn the language, the culture, the customs.

2. Don’t even think of selling anything.

3. Help. Give away something valuable—not the whole farm, mind you—but something worthwhile.

4. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy others. Build real relationships with people.

5. Be smart. Don’t give away sensitive or secure information.

6. Find a mentor or twelve. Find someone to follow and emulate.

7. Learn the tools and develop a strategy.

Bottom line, social media skills are just social skills. Whether it’s tweeting or public speaking, anyone can learn to connect if they believe in the benefits and are willing to do the work.

What advice would you give to those just diving into social media?

8 thoughts on “Can You Teach Social Media Skills?”

  1. Great post, Geoffrey.

    My advice to those approaching the water’s edge of social media is to wade in at a pace that suits their comfort level. If one isn’t a diver, don’t dive.

    Think of the world of social media as a bunch of new neighbourhoods; there’s the Twitter ‘hood, the Facebook ‘hood, the blogosphere ‘hood, etc., etc. If you’ve ever moved or you travel you know how you act when you first arrive at your destination. Chances are you look around, get the lay of the land and find out where the things are that are important to you. Once you’re comfortable and have your bearings then you start to ask questions, you probably then engage on an informed level and then, if you are so inclined, you begin to exert your own influence.

    The same goes for social media: watch, listen, connect and then reach out at a pace that suits you.

  2. Geoff, As I get older I find that I am scared to try something new. I am comfortable with what I know,and when I think of trying something new I have no idea where to start to look for the right trail to follow. As I think of all the new socia media today we are doing away with writing a letter or sending a card now it is email or other ways on the computer or phones. Is there a reason for older people to get on board with the new social networks? Are we missing something we need to know to exist in the world, or is it a way we can communicate on a different level? If so where can we go to get the information to hang out and learn the language.

    1. Wow, what an authentic comment & question—and I’m not just saying that because you’re my mother! I think you’ve articulated something so many people are feeling.

      First, I think as letters and cards become more rare, they become even more valuable. So keep writing them and sending them. They are special and make people feel special.

      Next, are you “missing something?” No, at least nothing you “need to know to exist in the world.” But there is an potential to connect with others that remains unrealized—and it goes both ways. I think more tragic not what you might miss, but what we might miss in your absence.

      As for hanging out, just sign up. I know you’re on Facebook already. You can try out twitter if yo like. You can even make your tweets private—so that only a few select people receive them, while you can follow whoever you like.

      Bottom line, I wouldn’t worry about being scared—that shows up before anything new. You’ve already proven your courage by posting this comment. You’re already in the water!

      Thanks, mom—I’m proud of you!

  3. Geoffrey, My advice would be to sign up for one site first – either Facebook and Twitter and develop relationships. Act as if you’ve been invited to a party and try to get to know people. Be authentic – and most of all relax. It’s fun.

    I agree with all the points you made under advice for novices, especially #2. – Don’t even think of selling anything. I see this mistake way too much and quickly delete them from any lists I’m following.

    Social networking is definitely a skill that can be learned, and as you said hang out and listen.


    1. Right on, Connie. I like the party analogy. I might take it a little further. Might be a little bolder, by how about acting as though you’re the host at the party. So not only are you getting to know people, but your intent is to make sure they’re taken care of.

      The key is like you said, shifting our focus toward developing relationships.

  4. Geoff,

    I know that social media is a needed resources for leaders and business. If you want to survive then its a must. I still have plenty to learn about social media. This is a topic I feel weak in but know it is important to grow and learn in it. So that I can lead more effectively. Thank you for the post.


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