Last week I heard an industry colleague soundly dismissing the concept of social media workshops and training, with the view that people should “just do it”. Well, I’m defending social media workshops because I really, really believe in their value.
There’s the kind of value that some of us recognise as a given – the opportunities these workshops provide to learn, share ideas and focus energies, for example. But the beauty of this activity is the unexpected stuff it brings to the fore too. Looking at social media through fresh, un-practiced eyes can be very enlightening.
Yesterday, I ran a social media workshop with a brilliant client who have a small, young and very smart team….and they wanted to know how to use social media better for their business. The general level of familiarity and competence in social media in the group as low – these are busy folks who focus, focus, focus on their highly skilled and absorbing roles. So we started pretty much from the beginning.
Rethinking the concept
Try explaining the concept of social media again, what Twitter is and how it can help business, how the unofficial Twitter ‘protocol’ works, how LinkedIn can provide great benefits beyond straightforward networking, why YouTube is so powerful, blogs and wikis, user groups and discussion groups.
It’s a really interesting exercise. It makes you think about what is worth spending time on, what you personally get out of social media and what you don’t, what your own personal social media boundaries are, what you share and what you don’t, where you share it and why.
Some of the team at yesterday’s session asked some really searching questions, which I think were totally relevant. For example, the issue of trusted content – do people mind using shortened URLs? And what’s the ideal balance of content on a company blog (in-depth, short opinion posts, pictures, humour etc)? How personal can you be, and where? Is Twitter really worth investing time in – won’t there be something newer and better before too long?
What’s my motivation?
For me, it made me consider my social media motivations – and I realised there are many. For me, it’s a genuine desire to connect with a group of like-minded people, to share what I think is relevant and useful info, to float ideas and gauge feedback, to ask questions and keep up to date with my industry and reaction to news and developments.
It’s different for everyone when we think about our motivation. It might be about personal branding, or to consolidate relationships through frequent exchanges, or to simply observe. But the unexpectedly great thing about sparking this train of thought was that it caused me to revisit my social media activity and consider whether I really am doing all I can to support my motivations and objectives (needless to say, I was not).
The case for Social Media workshops
Whether engaging with non-users, new users or seasoned users of social media, any opportunity to explore these areas, to question and challenge your current social media behaviours and to look at the world with fresh eyes has to be worthwhile. Social media changes fast – our approach and attitudes need to keep up. And not only that, much as we’d love to think that social media and beautifully spontaneous and organic (and it can be), in reality we need a bit of a plan because after all, we all have a core business to worry about.
PS: Here’s my gardening / social media analogy
Social media is like gardening. To get the best results you need preparation, time to nurture and patience. Find your patch, decide what you want to grow and prepare it. Plant seeds, see what grows (you might be surprised), and don’t forget to feed and prune.
Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London. She is a rubbish gardener, as it happens, but considerably better at social media. Follow Kate @wisdomlondon