Social Media Training On the Rise

IStock_000008765217XSmallHas Corporate America finally woken up to the fact that Social Media is not going away?  Yes.  That Social Media could affect both their reputations and fortunes? Yes, they’ve realized that, too.

And now I think they are waking up to the fact that they might be able to harness Social Media for reasons above & beyond “marketing.”

In recent weeks SHIFT Communications has been on the receiving end of several RFPs for Social Media Training. They are not asking us to handle Influencer Engagement.  They are not asking us to manage their Facebook communities.  They are not asking for us to develop mobile apps.

They just want us to teach them about Social Media. More often than not, they want us to teach a few handfuls of internal employees to “do what SHIFT does” when it comes to blog monitoring, commenting, and writing; Facebook engagement and posting; how-to set up a YouTube channel; how-to use Sysomos or Radian6, etc.

After that mission is accomplished, we’ll be cordially asked to leave them to their tweeting, thank-you-very-much.

Some of my industry peers might see this as “the first step toward disintermediation.”  After all if the clients are trained as the Agency personnel are trained, might there be less need for the agency reps?

Maybe, but still, I see this as a good thing.  To a one, the folks we’re talking to about Social Media Training are looking to form a cadre of in-house experts who can promulgate Best Practices across the enterprise.  Not “just” for PR but as a means of understanding how/when/why Social Media could/should affect their business processes.

Folks like Peter Kim at the Dachis Group and Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter would certainly applaud such thinking!

Importantly, these trainees are NOT just from the Marketing/PR group: they include Customer Service reps, showroom employees, R&D engineers, etc., each of whom will be tasked with carrying their newfound knowledge forward, both online (on behalf of the Company’s broader outreach) and internally to their own fiefdoms, to help set Social Media Policy.

Imagine a world in which every employee at every company was familiar with the tools and rules of Social Media engagement.  How might that change things?

Posted on: August 20, 2010 at 9:52 am By Todd Defren
26 Responses to “Social Media Training On the Rise”


  • Social media are on the rise, considering the advent of brand new social media platforms every day. Currently 69% of small business owners surveyed by Webs are using social media as an effective way to promote products and services, so social media training is imperative to get optimum result.

  • I think it is good for a company to seek out outside help for social media marketing no matter how small the company. For instance a local Gelateria, has over 5,000 fans on facebook now and they can only seat maybe 15-20 at a time.

  • Joe says:

    Without a doubt social media training is on the rise. Companies are realizing the benefits of social media and their bottom line. A great course to take is from the University of San Francisco, they offer a whole Internet marketing course but if you want to take just the social media course it’s available.

    You mention that trainees are not just in marketing. I think it’s interesting how companies are getting their employees involved in social media. In a way it could benefit the whole company.

    If anyone is interested here’s the link:


  • Great post, Todd. We are seeing the same phenomenon in our region (Philadelphia) — requests to come in and provide a “Social Media 101″ overview.

    I am curious if anyone would be willing to share what they are charging for these presentations. We are getting lots of these requests, and some clients seem to view it as a “new business pitch,” meaning it could lead to a full-fledged engagement, so they don’t intend to pay; a few seem open to the idea of paying us for a morning or afternoon of our time to lead them through the basics.

    As I write this, I am thinking that we should “productize” our training presentation so that it is clear they are paying for education component, not a free session of ideas and tips.

    How are others handling this?

  • Kyrsten Turner says:

    Interesting article!

    I think it is a great idea to train companies on how to use social media – the “ins and outs” of different programs, how to blog, how to comment, communication ethics. It will keep companies in contact with the younger generation (which is technology savvy) and will help build their PR/Marketing enterprise.

  • I commented on the MediaBistro article that I sent you earlier, but figured I’d weigh in a bit more at the original source. :)

    What it comes down to is a two-fold: defining the importance of education and research/development, and who will actually be executing. It’s up to the BRAND to decide how much they want their agency involved in that process, not the agency. So, using a new business pitch angle of education is a new twist on helping brands at the core/foundation. By educating, you won’t have as much struggle when the campaigns are launched off the ground. The trust is built between brand and agency, and they might bring you on further down the line.

    I think this is a great approach, Todd- and an action I think many agencies will model after.

    Lauren Fernandez, Radian6

  • robin S. Fox says:

    Thanks for writing this post, Todd.

    I think that businesses should be doing as much of their own social media work as possible — who better to tell their own story?

    Training is key – and not just for the people creating the initial channel strategies or the day-to-day online work. I, too, am seeing an uptick in the interest for training.

    I think that a broad spectrum of employees should understand how social media works generally and how their company blends those efforts with traditional communication channels. How it can work at the intersection of marketing, sales, customer service, vendor relations… everything.

    This doesn’t necessarily need to be highly detailed training for all. A little goes a long way to encourage ownership of a strategy’s success. After all, innovative ideas can come from surprising sources.

    - Robin

  • Cara stewart says:

    Social media training for clients is the biggest area of growth for our agency. Approximately 50 percent of our business is training clients on how to use social media for their businesses or serving as community managers (which we disclose publicly) for our clients. You’re on the mark that training can’t be something shared with internal PR or marketing folks only. We recommend that key people from every department are involved (think tech support, customer service, executive, quality and sales). We are getting more and more inquiries for training because clients are becoming more and more savvy that social media is a discipline that must be integrated in house with sales communications, customer service, traditional media relations, branding, product development and internal communications.

  • Jules Zunich says:

    I agree that internal training across all disciplines is important for the large corporation, but I see the same requests coming from small businesses and non-profits who have do not have the in-house personnel to lead the company into the new frontier. Smart business owners/leaders not only know they need it, but also know that asking the receptionist learn it probably will not yield the best results. I applaud companies for asking for help; it shows that they are taking social media seriously and interested in positioning themselves well.

  • Arik Hanson says:

    In the digital age, I think the interesting thing here is for PR firms to think about their revenue-producing streams a little differently. In my mind, there are a few new streams given newer models: Research (don’t give that away for free!), training (as you alluded to, Todd), strategy (obviously) and monitoring/measurement (huge potential–not in merely the measuring or monitoring but in the interpretation of the data/trends/etc). We know folks are helping clients with the last two, but the first two are newer models–but very important.

  • An important part of this evolving trend is that companies still have to get beyond the fear factor of getting their employees knowledgeable on the use of social media. And these same companies have to stop congratulating themselves because they have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. This is still a problem that isn’t going away any time soon for many companies. Silly.

  • Kelly Rusk says:

    Great post and absolutely agree. A company should not hire an agency to do something (whether it’s social media or PR or anything else) because they don’t understand it/don’t have in-house talent, but rather to complement what they do have.

  • 40deuce says:

    I actually think this is a great idea for companies to be doing, Todd.

    It’s great that companies like SHIFT can help a company to come up with a social media strategy/plan, but I personally think that having someone from within the actual organization running their social media is the best way to go. I mean, who’s going to know the real little ins and outs of a company than someone who works there everyday? Having someone with their pulse on the company as well as the companies social media can help to bring it all together.
    For instance, if I see someone tweeting about a problem with our software, I know right away who is the best person in our company to contact about solving a problem. Sure there could be a list of “if this happens, contact this person”, but I personally know who is best suited to handle certain questions and who isn’t.
    I’m a big supporter in having social media done from within the organization and I’m happy to hear that companies are starting to jump on that train rather than farm it out anymore.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • Christian Kratsas says:

    I believe social media will work best by training individuals within the corporation to participate in online discussions themselves rather then contracting that duty to someone outside of the doors. How will you display your company’s culture and personality through those who don’t even work there? Corporations will realize soon enough, if they haven’t already, that the content they provide through social mediums must be aligned with their brand’s image and company profile and that there is no better way to accomplish this other then doing it themselves.

    Alignment is most important when maintaining a positive brand image. If your profile, practices, and social image and brick and mortar image are not streamlined you lose brand loyalty and your business focus.

    -Christian, Dymun + Company

  • Abbe says:

    Another value-added service provided by PR firms…I like it. PR people have been offering media training for years and that hasn’t put anyone out of business. I think it’s a valuable offering for clients and non-clients.

  • khbelizaire says:

    Interesting post.

    It is important to acknowledge the rise in social media training & the empowerment of clients.

    As a training provider we inspire people to learn, work & live differently using social media.

    Each of our training sessions are bespoke and we are also witnessing first hand the demand for training from different departments other than marketing, as we deliver to a cross-sector range of clients, including brands, schools, communications agencies, arts organisations, broadcasters, youth services, marketeers, local government etc.

    Our approach focusses on giving clients the knowledge and skills to use social media rather than doing it for them. It’s more sustainable and cheaper in the long run (as you’re not buying in services every time you need something done).

    Check out our small publication on the subject offering clear and awakening insights into online practices and strategies (you can read online for free):

    Zen and the Heart of Social Media:

    All thoughts & feedback most welcome…

  • Great post, Todd, and it’s not just corporate America, but here in Europe as well.

    I think corporations are (finally) coming to terms with the fact that social media can not be ignored as a part of the communications strategy. In addition, you can’t hire an agency to “be you” in social media; the skills have to be present inhouse. On the other hand, agencies have the social media and business knowledge necessary to enable corporations to participate and engage in the online conversation, and we can advice them as well, but the ones making the actual post or comment will have to be employees.

    In my opinion, we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg as far as social media training goes.

  • HURRAH! For two reasons. One, that Social is finally getting its due attention outside of agency world. Two, that I’m not alone in encouraging this perceived revenue-cannibalization behaviour :D

    As I wrote for Aussie industry mag B&T a couple of months ago, “With Social, most of what’s happening around us right now is ‘new’ to the marketing mix, and therefore most of it is being outsourced.

    Over time though, as Social becomes a standard in the marketing mix, much of it should begin to transfer in-house. Our approach at Amnesia Razorfish is very much along these lines. Whilst we can manage a brand’s entire Social mix for as long as required, we aim to educate and transfer knowledge along the way, with view to eventually handing over the reins to the in-house teams.

    Does this mean that we lose a part of our business over time? No – for two reasons. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is that there will still be areas in this space that are subject to frequent change and/or require a deeper level of insight and expertise, such as the strategy and creation of Social Objects to amplify the conversation beyond the everyday conversation. Secondly, it means that the time we gain back from handing over the reins to our partners, will be reinvested into bringing you the next relevant wave of digital experiences to keep your brand and business ahead of the game. And that’s where our hearts belong.”

    (full article:

    Jen :)

  • Claire Celsi says:

    Todd, I’ve been doing training for about 2 years now. There is no way that I have time as a small business owner to monitor every client’s social media every minute of every day, so it’s imperative that I teach them how to fish. It’s a very fun and lucrative part of my business model. Thanks for the post, you are right on as usual.

  • Peter kim says:

    Absolutely Todd – once organizations develop a base level of competency, then the really interesting stuff can happen. I believe we’ll get there, but it will take a long, long time. Case in point: many organizations still don’t fully grasp digital.

    Good luck with the training!

  • Bryna says:

    Let me know when you start offering a comprehensive class to the general public. I’ll be the first to sign up!

  • You’ve touched on the edge of a related subject: the value proposition for PR firms. Forever and a day PR firms have fought a sort of “commoditization” condition. It’s somewhat self-inflicted due to a preoccupation with tactics in the absence of strategic insight and transformational business ideas. The end result is a common view that PR firms supply arms and legs to execute things. The economic principles of value related to scarcity get better for us in this field as we raise the bar on what we offer — to something that is seen as essential even critical to an organization’s progress in the long term. Great, innovative, strategic ideas based on insight will keep us all employed for a long time to come.

  • kim KOLB says:

    Todd, Great Post!
    Since I started my quest into Social Media I came to the realization that I didn’t want to DO a clients social media. I wanted to train them on how to do it. My opinion is, who knows your business better than you do? Yes they can hire me to do the tweeting and blogging, but is it really what is best for the client?

    I find that if I can train my clients in what to do, then they will find the resources and people within the company to do what it takes. May take a little time and they may have to do the social media themselves, but at least they are getting exposure.

    I know this probably sounds like I don’t want the business but that is not what I am trying to promote. I want companies to understand that social media isn’t going away, that if you want to succeed and get leads and new business you need to work at it. Just like when they first started their company. Why should social media be any different?

    I am still amazed at the amount of companies that don’t have a website. I can’t believe that in this day and age people pay more for their cell plans and cable/internet connection than they do for the hosting of their website, the very business that puts food on the table.

    So I guess without writing a book on this subject, I say to those companies that may feel that they will be out of job soon, to refocus and start training clients. Word of mouth is still a powerful marketing tool and if you do a good job with a client then they will say “Go see this person, they rock and really know what they are doing” business will always be there. I feel the better we are as Social Media Consultants in spreading the word, the better we are going to be!

    This is my two cents and I sure I will get tons of flack for this…

    • ryan Knapp says:

      Kim – I agree with you on your points. Even though there is a need for SM training, companies will still need help with strategy (and hopefully not implementation)

      When more c-suites learn the power of SM themselves and see why it has to come from within, they will turn. But, they need to experience that power and lightbulb going off first hand.

  • Jennie says:

    I agree with your statement that social media can be used for more than just marketing. If you’re thinking for more information on social media training this is a great article.

    “How the heck do I start building a social media marketing strategy”

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