If you’re an internal or external social media professional (i.e., full- or part-time employee vs. consultant, speaker, etc.), you’re an educator as much as you are a marketer – or at least you should be. One of the core learning objectives in each of the six NISM exam content domains is involving key stakeholders throughout development and execution of a social strategy. Whether you’re talking about content, compliance, communications, or any other topic, odds are you need to educate other people about what you’re doing. It’s how they can contribute to the organization’s digital presence in the most effective way.
Connections with key stakeholders and other influencers within the organization typically happens in two ways – casual conversations and formal presentations. And in this post, I’ll add a third opportunity for educating the community I’ve recently discovered.
When I first mention to social media professionals that they are educators or that part of their job is teaching others, they often disagree – especially if they have an entry-level position and/or don’t see themselves as an influencer within their organization. But the fact is, whatever your role is, you’re the expert in something. That means you have the opportunity to help people understand what you know, how you contribute, and how they can work with you most effectively. I was talking to a blog manager about her sphere of influence and she told me she didn’t think her opinion carried much weight. After all, she was a contract employee. I pointed out that I had just overheard her answering questions for an internal employee, so her opinion was clearly valued.
It hadn’t occurred to this particular consultant just how much she was teaching others because responding to questions just came naturally! Education happens outside of classrooms every day. Sometimes the most meaningful learning is done on the move, without planning, or at the watercooler.
When social media professionals share what they know, they should also be sharing how they know it. I’ve seen people attempt to dazzle an audience by confusing them with big numbers and fancy terms and – much to my disappointment – it often works (in the short-term). Reaching thousands of people sounds impressive! 50,000 of anything is a pretty good number to most people. But big numbers alone will only be impressive for so long. Eventually people will start asking about measurable success that relates to their business and they’ll see past the smoke and mirrors. The sooner you can integrate their feedback – information from various parts of the organization – the sooner you can make meaningful changes. Don’t waste time trying fool them; let your good work speak for itself!
I’ve learned that by educating people about what I’m sharing, I increase the chances that they will ask questions and be meaningful contributors to the organization’s goals. Basically, it’s one of the quickest ways to make your life easier. You don’t have to downplay numbers or successes, but it is important to explain your process and results. That includes what you did well, what didn’t work, and what you’re pretty sure was just luck. (Be honest – we’ve all been there.) Sharing your knowledge will encourage them to share theirs while simultaneously strengthening your relationship.
If you’ve ever presented to an audience with diverse levels of experience, you’ve likely heard people say, “Wait…can you slow down and say that again?” while someone else says, “We know all of this. Fast forward to the details!” It’s frustrating to hear that kind of feedback in the same session, and short of more selective registration processes, there often isn’t much you can do about it. But as a way of combatting some of those concerns, I’ve started to host “consultation stations” when I speak at events.
A consultation station is a set amount of time (typically 20-30 minutes) individuals can reserve to talk to you one-on-one. They drive the conversation and show with any and all questions they might have! They are scheduled during my downtime – before or after a presentation, for example – and can be conducted anywhere two people can sit and chat with limited distractions.
I’ve used consultation stations formally twice and informally another 6 or 7 times. They’re easy to set up and the only difference between formal and informal is planning! A formal setup is arranged in advance so attendees can sign up for a session. These appointments can be gifted to valued conference attendees, raffled off as fundraisers, or awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The difference with an informal setup is that the consultation times are typically scheduled with little or no advanced notice – though it’s still important to set time limits, or some people will stay forever!
A consultation station is a way to connect with people and provide a little more detail or a little more of a challenge based on their specific needs after (or even before) a group presentation. It’s also a way for you to gain new and detailed perspectives on what people are thinking about.
If you haven’t noticed it already, pay close attention to how people respond when you take the time to share details with them about the work you’re doing. You’ll notice that your reputation will improve, and they’ll contribute more whether you’re in a casual conversation, presentation, or a consultation station.
Do you have other ways you share information with your community?
Author: Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.