I am crowd-sourcing my plans for two social media courses I will be teaching next month. I will be teaching two continuing education courses at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids: Using Social Media in Business and Online Social Networks for 50+ (Kirkwood offers a series of computer courses geared for people over 50).
I am seeking help from two types of people:
- Active social media users willing to share their experience and advice, particularly in areas where my experience is light.
- Social-media newbies or wannabes (including people planning to take the courses) willing to tell what confuses you, how you want to use social media, what you want to learn. It would be especially helpful if you’re a newbie or wannabe in either of the groups targeted in the class: people 50 and older or people wanting to use social media in business.
Below is an outline of my plan for the course on social media for business (outline for the 50+ class will come shortly), with some questions for you in bold. I welcome your advice on the outline or your answers to the questions. And if this sound like a good course for you or someone you know, I would appreciate your registration for the class or encouraging your colleague(s) to register.
Social Media for Business (Sept. 1-3, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.)
I will be teaching the course in a computer lab, with 12 desktop computers and 12 open desks for students bringing laptops. We will spend significant parts of each course on the computers, opening, expanding and using their social network accounts. I think it’s more important to give them some experience and momentum in using a few tools than to explain all the applications, wrinkles and uses in depth. My approach is to give them enough hands-on experience with five tools that they will be likely to use those tools in the workplace. I’ll explain some of the deeper uses briefly, but I think the actual use will be the most important benefit of the course.
In advance of the course, I will recruit five local business/professional people who use Twitter and ask them to answer some questions in a Twitter panel discussion (an approach I used successfully in my Twitter webinar for editors and in a Twitter workshop for business people in CR).
The first night will focus heavily on Twitter. My reasoning here is that students need to get familiar with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which I think are perhaps the most essential social networks to use in business. I think I can do Facebook and LinkedIn in one session because they are more intuitive and because more business people probably have some exposure to them. Twitter takes longer to learn and get comfortable with, so I’m planning to spend the first night heavily focused on Twitter.
I will use Twitter for the introductions, which will require that I help them open accounts quickly. We’ll put off the avatars, bios, etc. for later in the session and just get them a user name and an open account, ready to tweet. This shouldn’t take much explanation beyond asking them to consider the correct user name: business name, personal name (if either of those is available) or some other meaningful name. Then I’ll ask three getting-to-know-you questions (in tweets from me, of course) for them to answer in tweets:
- What’s your name, position and business?
- Which social-media platforms do you use daily? Weekly? Do you participate/contribute or just read/watch?
- What do you want to learn about using social media in your business or profession?
What do you think of the list of questions? Anything you would add, subtract or change?
After the participants tweet their answers, we’ll go around the room, matching people in the room with tweets on the screen and fleshing the intros out a little in conversation. I also will tweet my questions to the panel I have assembled and explain that we’ll look at the answers later (and, since I’m tweeting, I’ll get answers from more than my recruited panelists).
After that, I will give the class a brief overview of how the three days will unfold. The first day will have a brief overview of social media. I won’t get into specific platforms on Day 1, but will save that for the second day. My first-day overview will present social media as an outgrowth of older forms of social communication: pre-digital forms such as party lines, clubs, the back fence, cocktail parties, old-boy (and old-girl) networks and carbon copies, as well as earlier digital communication forms such as list-servs, chat rooms, bulletin boards and discussion forums. I’m expecting the intros & overview to run 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the number in the class (max. 24).
From there, we will spend a little time digging into Twitter. We’ll start by filling out their profiles: photo/avatar, mobile setting, bio, etc., explaining how each could reflect on your business. I will try to move through this fairly quickly because I know some people will already have Twitter accounts. I’ll engage them in this process by asking them how they handle(d) some of the questions their peers are considering. The meat of this first session will be teaching them how to use Twitter, showing them with my own tweets and theirs. We’ll address these topics (not necessarily in this order, and with each being not just lecture/demonstration, but asking them to compress a link and tweet it or reply to an interesting tweet, etc.):
- Choosing people to follow (we’ll talk here about considering their business needs and why it might be helpful to follow clients, customers, prospects, competitors, vendors, etc. In each of the topics below, we’ll dig into the business needs of the participants and how these tools might be helpful in meeting those needs)
- Links (why & how to use them and how to compress them)
- Direct messages
- Mobile use
- Mixing personal & biz use
- Interacting, so you’re a valuable member of your online community, rather than just a business trying to use another marketing channel
What other topics should I cover?
One thing I will make a point of during the class is to tweet a question someone asks (especially if I don’t have a good answer), then check back occasionally for answers from tweeps. After we’ve covered the bulleted topics above, I will search the hashtag I used in my questions for the panel and we’ll take a look at their responses. The questions I am thinking of asking:
- How has Twitter helped you connect with people in the community?
- How have you or your colleagues connected with clients or customers or made other business uses of Twitter?
- What other business or professional use have you made of Twitter?
- What has been your biggest problem or concern using Twitter for business or work?
- What’s the best fun you’ve had using Twitter?
Again, I welcome your suggestions to add, subtract or change questions.
I hope to cover all this with 15-30 minutes left in the first session. I will give them this time to start following some people and exploring Twitter, with me roaming the room to answer questions. With about three minutes left, I will ask what people have learned in that brief practice time, so we wrap up with them sharing some of their learning. For homework, I will encourage them to find five people to follow the next day and tweet at least five times during the workday.
I welcome your suggestions on my plan for the first day.
I’ll start the second session by asking people about their Twitter experience during the workday. Some, of course, won’t have used it at all, but some will have found a helpful link or found someone to follow. (I’ll follow them during the day and might find a humorous, useful or insightful tweet from the group to highlight.) We’ll work pretty quickly into the second session.
I will start with a couple examples, one positive and one negative, about the usefulness of social media for business. I have a few possibilities for the positive example, but I am still scouting around for an ideal example. For the negative example, I will probably use the YouTube sensation (4.7 million views as of this morning) United Breaks Guitars:
I’ll start with an overview of the types of social media, taking about 45 minutes to an hour. I will remind them (I will have told them this already the first day) that they will be choosing one of these tools to work on for a project in the third session). I will start by talking a little about blogging, wikis and consumer reviews, noting that they are social media in a broader sense. But we’ll focus primarily on social networks and sharing tools. I will provide a quick overview of lots of these social-media by type: friendship (MySpace, Facebook), biz networking (LinkedIn, plaxo, SharePoint, yammer), sharing (YouTube, vimeo, flickr, yfrog, utterli, Blip, Scribd, box, slideshare), bookmarking (delicious, digg, StumbleUpon, reddit), travel (TripIt, Dopplr), events (theknot, weddingwindow, Legacy, CaringBridge, CoverItLive), racial/ethnic (BlackPlanet, QuePasa, PowWows), games (SecondLife, World of Warcraft, etc.), mashup sites that interact with other networks (Posterous, Bebo, Tumblr, FriendFeed), Google (calendar, docs, maps, Picasa, profiles), contribution-driven topical sites (Wikipedia, FAIL blog, I Can Has Cheezburger). I’ll tell them about foursquare, which I find intriguing, but I won’t spend any time on it, since it doesn’t offer Cedar Rapids (or any Iowa community) as a choice yet. I will close this overview by reminding them that they should choose one of these to work on for a project in the final day.
I’ll make the point at the beginning and end of the overview that you shouldn’t and probably can’t (and I certainly haven’t) master or even use all of these. I will encourage participants to consider their business needs and the range of tools available and use the one(s) that will be most useful for them.
OK, there are too many social-media tools for me to cover them all, but am I leaving out any tools or types of tools that you think I should cover? I’m not deeply familiar with all of these; if you have some favorites on the list, I’d appreciate a note about how you find it useful, particularly how you think it would be useful for business. Other suggestions on overview approach welcome.
Most of the second day will be extended sessions on LinkedIn and Facebook. For each of these tools, I will plan about 20-30 minutes with me lecturing/demonstrating about how to get started (if they’re not yet) and about the business uses, followed by 20-30 minutes of personal use (getting profile set up and finding friends/connections if you’re a newbie, checking out fan pages/apps if you have some experience, maybe starting your own fan page if you’re pretty experienced. As with Twitter, we’ll wrap up with a short debrief, sharing lessons with the group. Again, I will ask some questions of my Facebook and LinkedIn connections, soliciting their advice on using each for business.
What are important basics I should cover in the overviews for Facebook and LinkedIn? What are business uses I should cover? How have you found either useful in your business or profession?
Here’s how I plan to wrap up the second day (or possibly to open the third day, if I feel like I need to let Facebook and/or LinkedIn sessions run longer):
I’ll show them how to set up a Ning network by setting one up for the class. We’ll discuss what are the possibilities for using something like this in business, creating a group of clients, product users, employees, peers, etc. I’ll show how to use the groups function within a network by setting up a couple: small business operators, PR specialists, etc.
I welcome your suggestions on working with them to launch a Ning network. Or do you suggest a different platform for customized social networks.
I will wrap up the first day by reminding people of their projects the next day. The project will be to dig in on a particular social-media tool, start using it and start developing a plan to use it for their business. So they should come prepared to use the tool. For instance, if they are going to use YouTube, flickr or slideshare, they should come with a flash drive with lots of photos, videos and/or slideshows; if they’re going to use TripIt, they should load some travel itineraries on a flash drive (or make sure emails are available by web email); bring (or have online access to) audio files for Utterli, etc. While I will encourage learning a tool we haven’t covered before, I will tell them that they can work on using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Ning for their business instead.
For homework, I will suggest that they use Facebook and/or LinkedIn at least twice during the coming workday.
Other suggestions on the second day (or setup for the third day) are welcome.
I will open the third session the same way I opened the second, asking how they used Facebook and/or LinkedIn during the day.
The primary point of the third session is threefold:
- To give them an extended introduction to a particular social-media tool.
- To give them enough time finding their way with a social-media tool that they will see that they can do it and that they don’t need people to teach them how.
- To get them started thinking on the business uses of that social-media tool.
I will have people working on similar sites sit fairly close together: YouTube folks together, maybe all the bookmarking folks together, etc. That way, they can help each other, share discoveries, etc. if they want to. I’ll float the room, helping out where asked and monitoring how they’re doing. We’ll spend roughly two hours working on the project. I’ll encourage about an hour of exploration/getting started, then an hour on planning and launching execution of a plan for business use of the tool. I’ll let them know when an hour is up and encourage them to shift focus at that time to the business use (if they haven’t already). With about 10-15 minutes left in the second hour, I will ask them to spend a little time preparing a presentation to the class. Depending on the size of the class, I will limit people to 2-4 minutes on presentations about the tools they checked out and their plans to use them. That should take up most of the last hour.
I haven’t worked out plans yet for a wrapup of the final session. It may be (and if not, I will cover this elsewhere) a discussion of the question (which is bound to come up) of how you make money using social media. The answer will be that you don’t always, but that you use social media to strengthen relationships with current and prospective customers and clients as well as employees, vendors, colleagues and competitors. And those relationships are the foundation of nearly any business. (I’m deliberately not going to bring up metrics in this course at all, but if someone brings them up, I will make the point about relationships and say that they are more important than metrics. I will talk about deciding what’s important to you and using metrics to help you measure how well you’re using social media to pursue your goals. But I’ll make the point that Twitter will just tell you you have 1,000 followers, but it won’t tell you whether they are customers, competitors or spammers.
I welcome advice, suggestions and examples on how to make this point and/or on a good way to close the course.