Rules and Education Aren’t the Same

Social media needs more training teaching, not more rules.

[update: if you read the post, you'll know that I'm talking about teaching more than training. But for those not reading past the first sentence, let's clear this up.]

Guidelines are great, if they emerge from education. If they’re the arrival point through which folks can get reminders or touchpoints or advisement. They do not, however, replace or negate the need for teaching and discussion. And I see far too many folks talking about putting guidelines in place before they’ve even considered things like goals, intent, or strategy – and shared those with the people that will be impacted by them.

If you want your employees to learn social media – or anything -  don’t just hand them the list of dos and don’ts. That teaches them nothing, gives them little experience or context, and doesn’t help anything stick.

If I’m the quarterback and you just hand me the rule book, I’m not going to do a very good job if I don’t understand the game itself or why I’m even playing.

The policies and guidelines you set need at least cursory investment from the people that have to follow them, otherwise at best you’ll have indifference, at worst, a mutiny.

So before you whip out the keyboard and start putting down rules, be sure you’re presenting and discussing the fundamentals, like:

Why Social Media Matters To Your Business

How is it emerging in and impacting your industry? What have your customers been telling you, specifically? What have you learned about the implications of the social web on your market, not just in the news?

What Your Goals and Assumptions Are

What are you hoping to gain from participating in social media, or at least paying attention to it? What are you projecting will happen, based on your research or strategizing? What worries you and what are the potential risks? How do these goals trickle down to the people in your organization? Do they agree with you or not, and why? What’s the plan for execution?

How It Impacts Your People

Will this create more work? Streamline processes? Change people’s roles and responsibilities? Cost more money? Less? What expectations are you setting for their involvement, either now or eventually? If they’re not participating directly, are you going to ask them to respond or act on what you learn?

How You’ll Welcome Feedback and Participation

Is social media the purview of one department? Several? If people outside direct functions have input or ideas, how can they share them and with whom? Are their opportunities for interested folks to get more involved?

Sure, you’re going to have people who are totally indifferent. Yep, you’re going to get questions and criticisms and people who want to share their opinions. Yes, it takes more time to do it this way.

And no, not everything is a democracy or decision by committee (let alone by entire company).

But social media is still new to a lot of people. There are questions and misconceptions. And if you truly want social media to be something that you can adopt as a core business strategy – not just a whizbang new shiny thing – it’s important to share at least the why and some basic how to the people involved before you start putting rules and limitations on them.

Culture matters. It’s an important piece of the social media strategy puzzle. Change can be difficult. A little immersion and education can go a long, long way toward starting your teams off on the right foot.

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  • http://jacksch.com Eric Jacksch

    Good points Amber! In the security field we’re constantly struggling to get companies to provide training to their employees on this and many other topics. Even if one has policies and guidlines, training is the most effective way to achieve compliance with them.

    • Amber Naslund

      I guess to me it’s giving people context for “why should I care about this?”. I don’t want to just follow guidelines I don’t understand the foundation for, but a lot of folks seem to be putting policy first, and teaching second. I think that’s backwards.

  • http://jacksch.com Eric Jacksch

    Good points Amber! In the security field we’re constantly struggling to get companies to provide training to their employees on this and many other topics. Even if one has policies and guidlines, training is the most effective way to achieve compliance with them.

    • Amber Naslund

      I guess to me it’s giving people context for “why should I care about this?”. I don’t want to just follow guidelines I don’t understand the foundation for, but a lot of folks seem to be putting policy first, and teaching second. I think that’s backwards.

  • http://www.begtodiffer.com/ Dennis “DenVan” VanStaalduinen

    Totally agreed on taking a proactive approach.

    But I’d quibble that training is just one means to the ideal end which is the ability to understand, use, and benefit from Social Media. From a corporate standpoint openness to the trial and error PRACTICE involved with getting social media right is the big hurdle. That and a cultural shift from “Org Think” to “Human Think” – which also can’t be trained. It must be PRACTICED.
    .-= Dennis Van Staalduinen´s last blog ..Are you in a mustard, a spaghetti-sauce, or a ketchup market? =-.

    • Amber Naslund

      That’s a good clarification, Dennis. Social media is one of those things you have to experience, really, and the intent and mindset are everything. Just training isn’t enough, either. Thanks for building on that.

  • http://www.begtodiffer.com Dennis Van Staalduinen

    Totally agreed on taking a proactive approach.

    But I’d quibble that training is just one means to the ideal end which is the ability to understand, use, and benefit from Social Media. From a corporate standpoint openness to the trial and error PRACTICE involved with getting social media right is the big hurdle. That and a cultural shift from “Org Think” to “Human Think” – which also can’t be trained. It must be PRACTICED.
    .-= Dennis Van Staalduinen´s last blog ..Are you in a mustard, a spaghetti-sauce, or a ketchup market? =-.

    • Amber Naslund

      That’s a good clarification, Dennis. Social media is one of those things you have to experience, really, and the intent and mindset are everything. Just training isn’t enough, either. Thanks for building on that.

  • http://glennfriesen.com Glenn Friesen

    I forget where I read the quotation and who exactly it’s from (I think it might have been something from IDEO), but I always quote it for it’s deep insight.

    “There is a difference between order and control.” — C-Level Leader of Visa.

    And then, there’s an actual physical law. Something to reflect on when we’re writing any rules:

    “In a system, a process that occurs will tend to increase the total entropy of the universe.” – The Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy loosely means “uncontrolled simplicity; the natural end result of everything”.)

    Really enjoyed your post! And following your work on Twitter (Everyone subscribe to Amber!)- ;D

    Glenn Friesen
    Twitter
    Impact Learning (Customer Service Training)

    • Amber Naslund

      I do love IDEO. The Ten Faces of Innovation is *such* a killer book.

      Systems in themselves don’t work. They require investment from the people that are intended to use them, and that involves giving them a level of understanding of why it matters.

      • http://glennfriesen.com Glenn Friesen

        Definitely! That book and Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity were inspirational for me. :)

  • http://glennfriesen.com Glenn Friesen

    I forget where I read the quotation and who exactly it’s from (I think it might have been something from IDEO), but I always quote it for it’s deep insight.

    “There is a difference between order and control.” — C-Level Leader of Visa.

    And then, there’s an actual physical law. Something to reflect on when we’re writing any rules:

    “In a system, a process that occurs will tend to increase the total entropy of the universe.” – The Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy loosely means “uncontrolled simplicity; the natural end result of everything”.)

    Really enjoyed your post! And following your work on Twitter (Everyone subscribe to Amber!)- ;D

    Glenn Friesen
    Twitter
    Impact Learning (Customer Service Training)

    • Amber Naslund

      I do love IDEO. The Ten Faces of Innovation is *such* a killer book.

      Systems in themselves don’t work. They require investment from the people that are intended to use them, and that involves giving them a level of understanding of why it matters.

      • http://glennfriesen.com Glenn Friesen

        Definitely! That book and Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity were inspirational for me. :)

  • http://flrrsh.com/ Caleb Gardner

    It’s so timely that you posted about this now – just having a discussion with a colleague yesterday about this, and we totally agree.

    Once again, it comes down to fear. Rules are about keeping something from happening; education is about encouraging something to happen. If you’re afraid of what the educated might do, of course you’re going to lean towards the rules.
    .-= Caleb Gardner´s last blog ..Plan For Your Death =-.

    • Amber Naslund

      Very well said, Caleb. I like the “education is encouraging something to happen” thing. And you’re right, fear is a factor here, just like every business innovation or shift since the dawn of time. :)

  • http://flrrsh.com/ Caleb Gardner

    It’s so timely that you posted about this now – just having a discussion with a colleague yesterday about this, and we totally agree.

    Once again, it comes down to fear. Rules are about keeping something from happening; education is about encouraging something to happen. If you’re afraid of what the educated might do, of course you’re going to lean towards the rules.
    .-= Caleb Gardner´s last blog ..Plan For Your Death =-.

    • Amber Naslund

      Very well said, Caleb. I like the “education is encouraging something to happen” thing. And you’re right, fear is a factor here, just like every business innovation or shift since the dawn of time. :)

  • http://nexttolastblog.wordpress.com/ Glenn

    Training and culture are the two keys to making it work. Without these, anything can happen.
    .-= Glenn´s last blog ..Haiti:40 Pictures from Week Three =-.

    • Amber Naslund

      And the culture needs to exist before the attitude can exist to really make the most of the training, right?

  • http://nexttolastblog.wordpress.com/ Glenn

    Training and culture are the two keys to making it work. Without these, anything can happen.
    .-= Glenn´s last blog ..Haiti:40 Pictures from Week Three =-.

    • Amber Naslund

      And the culture needs to exist before the attitude can exist to really make the most of the training, right?

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  • http:generositymarketing.com Bryan bliss

    Amber,
    I know it may seem like a semantic small difference, but i think whats more necessary than rules, more necessary than Training is Mentoring.
    I think the interpretation of mentoring carries a much more collaborative, productive meaning.
    I see that so much of the “training ” out there is just one directional lists, rules and monologue but even more than a trainer, a mentor is actually invested in the growth and success of the apprentice. A mentor has the approach that his apprentice should learn in such a way that they not just “graduate, but they actually master the subject well enough to become a mentor themselves.
    sorry for so long a post, but I think the distinction is important.
    Thanks and take care
    Bry

    • Amber Naslund

      I like that angle. That’s kind of like what Dennis talked about above re: experience. And your point about the investment of the mentor is a really good one. Training isn’t the end goal, either. And there are definitely such things as good and bad teachers. Thanks for pointing out the difference. You’re welcome to post as many thoughts as you like, anytime. That’s the whole point, after all.

  • Amber Naslund

    I like that angle. That’s kind of like what Dennis talked about above re: experience. And your point about the investment of the mentor is a really good one. Training isn’t the end goal, either. And there are definitely such things as good and bad teachers. Thanks for pointing out the difference. You’re welcome to post as many thoughts as you like, anytime. That’s the whole point, after all.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Added my two pennies over at SMT, but wanted to agree with Dennis and Bryan about the value of practice, mentoring, and training. Learning is an on-going process, you never stop; kinda like social media. It takes work, study, practice and experience to get it going, to keep engaging, to get better.
    .-= Davina K. Brewer´s last blog ..Your Website is Ugly and Your SEO Sucks =-.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Added my two pennies over at SMT, but wanted to agree with Dennis and Bryan about the value of practice, mentoring, and training. Learning is an on-going process, you never stop; kinda like social media. It takes work, study, practice and experience to get it going, to keep engaging, to get better.
    .-= Davina K. Brewer´s last blog ..Your Website is Ugly and Your SEO Sucks =-.

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  • http://www.webtrainingwheels.com Lucy Beer

    The rules and the guidelines don’t mean anything until they ‘get it’. I’ve found that once someone has that lightbulb moment when they finally understand how Twitter (for example) can actually be a way they can express themselves, their business values, and some of that touchy-feely type stuff, THEN it’s time to get into the guidelines, best practices etc. Otherwise that all falls on deaf ears because it has no context. I think with any kind of teaching, there’s an empowering that goes along with it, and if your client/staff can see how they might be empowered in some way by what you’re showing them, they are more open to learning the nuts n bolts part.
    .-= Lucy Beer´s last blog ..Do You Know What Your Site Visitors Really Want? =-.

  • http://www.webtrainingwheels.com Lucy Beer

    The rules and the guidelines don’t mean anything until they ‘get it’. I’ve found that once someone has that lightbulb moment when they finally understand how Twitter (for example) can actually be a way they can express themselves, their business values, and some of that touchy-feely type stuff, THEN it’s time to get into the guidelines, best practices etc. Otherwise that all falls on deaf ears because it has no context. I think with any kind of teaching, there’s an empowering that goes along with it, and if your client/staff can see how they might be empowered in some way by what you’re showing them, they are more open to learning the nuts n bolts part.
    .-= Lucy Beer´s last blog ..Do You Know What Your Site Visitors Really Want? =-.