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Social media training is essential

I get asked a lot about what types of employees do we hire for my social media firm SPECK Media. Clients will often ask… What’s the background of the people you hire? My response is always the same, we look for qualified candidates that have either a journalism or marketing background, but there really isn’t any way that future employees can gain social media knowledge or training, we train them.

For the past 4 years that’s been my tag line, but this past year I started taking a more involved look into what types of skills a social media manager or strategist might need.

I first started to look at what was already out there in the industry. There’s a lot of organizations and schools offering classes in social media. These classes cover everything from Facebook 101 to blogging made easy. Besides the classes there’s over 200 books about social media, so if you don’t want to listen to an instructor, you can spend your time reading from the experts.

In an industry that has only been around for 5 years are these materials (classes and books) the best way to learn about social media?

After doing extensive research, my answer is maybe.

I’m a maybe because social media keeps evolving. What were the norms and benchmarks a year ago are not the benchmarks now. Apply this to a class curriculum and the learning curve is lost on practices of the past (even though the past is a year ago). Apply this to a book and that learning curve is even more out of date.

So how does an aspiring social media person find the necessary materials to make a case that they have social media skills? First and foremost I would say real world practice. My advice to aspiring social media managers and strategists would be to do some pro-bono work for charities or companies in social media. Offer this service as an opportunity to learn and try out different tactics. Take head that most social media agencies learn by trial and error as well in social media.

My secondary advice is to establish your own social media presence, most self-proclaimed social media experts got to be experts by working on their own social media profiles. By learning what works on LinkedIn, Facebook and other channels you will gain the necessary knowledge to talk the talk – and walk the walk.

And third, lean on creativity! If there’s one thing that has been a constant with social media the past 5 years, it is that creativity is king. The creative tweets, posts and stories win out at the end of the day.

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