How to Teach Social Media To Others

Quite often I am approached by friends or referrals with the request to teach them about the world of social media. Some just want to learn more about the industry I work in and others are dissatisfied with what schooling has taught them and want to know how social media and spending time on a social network can be something turned into a career. Whichever the case I am usually glad to sit down with them in person or over Skype and discuss what it is that I do exactly – with mixed reactions, but overall quite positive and inspired.

Here’s how I usually like to approach the conversation:

1. There’s No Such Thing as a “Social Media Expert” – quit calling me one: This is the one that comes up even before we have our first conversation. Usually the first line is “I heard you’re a social media expert” followed by “can you teach me how to do what you do?” For me I always tell the person to backtrack, then follow up by saying that there is no such thing as a social media expert – because there truly is none. The industry is changing by the second, so how can anyone be an expert? You can be an expert at the English language, at baking a cake or at organic chemistry compounds, but not social media. We are all learning on a daily basis, and will continue to do so, and I don’t think we’ll stop.

2. Relate the topic to something understandable: I like to relate one topic to another because it’s important that people are able to see parallels with how social media is to how their life is. Remarkably there are many similarities. One I like to use is to compare the social media ecosystem and the aspects involved there into the dating world. When you’re able to make sense of a familiar thing (dating) with the unfamiliar (social media) people catch on, and you can guarantee a few laughs too.

3. Emphasize the Process but Don’t Forget the Experience: In my young social media career I’ve been asked if I spend time on Facebook and Twitter all day. The answer is a clear and obvious no as my job involves enterprise communities but even if I did, I would also be spending time blogging, targeting who I follow and preparing analytics to see how well social media is doing. In teaching social media to others I like to emphasize the process of social media, from scheduling content to preparing content calendars to analyzing important data indicators. In the same sentence I also tell those learning not to forget the experience, namely the valuable conversations and relationships built over social media.

4. Introduce them to the community: The social media world is big and overwhelming from someone who might be a newcomer. I always take time to ask if they would like introductions to folks in the space already who are running their own businesses, have a day job in the industry, are engaging thought leaders or are new just like them. Finding someone to relate to can be one of the biggest pluses for staying in the industry once someone has joined.

I do find definite joy in being able to share my career with others. If there is any aspect of what I do that I can share with you please do let me know! I’d be glad to chat – and of course, explain how social media and dating have anything in common!

Albert Qian
Albert Qian is a social media professional working, living and playing in Silicon Valley. He got his start in social media by working for Santa Clara University and jumping into Facebook pages in May 2009. Ever since, he has been engrossed in social media, marketing, program management and consulting for small businesses, Fortune 500 companies and individuals looking to learn more social media. On his free time, he enjoys hiking, bowling, eating out at new places and traveling. You can learn more about him on his blog.
Albert Qian

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  1. BrandEdu says:

    Great post Albert, I love the way you break it down for them in small digestible bites. I especially appreciate #2 "relate the topic to something understandable", I love seeing friends, family and clients when they finally have that Ah, Ha moment. You know when the light finally goes on and they GET IT. That's also the time that they finally understand that this is a profession and has tremendous business application.

  2. Good flow with this one Albert. Clear and defined delivering a great guide to follow as an introduction.

  3. jacobkcurtis says:

    Hey Albert, excellent post here. I like how you set the stage quickly when you admit that you are NOT a social media expert. They must seem confused by your response!

    I think those that play that 'guru" card and openly give advice are doing more harm than good. Not only do you come off as gimmicky but it also sets up an unachievable goal for the sm newbie you just taught who now wants to be an expert.

    Viscous cycle…

  4. says:

    I love the part about there being no such thing a social media expert. You're right, the industry is changing so quickly, the only experts are one who recognize and adapt to change. Good job!

  5. Jeff Howell says:

    How about "guru". Can we call you a guru? All the cool kids are being called guru these days. /sarcasm

    I had one of the branch managers in my company refer to me as the "social media guru" during a recent webinar she was featured on. Made me shiver deep down. We have a lot of educating to do.

  6. Wait, so your not an expert…. Albert you had me at "There’s No Such Thing as a “Social Media Expert” – quit calling me one:" Never could figure out how there could be "experts" in a field that still so young. People do think highly of themselves don't they.
    Great post my friend. A pleasure to share.

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