The Miseducation of Jennifer Kane

This winter I decided to take a personal “J term” and study social media.

As with any super-hot buzz topic, there were no shortage of resource materials, expert presentations and educational events for me to choose from in my quest, so…

• I signed up for presentations, seminars, webinars and teleseminars.
• I was exposed to a lot of experts in the field.
• I read a number of whitepapers and books.
• I spent a lot of time listening, watching and taking notes.

Ultimately the goal of my immersion was not just to learn about social media (although I did).

The goal of this project was to learn how people are marketing and teaching social media to other people.

I learned a great deal about that. For instance:

1. “Everyone and their brother” is jumping on the social media education bandwagon.

There is a lot of good stuff out there to choose from if you want to learn more about social media.

But there is also an awful lot of garbage out there too.

After wading through some of the garbage, my advice would be to choose wisely when you’re looking for social media education opportunities.

Also, if the host of the event you’re attending is not working with an event planner, don’t expect a stellar “user experience” at your event.

Planning events, contrary to popular opinion, actually kind of is rocket science. (Bells and whistles like coffee refills and full toilet paper rolls in the bathroom don’t just magically happen by themselves.)

Sure, any company can produce their own event. But not every company has the skills to make sure that you have an exquisite time while you’re there.

2. Because of “the great recession,” a lot of events are focusing on how to make money quick from social media tools.

…and shame on the people who are hosting these events.

Making money instantly from social networking is as absurd as thinking you’ll make money right out of the gate from face-to-face networking (do you walk into a networking event and pronounce, “I have arrived! Let the sales commence”)?

As much as we’d all like to make a lot of money, the fact remains that insty-sales are a product of lust, not trust.

Building a relationship that leads to a long-term valuable client partnership takes time.

3. For many people “teaching” = “slideshow of statistics.”

If you want to learn about social media, chances are you’re already familiar with the Intenet.

And if that’s the case, you can Google how many people are on Facebook or how fast Twitter is growing just as easily as your “teacher” in any social media class can.

Using teaching time to talk about how popular social media is isn’t education – that’s marketing.

What you’re less apt to find at most any event – and what I find people are most curious to learn – are details on “why” this is all relevant and “how” to implement these ideas.

4. Presenters at events still like to talk AT other people.

Social media is social folks. If you can’t translate that to your real-time instruction, you’re missing something critical.

5. You can pay a sizable amount of cash to learn about this stuff and walk away with pretty much nothing in return.

Quantifying the return on events can be tricky since everyone who attends has a different learning style and may use what they’ve learned in very different and personalized ways.

One thing that can more easily quantified is the impact of the learning if the subject is taught using a theoretical approach (as were most of the events I attended) versus an experiential approach.

Essentially, if you were to take a seminar on riding your bike and no actual bikes were involved, is it possible to really “get” what you’ve been taught?

If the subject you are teaching is examining the nature of conversation and interaction, I’d propose that your education style should be the same.

From an ROI standpoint, this means that if I’m paying a few hundred bucks to attend an event, I want to get my knees scraped up a bit during the learning process and walk out of there with the ability to ride off into the sunset.

DO I THINK I CAN DO BETTER?

After much analysis and soul searching, I decided that if Kane Consulting wanted to complain about the state of social media education, that we should put our money where our mouse was and produce an event of our own.

So we did. And you can register for it right now.

Will we be able to magically avoid every one of the missteps I’ve mentioned above?

Probably not.

Will we produce an amazing event experience that addresses these concerns head-on and commits to focusing on real-time “user-experience,” experimental learning and return on investment?

You bet your sweet tweet we will.

Hope to see you there.

(bike photo by Stig Nygaard, Flickr Creative Commons)
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