I guess it’s not too hard to believe that you can now get a degree in Social Media and Online Marketing. Personally, I am heading down the self directed learning route for this one, but the more I learn the more I find in common between marketing online and training learners. I have now read lot of acronyms, tried to understand various complex processes and considered multiple views on the best way to engage an audience. (See – sounds like the training sector already!)
So let me share just a couple of ideas from the social media and the online sector, and my takeaways for trainers and online learning managers.
1. Market Research
Online world: They say don’t bother spending money or investing lots of effort until you have a clear picture of the audience you want, and what they want from you! Do the quick quizzes, polls, user interviews, user surveys, focus groups, field observations and trials. You can always pose a question online and get people to DM* you, or open it up to a AMA* scenario to see what people are thinking about. Once you have the picture clear of what people actually need and what you have to offer, then you can clearly target and advertise to your audience.
*DM = Direct Message, AMA = Ask Me Anything,
Training world: I think market research is just another industry’s term for training needs analysis, learner needs survey and training evaluation… although they seem to have a lot more cool ways to collect the data. Maybe there is something we should be learning from that.
Like I need to remind you, but don’t forget the importance of real training needs analysis (the actual people component, not the % of people completed part). Working out how people are really connecting and accessing training (as opposed to the official way they could be doing it) is also valuable. Yes there is stuff on a page on the intranet, but the real conversation is happening on that closed Facebook group! Save energy and align things to make a system that really works in your real world, or at least make it easy to link the two worlds together.
2. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
Online world: There is high competition in the online world to be the highest rank webpage for user searchers. Being topped rank means easier to find, and therefore more internet traffic and audience to your site. There are some really clever online tools that will even analyse what keywords people are using to try and find something. SEO is getting smarter now – its not just about keywords, its also about usability and user experience on the site. This includes responsive design for the ever increasing percentage of mobile users. I like this visual to explain it easily.
Training world: If learners can’t access training or find the content easily, they will give up trying. How often have you heard someone say that the system is too hard to access? Or they can’t find the learner guide online? People may click to visit your site, but the bounce rate will be high if its too hard to move further in than the front page. In the physical world it still holds true. Think about the layout and structure of printed materials – is it easy to read and find things? Visuals matter now more than ever. Practical or visual versions of information are preferable and more often referred to and remembered.
We need to be reviewing the layout and structure of our online learning modules and especially the login point and layout of our Learning Management Systems and intranets to make sure it is easy to read, easy to navigate and gets to the point. Oh, and extra points if it works effectively on mobile devices. We need to add a Graphic Designer Badge to our trainer toolbox, or find someone who can do it for us. Look at training materials with fresh eyes and give it a face lift.
3. Power of Community
Online world: Social media is a place to make connections, maintain relationships, influence purchasing and remain in people’s mind. Ideally it isn’t just about your own content, its about sharing other information that supports your ideas and audience. It’s a way to add value and get more people following you – so when you put out your own content there is a bigger audience to see it… not to mention that having people attracts more people!
Training world: Training has an increasing online presence and there is an explosion of online Communities of Practice. Social Media is now more commonly the way that learners are contacting trainers and others to ask questions, check information and stay up to date. Outside of social media, we often seem to spend time writing newsletters, writing training updates and organising professional development workshops. We also try to develop community within training groups – use of collaborative and cooperative learning activities help strengthen this.
The power of the click to follow someone on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram is amazing. You instantly have a way to connect and keep people posted about things. Connect with other peoples connections – ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ spread the word extremely quickly! Using a Call to Action is also a great way online to start interactions from social media and link it to other things you have going on. Giveaways work well: one click to download a quick guide on support learners with special needs, or a one page cheat sheet on how to put together a piece of new equipment? Yes please! Whether you are online or not, finding ways for learners and trainers to collaborate and work cooperatively should definitely be a part of your ongoing methods.
I will be continuing my exploration into this world, keeping a glossary handy. I am sure I will find many other similarities which will hopefully help the marketing stuff stick as it connects with the training stuff that already fills my brain, and hopefully pick up a few new ideas that will help my training as well as my marketing!