This year, I dug deeper into the complicated, algorithmic and viral world of social media marketing. Typically, marketing isn’t a strong skill for learning and development (L&D) professionals (myself included). But this year, a project involving social media enlightened me about the skills I’ve been missing.

Social media is an industry we all likely engage with, but most of us don’t consciously consider what we can learn from it. During my learning journey, I picked up four key areas of focus for learning professionals to leverage the unrivalled growth and success of social media marketing in their internal learning and development:

1. Leverage Your Influencers

Social media saw the rise of a career that no one knew we needed: the social media influencer. As contentious as they are, social media influencers play a big role in brands and the success of their products. If you don’t believe me, believe this: Snapchat’s stock lost $1.3 billion after Kylie Jenner tweeted that she no longer used it. That is the power of social media influencers.

In L&D, we also have our own influencers. They are the ones who advocate for your learning initiatives; provide you with great, impactful evaluation data; and engage regularly with content. Are you leveraging these internal influencers to your advantage?

Your internal influencers are a powerful resource to engage others. They can be early adopters on new systems and platforms and provide case studies for other learners. Internal influencers can build curiosity and share good news that will encourage other employees to follow their lead.

Tip: Find your L&D influencers and use them to your advantage to promote your training content.

2. Leverage Engagement

Social media is focused on engagement. Brands leverage social media engagement by sharing interesting content; interacting with their audience on a regular basis; and encouraging them to comment, share and tag others in their content.

In L&D, we communicate when we have a learning initiative to share or promote. But what about the rest of the time? How do we keep our learners “warm”?

Interact with your learners. Find ways to keep in touch with employees, even when there is nothing new to share and no new course to attend. Do it by partnering with functional departments, attending meetings and being part of the team. The closer you are to employees, the more you’ll learn about their needs.

Tip: Out of sight is out of mind. Engage with employees regularly, not just when there’s a new learning initiative.

3. Balancing Curation and Creation

In social media, you’ll often find a mix of both creation and curation: An individual or brand creates fresh content and piggy-backs onto great content and reshares it (making it “go viral”). The big social media brands have learned that there is value in sharing great content from other platforms to keep their audience engaged.

Many learning professionals believe that they need to create all of their content in house in order to demonstrate their value. But L&D professionals don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Content curation, including signposting to great content, is just as valuable and credible.

Tip: Think curation and creation. Focus your creation time where you can add value, and curate the rest.

4. Data

There is no denying that data has helped make social media a success. Brands use the data available within social media platforms to find people who are likely to engage with their content, target them with ads to attract them to their content and measure the success of their campaigns through metrics. If the campaign isn’t bringing traffic, they adjust it accordingly.

Data and analytics are essential to tracking and measuring what your learners need from you and your team. If you aren’t aligning your L&D strategy to data and metrics, then you are missing a golden opportunity for engagement and the ability to understand your audience.

Tip: Use data as the golden thread to measure the success of your learning strategy or initiatives, from identifying a need to evaluating a program.

As learning professionals, we have an opportunity to learn from the successes of social media and leverage those lessons in our learning strategies and initiatives.  To do so successfully, use the data available to you to know and understand your learners. Engage with your influencers to build interest in learning initiatives. Keep in regular contact with employees to know their needs. And, finally, focus your efforts on curation and creation where you can add value.

That’s L&D — the social media way.

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