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10 tips to kick off your Digital Forum

Who is running digital marketing in your company? Your company’s social media team? The web marketing team? The product marketing team? Your bloggers?

Truth is, everybody in your marketing organization should be engaged in digital marketing today; the marketing message, vision and goals of your company should be reflected in everything your employees do that is related to the product and your customer.

With that being said, wouldn’t it make sense for your marketers pertain to understand how these digital channels come to life? Wouldn’t an educated and able internal workforce help you build integrated marketing programs and break down silos?

Here at Cisco, our answer was yes. And with that the Digital Marketing Forum was born. The Forum provides a communal place where we can demonstrate, educate and enable our internal workforce to use digital marketing, while encouraging best practices and the opportunity to share learnings.

After successfully pulling off our first Forum, we want to share 10 tips which will help you plan yours:

  1. Get executive commitment. Work with your executive team on topics and get their support for the forum.
  2. Make it count. Research the groups that should be invited, gather email alias and names and send out a save the date ahead of time. Be aware of global teams and their time zones.
  3. Plan for success. Treat this internal event as you would any external event and plan ahead of time with firm deadlines.
  4. Pick one topic or message. Don’t overwhelm your audience, keep it to one simple message or topic of great importance.
  5. Be flexible. Have a back up plan in case a speaker or topic falls through.
  6. Be mindful of the event length, date and time. Try to limit your event to 2 hours maximum and pick a day and time of the week that is not crazy busy (don’t try to get people Monday morning… )
  7. Put on your teacher hat. How can you present your learnings and best practices so people can easily follow and remember? What worked for us was 10-minute case studies.
  8. Use digital channels. Make sure mobile and onsite workers can attend through online channels.
  9. Get an outside speaker. Share industry thoughts and knowledge from a different perspective; define topics beforehand.
  10. Evaluate and adjust. After the event solicit feedback trough surveys, polls, chats, comments on your community sites; ask people for ideas and new topics.

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Creating a Social Media Training Program that Works

It’s daunting, exhilarating, and a lot of hard work, all rolled into one…that’s the day in the life of social media! Each day is different as this social communication channel continues to evolve and grow. So how do organizations keep their best brand ambassadors (aka their executives, employees, contractors, vendors, partners, and customers) up-to-speed with social media?

While it’s really a mix of components, including policies and guidelines, communication, and clear strategies, training is a key component. There are a variety of social media webinars, chats, workshops, and other learning resources out there, but often times, a more robust training program is needed to educate new users and enable those with an existing skill set.

With a collaborative effort, a common goal, and a set of focused training courses, organizations can empower these ambassadors to use social media effectively, build their own reputations, and bolster the brand. Internally our Corporate Social Media Marketing team has been working hard to build a robust training program for employees, contractors, executives, partners, and customers. Below is a summary of highlights from this expanded program, tips to creating a similar initiative, and an opportunity to participate in the upcoming @ciscosocial #smtraining Twitter chat on August 2, 2012 at 9am PDT. (Please note new date.)

Cisco Social Media Training Snapshot

After assessing internal company training needs around social media and existing resources, we looked for ways to expand learning, developing the following model and implementing it this past May.

Cisco's Corporate Social Media Marketing Training Program Snapshot

Courses are offered across Cisco both in live and on-demand session formats to accommodate different regions on an ongoing basis. And in the true spirit of collaboration, we work with Cisco subject matter experts (SMEs), global social media peers, fellow team members, and even a few guest speakers. Not only does this approach create a stronger shared investment across the company, but it also enables those interested in stretch goals, the opportunity to participate in a larger role. Lastly, the program includes special incentives including three levels of certification and gaming badges to earn along the way.

Since we launched the first course on May 29, 2012, we have seen a huge interest in the training programs with over 550 participants, with many on their way to the first level of social media certification! As the word gets out internally to more and more teams, we are seeing larger registration and participation across organizations such as engineering, support, marketing, sales, and several others.

Currently, we are also offering a smaller partner-focused set of training sessions. And at the end of this summer, we will launch the executive-focused track of this program, followed by customer training opportunities in 2013.

Tips to Create a Training Program

Creating a training program like the one described above takes resources, time, determination, and support. Here are some tips to developing this type of training program:

  1. Get to know the audience, internal and external.
  2. Assess the current training resources available to these audiences.
  3. Outline gaps in courses, materials, and other types of resources.
  4. Create a social media training strategy and get management buy-in.
  5. Look for ways to leverage existing resources, internal team member expertise, and external contacts.
  6. Build content that resonates with audiences, sharing a mix of best practices, techniques, and examples.
  7. Tie into the organization’s overall training programs and systems.
  8. Start out slow, evaluate course feedback and ratings, and build out program accordingly.
  9. Identify opportunities to gamify the program to further incent participants.
  10. Recognize those that reach milestones and acknowledge participant feedback and needs.

Over the course of the next several months, we will share more program details and best practices.

In the meantime, let’s meet up virtually for a @ciscosocial Twitter chat to learn more from each other regarding social media training and how different organizations are developing this type of education. Join us on August 2 at 9am PDT, following #smtraining, directly on Twitter or another Twitter application. (Please note new date.)

What questions are top-of-mind for you regarding social media training? Share your feedback with us using the comment section below and we’ll incorporate your questions into this special Twitter chat.

This post was developed in collaboration with Petra Neiger (@petra1400).

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3 Easy Social Media Conversation Starters

How connected are you with your social networks? Are you finding that at times, your social channels become stale or a one-way dialog? If you’re experiencing the “silent treatment”, here are some easy ways to generate two-way conversations.

Tweet or post questions and polls: Events, activities, and launches have a unique opportunity to educate as well as create excitement and energy. Develop creative ways to poll audiences about related topics. And don’t be afraid to mix in a few casual types of questions that pertain to the event, but might be lighter in nature.

Interactions: Social media has a lot to offer to marketers. One special feature of social media is the ability to crowdsource and strengthen loyalty. Monitor social media channel feeds closely, respond quickly, and keep feeding the streams. Simple questions such as “What did you think of the keynote?” or “What interests you the most about this program?” will help start conversations. You’ll be amazed at how much audiences want to share their opinions and information.

Contests: While audiences are primarily interested in the straight forward information and updates, they often like to get involved in other types of activities. Using social channels, offer different types of contests and incentive-based opportunities. These activities do not have to have monetary values, but do need to have perceived importance. For example, preferred seating at a keynote or a meet-and-greet opportunity.

These are just some quick examples of ways to start social interactions. The key to making these ideas work is to integrate social channels together and with the rest of the marketing communications plan. Having a central “hub” like an online community or a website, will help audience members navigate all of the information and discussions more easily.

What are some creative ways you are starting conversations using social media? Share your experiences and let’s keep the social media information sharing going. And follow  my Twitter handle (@elhoust) for more social media for events best practices.

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