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The average corporate social business program was established more than three years ago, and dedicated social media staff now span at least 13 departments. Yet those without “social” in their title — from the functional manager to the subject matter expert — often lack an understanding of the organization’s social business strategy, let alone how to use social media safely or effectively.
Through interviews with companies such as ARAMARK, RadioShack, and Kaiser Permanente, Altimeter Group has identified a four-component, roles-based approach to help organizations design their education strategy and curriculum — and a checklist of action steps to launch, and scale, this business program.
With a social media education program in place, companies can achieve two primary business objectives: 1) reduce social media risk, and 2) activate employees for engagement and advocacy.
To download and read the report, go to: http://bit.ly/social-media-education
A Best Practices Report
Social Media Education
Reduce Social Media Risk and Activate Employee Advocacy
for Scale — How Leading Companies Prepare Employees
for Social Media Success
December 5, 2013
By Charlene Li and Ed Terpening
With Christine Tran
Includes input from 13 managers of corporate social media education programs,
as well as data from Altimeter Group’s 2012 and 2013 survey of digital strategists
The average corporate social business program was established more than three years ago, and dedicated social
media staff now span at least 13 departments.1 Yet those without “social” in their title — from the functional manager to
the subject matter expert — often lack an understanding of the organization’s social business strategy, let alone how to
use social media safely or effectively.
No policy or guideline alone can ever be comprehensive enough to anticipate every potential social media scenario.
Employees need to be prepared for the inevitable “gray areas” created by the fast-changing social media space. As
Amy Heiss, who leads Dell’s global social training and activation program, told us: “There’s no one clear example.
Employees need to be trained to expect the unexpected and use their better judgment when engaging online.”
In 2013, 43% of companies identified internal social media education as a top social business priority, while only 38%
indicate having such a program in place, or in progress. Through interviews with companies such as ARAMARK,
RadioShack, and Kaiser Permanente, Altimeter Group has identified a four-component, roles-based approach to help
organizations design their education strategy and curriculum — and a checklist of action steps to launch, and scale,
this business program.
With a social media education program in place, companies can achieve two primary business objectives: 1) reduce
social media risk, and 2) activate employees for engagement and advocacy.
Altimeter Group conducted both qualitative and quantitative analyses, using a combination of online surveys,
interviews, and briefings on corporate social media education. This included:
• Interviews with 13 managers of corporate social media education programs. Altimeter conducted
these interviews between February and June 2013.
• Quantitative study of 130 executives and social strategists at companies with more than 1,000
employees, conducted online during Q4 2012 by Altimeter Group.
• Quantitative study of 65 digital strategists at companies with more than 500 employees, conducted
online during Q2 2013 by Altimeter Group.
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Table of Contents
Establishing Social Media Education Is a Top Priority ...............................................................................................................3
Social Media Education Achieves Two Primary Business Objectives ................................................................................3
1. Safety: Protect the Company and Employees from Social Media Risk ......................................................................................3
2. Activation: Scale Employee Use of Social Media for Engagement or Advocacy .....................................................................4
Base Your Social Media Education Strategy On Four Roles ...................................................................................................5
Component One: Social Media Policy Training for All Employees Should Strive to Impart Judgment ..................................6
Component Two: Social Media Introduction Enables Employees to Become Advocates in Social Media ..........................6
Component Three: Social Media Practitioner Development (SMP) Drives Business Impact ....................................................7
Component Four: Executive Education Focuses on Driving Business Results with Social Media .........................................7
Checklist: 10 Action Steps for a Social Media Education Program .....................................................................................8
Scaling and Advancing Your Social Media Education Program ......................................................................................... 13
Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 13
Appendix ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 14
Ecosystem Input ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 15
About Us ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 16
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Establishing Social Media Education Is a Top Priority
The average corporate social business program was established more than three years ago.2 Yet as social business
efforts permeate the enterprise, those without “social” in their titles often lag in understanding of the corporate social
business strategy, let alone know how to use social media safely or effectively.
The need for employee education on social media becomes apparent as social business programs formalize
and mature. More than 60% of companies report having no program or only ad hoc social media education
programs (see Figure 1.1). Yet when asked about their top internal objectives, developing social media
education was the second most important priority for most organizations, with 43% of companies planning
to develop internal education and training this year, and nearly a quarter of companies planning to connect
employees directly with social tools (see Figure 1.2).
62% of Companies Have No Social Media Education Program, Yet It's a Top Priority
Q. “Do you currently have a formal social media
None, or ad hoc
Q. “In 2013, what are your top three internal social
strategy objectives?” (Select up to three choices.)
Create metrics that demonstrate
the value of social media
education and training
Connect social data to other enterprise
data sources to deliver actionable insight
with social media
Source: Altimeter Group's Survey of Digital Strategists, Q4 2012 (n=130) and Q2 2013 (n=65)
Social Media Education Achieves Two Primary Business Objectives
For this report, Altimeter interviewed 13 managers of best-in-class corporate social media education programs and
also surveyed companies in two online surveys. In our research, we found that companies develop internal social
media education programs to achieve two primary business objectives: 1) reduce social media risk, and 2) activate
employees for engagement and advocacy.
1. Safety — Protect the Company and Employees from Social Media Risk
A constant spate of social media crises (Applebee’s, Taco Bell) serves as the foundational justification for social media
education.3 These risks are compounded as social media savvy Millennials enter the workforce and social mediaenabled devices proliferate the workplace.4 In fact, 52% of organizations surveyed reported that they had experienced
at least one social media incident or violation of the corporate social media policy in the past 12 months (see Figure
2.1). It is also very likely that the number of incidents is much higher than reported, as companies may not actively
monitor employee accounts and employees protect their accounts from employers through privacy controls.
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While many companies start with a social media policy as the basis for their education program, the policy itself is
typically a legal document buried in new hire manuals or an annual ethics/compliance course. Amy Heiss, Global
Lead for Social Training & Activation at Dell, observed, “As great as our policy is, we knew no one was going to read
through a lengthy legal document.” Our data supported this finding: While 85% of companies have a corporate social
media policy,5 only 18% of companies said that their employees’ knowledge about social media usage and the social
media policy was “good” or “very good” (see Figure 2.2).
Employees need guidance and guardrails on social media usage, especially as personal and professional profiles
and activities increasingly intersect online. In our interviews, social media education managers told us that this type
of education helps safeguard 1) the company, against social media risk that can result in brand damage or even
revenue loss; and just as importantly, 2) employees, from penalties as severe as termination.
Knowledge Level and Violations of Organizational Social Media Policies
Q. “In the last 12 months, how often has there been an
incident where an employee in your organization
violated your internal, organizational social media
Q. “What are employees' knowledge level of the
organization's social media policy?”
More than 25 incidents
Source: Altimeter Group's Survey of Digital Strategists, Q4 2012 (n=130) and Q2 2013 (n=65)
2. Activation: Scale Employee Use of Social Media for Engagement or Advocacy
At the other end of the spectrum, social media education is deployed to empower employees as advocates and
scale the social business program across the enterprise.6 But a dedicated social media team can’t respond to the
rising volume of customer demands in social channels. And, already companies average 131 social media accounts,
with new accounts and platforms being added at a rapid pace.7
To help with this, some companies are turning to their employees — from rank-and-file employees to subject matter
experts to executives — and equipping them with the skills needed to effectively engage with customers in social
media. Even those with official social media responsibilities require ongoing education to learn new platforms and
features, as well as hone their skills set.
For example, RadioShack’s goal is to give associates enough social media skills to advocate on behalf of the
brand. Cosmin Ghiurau, Director, Social Media & Digital Strategy at RadioShack, shared: “We’re a 90-plus-year-old
company. We have some employees who have been here 40 years. The end result is that we want more associates
to use social media, know how to work with the social media team to create content, and share our content on their
personal social channels with the right guard rails in place. If only 1% of our current 34,000 employees participated
and became ambassadors, we’d have an extended social team of 340.”
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Employee activation not only increases the volume but also the quality of engagement and advocacy. At World
Wildlife Fund UK, for example, those with the best stories to share on social media are its conservationists, who are in
the field doing work that directly supports the organization’s mission. Neil Gunn, Digital Strategy Adviser, shared: “The
theory is that people who have the stories to tell are on the ground. If you really are going to do social well, you need
to make the connection with those who have the story to tell.”
Base Your Social Media Education Strategy On Four Roles
In our interviews, we found that companies structure their social media education programs to address typically up to
four sets of roles and learning objectives: Social Media Policy Training for all employees, Social Media Introduction for
some employees, Social Media Practitioner Development, and Executive Education (see Figure 3).
The actual rollout of these components varies highly — and is dependent on objectives and goals that are unique
to each organization. Regardless of where you start, prepare a plan for how you will address all components of the
education framework — every company has these training needs and they will need to be addressed at some point
in the future. This plan will become the foundation of your social media education strategy — an agreement and
alignment across the company of what you will do (and won’t do) when it comes to social media education.6
Four Components of a Social Media Education Program
This continuum is meant to show the range of education from risk mitigation to opportunity capture. It also shows how the
type and number of employees trained for each component varies, from everyone (Policy Training) to leadership only
Social Media Practitioner
Source: Social Media Education for Employees, Altimeter Group, December 5, 2013
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Component One: Social Media Policy Training for All Employees Should Strive to Impart Judgment
No policy or guideline alone can ever be comprehensive enough to anticipate
every potential social media risk. Employees need to be prepared for the
inevitable “gray areas” created by the fast-changing social media space. As
Amy Heiss at Dell told us: “There’s no one clear example. Employees need to be
trained to expect the unexpected and use their better judgment when engaging
Audience All employees, as well as
agencies and partners
Training for judgment is difficult, made all the more so if you have to do it
consistently at scale for the entire organization. One way to do this is to use the
policy as the starting point for baseline social media training — and then layer on
additional content such as scenarios and exercises that help develop judgment.
For example, take the scenario where a customer or client sends a “friend
request” on Facebook. What should the employee do, especially if he visits
Facebook primarily for personal reasons? There is not necessarily a right or wrong
answer to this dilemma, but the company can and should provide guidance on
how it defines the exercise of good judgment in such circumstances.
• Usually mandatory
• Typically short (20 minutes to 1 hour)
• Delivered online for consistency and
scale, on-demand for convenience
• Can be part of annual ethics/
compliance training or new-hire
orientation; supported by the corporate
Learning Management System (LMS)
Component One: Social Media
Policy Training For All Employees
Objective Mitigate social media risk with
education on corporate social media policy
Topics Social media policy, including
what is allowed and/or not allowed
Outcome Reduce and prevent incidents
of social media policy violations by
employees, agencies, and partners who
learn to exercise good judgment
Since 2010, RadioShack has included a required social media module as part of
its onboarding program for new hires, which provides a brief, 10-minute overview
of RadioShack’s social media program and policy. At Aetna, policy training is
also required of “any business relationship that falls outside the corporate umbrella,” such as agencies and business
partnerships or acquisitions, according to Lauren Vargas, Aetna’s Community Strategy Director.
Organizations increasingly face pressure to ensure that employees know the “basics” and are not only aware of the
policy but also have confidence in their personal use of social media. In the near future, some regulated industries
may also be required to provide a base level of social media education.8
Component Two: Social Media Introduction Enables Employees to Become Advocates in Social Media
While a core team of experienced social media practitioners will likely handle the
bulk of social media engagement on a day-to-day basis, other employees may
be hesitant to use social media professionally or lack the skills and practice to
engage in social media positively and effectively. To activate employees outside
of the core social media team — for example, someone managing product
marketing — introductory social media education is needed to provide proper
guardrails and best practices, as well as to develop an understanding of how
social media is used at the company to meet business objectives.
At this component, education focuses on social platforms, features, and
engagement best practices (which, as you can imagine, must be constantly
reevaluated and updated). Many companies deliver these classes in person for
more interactive learning and modeling. For example, Adobe offers live, 90-minute
workshops conducted by Adobe social media managers. The workshops are
hosted at Adobe’s headquarters in San Jose and through teleconference in the
morning and evening to accommodate both US and global teams. To date, over
30% of Adobe’s 10,000 employees have completed this program, which is entirely
Companies like Mayo Clinic and Cisco also supplement and scale through
on-demand courses that can be accessed at any time by employees through a
Component Two: Social Media
Introduction for Advocacy
Audience Any employee (salaried) or
social media practitioners only
Objective Ensure that employees
interested in social media for business
purposes have the same education on
platforms and best practices
Topics Corporate social media program/
strategy; overview of platforms, best
practices, and how to get started
• Usually voluntary
• Short (20 minutes to 1 hour) ondemand courses
• Live workshops (in person or
teleconference) that range from 1 hour
Outcome Increase employee
engagement and activity in social
media generally to positively impact
the company, e.g., increase brand
sentiment/mentions or share of voice, as
well as reduce risk of social media crises
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corporate learning management system. On-demand courses at Mayo Clinic include dozens of introductory courses,
including courses like Cultural Considerations in Social Media or Pinterest Applications in Health Care (see Appendix
A. Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media Course Catalog). At Cisco Systems, on-demand courses include How to
Write for Social Media and How to Find Your Social Voice.9
Often, this component of social media education provides not only the proper guardrails and best practices but
serves as tacit encouragement from higher-ups that the company wants its employees to use social media, even if it’s
just starting out on their own personal accounts.
Component Three: Social Media Practitioner Development (SMP) Drives Business Impact
For employees who use social media intensely in their specific roles and
responsibilities, more advanced training is required to deepen understanding of
best practices and craft social strategies that result in business impact. Social
Media Practitioner (SMP) development is usually the outcome of very specific
business objectives for social media, such as: “We want our scientists to write
about their research to increase share of voice and brand sentiment,” or “We
want to increase customer satisfaction scores by improving how our customer
care team responds in social media.” In such cases, the SMP is acting on behalf
of the company in an official and visible way.
Here, we found the most variation in course duration, format, and content. While
companies’ SMP development can be delivered through on-demand courses for
scale, we found that the companies interviewed for this report preferred in-person
formats delivered as half-day workshop to months-long, ongoing “boot camps”
tailored to specific roles or departments.
An example of this type of in-person training is Adobe’s “Social Media Bootcamp”
program, piloted with the company’s email team. Modeled like an advisory and
consulting relationship that lasts over several months, the program’s goal is to
help functional groups integrate social media with their particular business goals.
Currently, Adobe’s program is delivered in five modules, including 1-on-1 advisory
and mentorship with the company’s core social media team.
Component Three: Social Media
Practitioner (SMP) Development
Audience Social media practitioners
across business units or functions who
are driving specific business objectives
with their social activities
Objective Enhance skills set for
those whose jobs require social
media, or advance skills set for
general employees for the purpose of
Topics Advanced best practices and
deep dives on platforms and tools;
can be tailored to business units
or functions, e.g., social media for
customer service, sales, or recruitment
• Usually voluntary
• Short (20 minutes to 1 hour) ondemand courses that make up a
“Choose Your Own Adventure” path
that is unique to the role
• Live workshops (in person or
teleconference) that vary widely
in format, from ad hoc or monthly
one-hour sessions to multiple-day
“bootcamps” with coursework
Dell recognized that its customers wanted to connect directly with the company’s
Outcome Increase the effective use of
technical experts. Yet, an internal audit revealed that only 20% of Subject Matter
social media to achieve specific business
goals in official company social media
Experts (SME) had social media accounts. To address this, Dell rolled out its “Social
SME” program. During the three-month program, SMEs meet every two weeks and
receive guidance from social media trainers on how to set up their profiles, identify
influencers, and interact with customers for technical support. To date, 150 SMEs have participated in the program,
with impressive results: SME posts generate 2X engagement and 6X clicks over branded posts, and SMEs have helped
connect Dell to 10,400 new influencer relationships.
Component Four: Executive Education Focuses on Driving Business Results with Social Media
Social media education for executives is important to companies who want to increase executive alignment around the
social strategy or increase direct executive engagement in social media itself, either internally or externally. Altimeter’s
research found that executive support is crucial to drive the strategic impact of social efforts deeply and widely into
the organization.10 Yet providing education to executives is challenging due to their schedules and unique learning
objectives. We found that companies with executive education typically offer this on an ad hoc or one-on-one basis.
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A best practice of executive social media education is to focus on the business
outcomes — especially the relationships that can be formed with customers and
employees — rather than the technology itself. An executive’s eyes will glaze
over if you try to explain hashtags on Twitter, but they will pay rapt attention if you
can demonstrate how Twitter can be used to turn a complaining customer into
a company advocate. And they will pay even more attention if you can tailor the
education around how social media can be used to achieve their specific goals
One example of this is at Cisco, which launched a reverse mentoring program for
executives earlier this year. Cisco recruits social media practitioners as mentors
and “puts them through a rigorous qualification process” to determine fit for the
program and with specific executives. There are currently 15-20 mentors who
typically work with more than one executive over a three-to-six-month period.
The relationship is formalized with a contract that outlines commitments on both
sides, and mentors receive a lesson plan tailored to their mentee. One recent
participant reported the following benefits of Cisco’s reverse mentoring program:
“As it relates to social media, EVERY executive should have a [practitioner] help
mentor them. Most are fearful of not being considered an expert. Once the fear is
gone, social media is a great tool for executives to use.”
Component Four: Executive
Audience Social media practitioners
across business units or functions who
are driving specific business objectives
with their social activities
Objective Develop executive
understanding, buy-in, and/or
engagement in the use of social media
to support business goals
Topics Focused on the business value
of social media; specific strategies for
executives to engage in social media;
for example, for media relations or
• Ad hoc or one-on-one; for example,
in the form of reverse mentoring with
social media savvy associates
Outcome Increase executive
alignment on the business impacts
of social, engagement, and activity in
social media to achieve that executive’s
and company goals
This last component, executive education, was less common among the
companies interviewed yet often identified as aspirational. It typically reflects maturity in social media education,
addressed after the three components above.
Checklist: 10 Action Steps for a Social Media Education Program
While companies tend to start their education programs informally and then formalize them over time, companies we
interviewed recommended putting a strategy in place from the get-go. As with any business program, an enterprisewide social media education program will require a strategy, organizational alignment, buy-in, roles, and resources.
Below, we outline 10 action steps and requirements needed to deploy a formalized education program, regardless of
which component you roll out first.
1. Define learning objectives and roles — guided by your business objectives. Start with clearly defined
business objectives to help you define and prioritize learning objectives and roles. Go back to the Four Components
of a Social Media Education Program framework (Figure 3) and identify your company’s priorities. Is it risk mitigation?
Is it employee advocacy? Is it practitioner skills development or executive alignment? Once you know your priorities,
you can focus on learning objectives by role, then develop a rubric of competencies and ascertain optimal learning
formats for each.
A best practice is to outline learning objectives for all roles at the start. Even if you don’t roll out all components
at once, doing so will help guide a longer-term program roadmap over ad-hoc or patchwork offerings that might
eventually culminate into a broader but potentially fragmented program. One company that did this was Aetna, which
is creating a 6-path training program for the following roles: 1) content creators, 2) community managers, 3) selfidentified employees for employee advocacy, 4) all employees for risk mitigation, 5) agencies, and 6) executives. Key
stakeholders and resources needed for each of these programs were identified and laid out as a strategy to be rolled
out over time.
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Checklist for a Social Media Education Program
1. Deﬁne learning objectives and roles − guided by your business objectives
2. Formulate success metrics to benchmark and demonstrate program impact
3. Engage executives and internal stakeholders during strategy and planning
4. Dedicate education and training resources
5. Audit existing resources to reduce duplication and integrate with corporate training program and systems
6. Determine if the curriculum will be built in-house and by whom, or by external partners
7. Align curriculum with existing policies and governance
8. Create an internal marketing strategy that creates incentives for participation
9. Run pilots to manage resource constraints, get continued buy-in, and reﬁne additional tiers
10. Create ongoing learning and opportunities to engage
Source: Social Media Education for Employees, Altimeter Group, December 5, 2013
2. Formulate success metrics to benchmark and demonstrate program impact. While 72% of companies
with social media education programs track participation numbers, this is by no means sufficient (see Figure 5.1).
Success metrics should also measure outcomes related to your business objectives, for example, the reduction of
social media incidents or an increase in employee activation and engagement.
Only a few companies we interviewed had metrics in place to measure impact on business goals. A couple examples
stood out: At Dell, the desired outcome is to see increased employee engagement. To help measure success (and
encourage proper disclosure), education managers ask newly minted social ambassadors to use a special hashtag
(#iwork4dell) in their posts. They then monitor that hashtag to track volume, sentiment, and reach — and see what
kind of impact those posts have against campaign or business objectives.
Some companies also use surveys to help track outcomes. One way to do this is to simply ask participants after they
complete a course how they anticipate their new skills will impact their work — and then to survey them again at a
later date to see if they actually achieved the desired outcomes (see Appendix B for a sample participant survey).
3. Engage executives and internal stakeholders during strategy and planning. Education is an enterprisewide program that will require executive and cross-functional support. All of the companies we interviewed spoke to
the importance of involving executives and internal stakeholders during the strategy and planning phases. Executives
help “bless” the program, while internal stakeholders provide alignment.
For example, Dell identified potential participants for its “Social SME” program and then went to VPs to explain the
program’s benefits. When the program was launched, invitations to the program came from those VPs. According
to Amy Heiss at Dell, “Once we got the executive team to support our program, we had even more strength behind
what we were trying to achieve.”
Other companies we talked to also involved stakeholders such as PR, Learning and Development, HR, or Legal.
Aetna needed to work closely with Legal and Compliance teams due to the unique risks of social media in the
healthcare industry. RadioShack worked primarily with its Operations and Training team to roll out the program to
store associates. Most of the companies we talked to worked with HR to integrate social media policy training into
new hire onboarding.
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Current State of Corporate Social Media Education Programs
Each year, Altimeter Group surveys digital strategists. In our most recent survey, conducted Q2 2013, we asked speciﬁcally
about social media education programs at companies with over 500 employees. Of 65 total respondents, 25 respondents
reported having a formalized social media education program, either in place or in progress.
Fig. 5.1 Education Program Success Largely Tracked Through Employee Uptake
Q. Which of these metrics do you formally track to measure the success of your social media education program?
Level of employee social media activity
Final test scores
Overall quality of public-facing social media programs
Control of inappropriate activity (policy)
Net promoter score (NPS)/customer satisfaction
Number of employee social media accounts
Level of employee ampliﬁcation of corporate messaging
We do not formally measure the success of our program
Fig. 5.2 Half of Companies Have Only One FTE to
Manage Social Media Education
Q. How many full-time equivalent employees manage
and deliver this program?
% with 1
% with 2
% with 3-5
% with 6+
PT/FT employee PT/FT employees PT/FT employees PT/FT employees
Fig. 5.3 Most Companies Develop Their Social
Media Education Curriculum In-House
Q. Was your curriculum developed in-house, or by
an outside vendor?
It was developed by an
outside vendor, with
guidance from our
most of it in house,
with guidance from
an outside vendor.
Fig. 5.4 Social Media Education Curriculum
Primarily Owned by Social Media or Marketing
Fig. 5.5 One-Third of Companies Have No Formal
Process to Update Curriculum
Q. Which group has primary responsibility for
developing the curriculum?
Q. In general, how frequently are your curriculum
and materials updated?
We have no schedule for updates
Source: Altimeter Group's Survey of Digital Strategists, Q4 2012 (n=130)
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4. Dedicate education and training resources. As soon as a strategy is in place, companies should dedicate at
least a part-time education manager and/or trainer to own the planning and roll out of the program. These part-time
managers may also conduct the courses themselves, at least in the pilot phases.
More than half of companies we surveyed had one FTE or less managing their social media education program (see Figure
5.2). In many cases, we learned that budgets for social media education programs consisted entirely of this headcount.
At Adobe, two social media team members spend approximately 10% of their time on the education program.
Aetna’s social strategist reported spending up to three-fourths of her time on the program in the run up to its launch.
One social strategist told us, “You can do it with a very limited budget, but you at least need some staff capacity to
develop this initiative.”
5. Audit existing resources to reduce duplication and integrate with corporate training program and
systems. For some companies, the Learning and Development organization is a key partner, as it owns existing
corporate training and the corporate learning management system. Tom Carusona, Sr. Director, Digital & Social Media
at ARAMARK, explains why this is important: “We want to teach the way ARAMARK wants to teach.”
Audit existing education programs to surface content that can be adapted or related courses where social media
can be incorporated. Lauren Vargas at Aetna audited classes offered through Aetna’s Learning Resource Center and
found that content on the brand voice could be modified for social media specific purposes. Vargas said, “Make sure
you retrofit what you deploy to what already exists.” There may also be opportunities to include social media content
in other related courses, such as business ethics, technology, or information security. Small additions to existing
training make social media education more relevant and reinforces learning.
Lastly, integrating social media education into a company’s existing learning management system also allows
education managers to 1) track participation and completion rates and 2) survey participants upon completion of the
program to measure outcomes.
6. Determine if the curriculum will be built in-house and by whom, or by external partners. Creating
curriculum and content for social media education is no easy task, nor does it usually have a clear owner. On the one
hand, the core social media team has likely developed a common set of best practices that have been documented
— but they lack the skills to transfer them to the classroom for effective learning. On the other hand, stakeholders
in the Learning and Development organization have a deep understanding of learning principles specific to your
company, but lack social media knowledge.
We found that most companies (84% of those surveyed) develop their curriculum in-house (see Figure 5.3), usually
by members of the core social media team, and in a few cases with support from the Learning and Development
organization or HR (see Figure 5.4). For others, an external partner may be the best owner if internal capacity is
limited and budget is available. Three of 11 companies interviewed partnered with external partners to help develop
content. However, these companies intended to bring content updates in-house. For example, Kaiser Permanente
created its 101 series with an external partner but plans to update and improve the curriculum on its own.
Whichever you choose, make sure to define a clear owner going forward, who is accountable for curriculum updates
on an ongoing basis. Of companies we surveyed, 28% updated curriculum on a quarterly basis and 32% on a semiannual or annual basis (see Figure 5.5)
7. Align curriculum with existing policies and governance. As curriculum is developed, ensure that all content
is aligned with existing social media policies and governance. In our work with one Fortune Global 500 organization,
we found that training scenarios in the company’s social media education curriculum raised more questions than it
answered. The course, which was based on the then-current social media policy, didn’t offer the guiding principles
needed for participants to begin using social media confidently. As a result, this Altimeter client had to rethink its
social media policy and return to internal stakeholders like HR and Legal for feedback and to request revisions on
both the policy and the curriculum.
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As you’ll find, much of your social media education will not be black and white — and the curriculum developed will
test your organization’s current policies and governance. Consider this action step as a “stress test,” and audit your
curriculum against policies and governance as it is being developed and again before it’s deployed.
8. Create an internal marketing strategy that creates incentives for participation. A “build it, and they will
come” approach by no means guarantees that training will have an impact. While some companies we interviewed
had no trouble enlisting participants, you may find that this is not the case — especially if the program is voluntary
or the benefits are not sufficiently articulated. Including an internal marketing and communication strategy early
in the program development stages can help you formulate program benefits, create incentives, and develop a
communication strategy to prospective participants as you roll out the program.11
This can come in many forms, and one example from our interviews particularly stood out: Cisco organizes part of its
education program as “team challenges,” creating healthy competition across functional and cross-functional teams
to trigger participation. Once completed, participants also receive a certification, which is communicated to their
managers and even up the executive chain.
Whichever you choose, building and communicating incentives as part of the initial strategy will help participants (and
their managers) understand the program benefits, and, ultimately, increase participation and program satisfaction.
9. Run pilots to manage resource constraints, get continued buy-in, and refine additional components.
When you are ready to launch, pilot with only one or two components in order to test, refine, and repeat. It also
enables you to bootstrap a program sooner rather than later, and demonstrate some early successes to obtain
additional headcount or budget. Lauren Vargas at Aetna confirmed: “You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles,
and you can roll this out to a limited set of employees first.”
While this will happen organically, several companies we interviewed developed their roadmap with a pilot program in
mind from the outset. For example, Kaiser Permanente deployed its pilot as a live webinar to a core team of 80 public
relations and corporate communications professionals. Vince Golla, Digital Media and Syndication Director at Kaiser
Permanente, told us: “We did this to both gauge the utility and value of the curriculum as well as focus the training
on the most likely social media ‘first responders’ in the organization.” Afterwards, Kaiser Permanente adapted the
content into an e-learning format and made it available online to the entire organization.
10. Create ongoing learning and opportunities to engage. Relying on a one-time course certification without
opportunities for deeper engagement is a recipe for stagnation. As coursework is completed, continue to engage
participants with more opportunities for learning and hands-on practice. This helps to reinforce course curriculum and
motivate participants to put their new skills to good use. We spotlight a few examples below to spur your creativity:
• Aetna’s social media certification process will be required annually. Some tracks will require quarterly
recertification as “things change so quickly,” said Lauren Vargas at Aetna.
• Dell follows up with participants after each class. For example, the company gives each “Social SME”
participant a metrics scorecard to measure their progression from novice to intermediate to advanced. In
addition, Dell hosts unconferences for social media practitioners around the globe and has a 10K member
Salesforce Chatter group dedicated to social media.
• After participating in the Mayo Clinic’s “Social Media Residency,” participants are expected to submit
plans on how they will apply social media to their work roles. Upon submission of their plans, participants
receive a Bronze fellow. When they report back on their results, they become a Silver Fellow. Gold fellows
have published their work in a peer-reviewed journal. Lee Aase, Director at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for
Social Media, told us: “After the residency, we don’t want people to go back and not have lives or work be
changed. We want to motivate and track their progress.”
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Scaling and Advancing Your Social Media Education Program
Ultimately, some companies may eventually need to roll out social media education to thousands if not tens of
thousands of employees who can span multiple brands and geographies. In such cases, a few workshops a year
conducted by part-time education managers will certainly not suffice. While this may seem daunting, we share
a couple important recommendations from the companies we interviewed, based on their experiences scaling
enterprise-wide, global social media education programs.
On-Demand Modules — Online, on-demand modules scale well and are best suited for policy or social media
introduction coursework. Work with your Learning and Development organization or an external partner to adapt
existing content into online, on-demand modules that can be delivered through the corporate learning management
system. External partners may also offer “off-the-shelf” modules that can be adapted, customized, and rolled out
much more quickly than developing curriculum entirely in-house. Most of these courses last 20 minutes to one hour
and run the gamut of social media and social business topics.
Train-the-Trainer Models — Some subjects require more interactive education; for example, hands-on training
on tools like social media management systems or strategy workshops that benefit from group discussions and
brainstorming. To scale live formats, companies enlist internal evangelists in a train-the-trainer model. For example,
Juniper Networks plans to train a tenth of its 10,000 employees in the next year, utilizing a “hub and spoke” model.
Cisco relies on already-certified Social Ambassadors to mentor and train participants using existing toolkits frameworks.
As social media efforts mature and permeate the enterprise, it’s imperative for companies to provide proper guardrails
and skills development for employees, to: 1) mitigate risk and 2) activate employees for scale and advocacy. Starting
with Altimeter’s Four Components of a Social Media Education Program framework (Figure 3), companies can begin
to develop a program strategy and learning objectives tied to these business outcomes.
Over the long term, several companies we interviewed explained that educating employees on social media helped
lay the groundwork for a bigger vision — to transform all corners of the company into a social business. Regarding
his company’s social media education program, Cosmin Ghiurau at RadioShack told us: “It’s been an unbelievable
journey to see how excited our employees are to use social to deepen customer relationships.”
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Appendix A. Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media Course Catalog
BUS 101 – Introduction to Social Media Strategy*
BUS 102 – Employee Access to Social Media
BUS 103 – Opening Access for Employees
BUS 105 – Social Media and SEO
BUS 110 – Basics of Social Media ROI*
BUS 115 – Intermediate Social Media ROI
BUS 120 – Advanced Social Media ROI
BUS 121 – Mayo Clinic ROI Case Studies
BUS 130 – Introduction to LinkedIn*
BUS 135 – Social Networking for HR and the Job Search
BUS 150 – Social Media Planning for Your Workplace*
BUS 155 – Social Media Management Systems
Ethical, Professional and Legal Issues
EPL 101 – Medical Professionalism and Social Media*
EPL 105 – Mayo Clinic Employee Guidelines
EPL 110 – Guidelines for Medical Professionals
EPL 120 – Managing the Legal Risks of Social Media*
General Social Media
GSM 101 – Introduction to Social Media Residency
GSM 102 – Creating your SMHN Account
GSM 103 – The Social Media Fellows Program
GSM 104 – Social Media isn’t (Mainly) about Platforms
GSM 105 – Overview of Social Media Tools*
GSM 108 – Cultural Considerations in Social Media
GSM 109 – Connecting in Spanish
GSM 110 – Mayo Clinic’s Social Media History*
GSM 115 – Introduction to Podcasting
GSM 116 – Introduction to FourSquare
GSM 117 – Introduction to Flickr
GSM 118 – Introduction to Wikis
GSM 119 – Introduction to RSS
GSM 120 – Introduction to Slideshare*
GSM 121 – Advanced Applications of Slideshare
GSM 122 – Introduction to Pinterest*
GSM 123 – Pinterest Applications in Health Care
GSM 124 – Sourcing “Share-worthy” Content
GSM 125 – Introduction to Internal Social Networking*
GSM 126 – Introduction to Yammer*
GSM 127 – Yammer Use Cases and Case Studies
GSM 130 – Introduction to Google+
GSM 170 – Criteria for Creating a Unique Community of Interest
GSM 190 – Applying for SMHN Fellow Status
BLOG 101 – Getting Started with Blogging*
BLOG 102 – Survey of Blogging Platforms
BLOG 103 – You Don’t Have to Call it a Blog
BLOG 105 – Your Blog is Your Social Media HQ*
BLOG 110 – Advanced Blogging
BLOG 115 – Surgical Tagging: The Road Less Traveled
BLOG 301 – Application: The Social Media Health Network
BLOG 302 – Application: The Mayo Clinic News Network
FB 101 – Introduction to Facebook
FB 105 – Managing Facebook Privacy*
FB 110 – Facebook Groups and Pages
FB 115 – Facebook Metrics and Advertising
FB 120 – Advanced Facebook Techniques
TW 101 – Introduction to Twitter*
TW 103 – Twitter Apps*
TW 105 – Twitter Terms*
TW 107 – URL Shortening*
TW 110 – Twitter Chats*
TW 115 – Twitter Measurement via TweetReach Report
TW 130 – Ending Twitter Impersonation
VID 110 – Introduction to YouTube*
VID 120 – Video Shooting Basics*
VID 121 – Video Editing Basics*
VID 130 – Improving Video Quality on a Budget
VID 140 – Solving iMovie Audio Sync Problems
VID 145 – Avoiding SPAM Comments on YouTube
Courses marked * are required core elements in Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Residency program. View in full at: http://network.socialmedia.
Appendix B. Sample Student Survey to Measure Success of Social Media Education
Examples of Immediate Post-Education Survey Questions
I will be able to apply the skills and knowledge on the job. If yes,
provide examples of how you will apply:
• This training will improve my job performance
• This training will have a significant impact on: (select all that apply)
• increasing customer satisfaction
• increasing quality
• increasing productivity
• increasing revenue
• decreasing cost of sales
• increasing customer satisfaction
• decreasing cycle time, decreasing risk
Examples of 90-Day Follow Up Survey Questions
I have applied the skills and knowledge on the job. If yes, provide
examples of how you have applied:
• This training has improved my job performance (give examples)
• his training has had a significant impact on: (select all that apply,
and give examples)
• increasing customer satisfaction
• increasing quality
• increasing productivity
• increasing revenue
• decreasing cost of sales
• increasing customer satisfaction
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This report could not have been produced without the generous input from the following managers of corporate social media education programs.
Input into this document does not represent a complete endorsement of the report by the individuals listed below.
Corporate Practitioners (13)
Adobe Systems: Pooja Prasad, Social Media Manager (former)
Adobe Systems: Jen Atkinson, Senior Manager Social Media Strategy (former)
Aetna: Lauren Vargas, Community Strategy Director
ARAMARK: Tom Carusona, Sr. Director, Digital Social Media
Cisco: Elizabeth Houston, Social Media Manager, Training Enablement
Cisco: Petra Neiger, Senior Manager, Digital and Social Media Marketing (former)
Dell: Amy Heiss, Global Lead for Social Training Activation
Juniper Networks: Adam Christensen, Senior Director, Corporate Communications Digital Strategy (former)
Kaiser Permanente: Vince Golla, Digital Media and Syndication Director
Mayo Clinic: Lee Aase, Director, Center for Social Media
RadioShack: Cosmin Ghiurau, Director, Social Media Digital Strategy
Whole Foods: Rebecca Stuch, Integrated Media Communication Systems Team Leader (former)
World Wildlife Fund UK: Neil Gunn, Digital Strategy Adviser
With thanks for support from: Natanya Anderson, Keith Boswell, Ashton Bothman, Cory Edwards, Cheryl Knight, Jennifer Lyell, Vladimir Mirkovic of
Transart Design, Maria Poveromo, and Alec Wagner.
rom Altimeter Group’s Survey of Corporate Digital Strategists, Q2 2013 (n=65).
arlier this year, an Applebee’s employee violated its social media policy by posting a signed receipt with a note from a customer who left no tip.
The employee was fired, which resulted in social media backlash. See: “Applebee’s social media faux pas a ‘learning experience,’” NBC News,
February 5, 2013: (http://www.nbcnews.com/business/applebees-social-media-faux-pas-learning-experience-1B8251556). Also, a Taco Bell
employee posted a photo of himself licking taco shells. See: “Taco Bell Employee Licks Taco Shells, Causes Social Media Nightmare,” Mashable,
June 3, 2013: (http://mashable.com/2013/06/03/taco-bell-taco-licker)
s of late 2012, internet users aged 18-29 are the most likely of any demographic cohort to use a social networking site of any kind (83%). Read
the full report: The Demographics of Social Media Users — 2012. Pew Internet. February 14, 2013: (http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Socialmedia-users.aspx). Moreover, 90% of employees used their personal smartphones for work-related purposes in the past year. Read the report:
BYOD Insights 2013: A Cisco Partner Network Study: (http://www.ciscomcon.com/sw/swchannel/registration/internet/registration.cfm).
From Altimeter Group’s Survey of Corporate Digital Strategists, Q4 2012 (n=130).
ltimeter found that 40% of companies said that a top objective was to “scale social programs.” Source: Altimeter Group’s Survey of Corporate
Digital Strategists, Q2 2013 (n=65).
ltimeter found that corporations with 500 employees or more average 131 social media accounts across the enterprise, including business
units, divisions, and geographies. Source: Altimeter Group’s Survey of Corporate Digital Strategists, Q2 2013 (n=65).
n January 2013, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) issued proposed social media guidelines for financial service
institutions, which includes training. It reads, “Components of a risk management program should include the following: … An employee training
program that incorporates the institution’s policies and procedures for official, work-related use of social media, and potentially for other uses of
social media, including defining impermissible activities.” For the time being, this is a proposed guideline, but it may become a compliance area in
2014. For more information, see http://www.ffiec.gov/press/pr012213.htm.
or an example of social media introduction curriculum: Cisco has 12 publicly available courses for customers, partners, and the general public,
available at: http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/social/index.html.
ee Altimeter Group’s e-book, Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy: http://www.altimetergroup.com/research/books/the-sevensuccess-factors-of-social-business-strategy.
or additional research on gamification in the workplace, see Altimeter’s post “Holistic Gamification: Applying Social Dynamics to Solve
Problems Across the Enterprise,” by Jaimy Szymanski, November 6, 2013 (http://www.altimetergroup.com/2013/11/holistic-gamificationapplying-social-dynamics-to-solve-problems-across-the-enterprise.html)
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States | © 2013 Altimeter Group | 15
Charlene Li, Founder and Partner of Altimeter Group
Charlene Li (@charleneli) is founder of Altimeter Group and the author of the New York Times bestseller,
Open Leadership. She is also the coauthor of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell,
which was named one of the best business books in 2008. She is one of the foremost experts on social
media and technologies and a consultant and independent thought leader on leadership, strategy, social
technologies, interactive media, and marketing.
Ed Terpening, Senior Consultant
Ed Terpening (@edterpening) is a Senior Consultant at Altimeter Group and leads advisory projects on
social media education at Altimeter. To date, he has trained more than 300 professionals in social media
for business and while at Apple was awarded “Teacher of the Year” for his work with Apple University. As
former VP of Social Media at Wells Fargo, Ed led the charge to develop the first blog by any major US
bank, their first blogger, and the first dedicated social media team. He led social media strategy at Wells
Fargo for seven years. He is a founding member of SocialMedia.org.
Christine Tran, Research Manager
Christine Tran (@trantastico) is responsible for research operations at Altimeter Group and has researched
and co-written reports on social business, content marketing, and the collaborative economy. She
is currently conducting research on employee engagement and activation through social media. She
has over 10 years of program management experience at organizations ranging from the nonprofit to
This independent research report was 100% funded by Altimeter Group. This report is published under the principle of Open Research and is intended to advance the
industry at no cost. This report is intended for you to read, utilize, and share with others; if you do so, please provide attribution to Altimeter Group.
The Creative Commons License is Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0.
Your trust is important to us, and as such, we believe in being open and transparent about our financial relationships. With permission, we publish a list of our client
base on our website. See our website to learn more: http://www.altimetergroup.com/disclosure.
ALTHOUGH THE INFORMATION AND DATA USED IN THIS REPORT HAVE BEEN PRODUCED AND PROCESSED FROM SOURCES BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, NO WARRANTY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED IS MADE REGARDING
THE COMPLETENESS, ACCURACY, ADEQUACY, OR USE OF THE INFORMATION. THE AUTHORS AND CONTRIBUTORS OF THE INFORMATION AND DATA SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY FOR ERRORS OR OMISSIONS
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ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.
Learn More About Altimeter Group’s Social Media Education Offerings
Altimeter provides advisory, custom workshops, and program development for your company. We’ve worked with Fortune
1000 companies to:
• educe social media risk and increase employee engagement; for example, through education program strategy,
curriculum development, and train-the-trainer workshops.
• Scale social media education for thousands, or tens of thousands, of employees; for example, through custom online
learning products for social media education in collaboration with a product design partner.
• ncrease executive engagement through executive workshops.
For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.altimetergroup.com/services/altimeteracademy for more information about our workshops and social media education offerings.
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