Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Learning Gap

If you're in Social Media, you've run up against The Wall.

The Wall takes on a number of forms. Here are few examples:

"But, I don't have time to do all this."

"Isn't there an easier way to do this?"

"Can't I just aggregate all my social networks into one list and send out one message to them all?"

The Wall is not made of ignorance, or greed. It's not made of impatience or need.

The Wall is built of Fear.

You are coming at the problem from the point of view that the tools are, in and of themselves, totally comprehensible and useful.

You are coming at this from the perspective that the more tools a person uses the better they can get their message out to people who want to hear about it.

Your client is afraid. They are afraid of the gaps in their own knowledge.

As adults, we live lives in which we must be instantly competent at everything we do, even if the technology or process is completely new to us. There is no ramp-up time, no learning curve for us. Maybe we're lucky and we take a training class, but that's it - from that point on, we're mostly on our own, until we reach out - at a cost - to a professional for guidance. And doing that is an admission that we have failed as adults. We fear this admission. We fear those things that makes us feel that way - and we fear the people who bring it to our attention, even when we ourselves have contacted those people to assist us.

This is the Learning Gap.

Before you Bridge the Technology Gap, You Must Bridge the Learning Gap

As a Social Media Professional, you must understand that to some people every page of every system is a whole new system to learn. It may be self-evident to you that Help is in the top right-hand corner of almost every page on the Internet, but it is not self-evident to a high percentage of users.

People do not know what they do not know. even after you've taught them, because they do not know how to Learn things. They may be convinced that they cannot learn this thing or that this is all too confusing. As a SM professional, you need to bridge these gaps first, encourage and reward your client as they learn - teach your client to learn...and teach them that failure is all right. No one will penalize them, there are no red marks if they get it wrong a few times. Encourage your client to play with, and then transition them to work with this new technology. Give them spaces in which they can fail without feeling stupid, or less than competent. Bridge the Learning Gap.

No one is going to look at you and say, "I'm afraid of my own ignorance - I'm afraid to try and Learn something new and I'm afraid that if I don't I'll lose business." But that, in a nutshell is the Wall.

So, when your client looks at you and says, "I don't have time to do all that," listen to what is really being said, and start Bridging the Learning Gap, first. Then it'll be easy to teach your client the Technology they need to succeed.
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