How to run a social media training program — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Bridgette Cude of

11:55 —'s Erin McDaniel introduces Aetna's Lauren Vargas.

11:56 — Lauren: I want you to understand where we had to be before we could start a training program. I did this without any warm bodies or any budget. This took over three years of planning. There are a lot of lessons learned.

11:57 — Lauren explains: Before we could have a training program, we needed a foundation — not to create the same silos we've been trying to break down. We wanted to create an enterprise-wide understanding.

11:58 — Lauren asks, “What does social media mean?” There are three categories:

  1. A social brand (a social brand presence)
  2. A social business (making sure our internal side of the house is well-versed in what we do and why)
  3. Social health (our exclusive communities that are disease or symptom-focused)

11:59 — Lauren: We had to understand how these three pillars helped us look at social holistically as an enterprise to build a policy and process. This has taken us three years of development. My sweet spot is in the unsexy governance part of social media.

12:00 — Lauren: It's a different puzzle picture that you're constantly tweaking and finding the right balance. We had to scale — and that required a formal training program. There is no compromise there.

12:01 — Lauren: Elements we had to have in lace: workflow, policy developments, community engagement guidelines, community pact, resource library. The rules of the road for all members of the organization.

12:02 — Lauren: The training program was to make sure everyone had a level set from the associates to the executive suite. I thought of it as a create your own adventure. Everyone has a different journey and experience. It's hard to see companies put this into play. Your executive consumes information a lot differently from other employees. We needed to level the playing field.

12:03 — Training program overview:

  1. Determine business objectives: Brought in the Dell SMAC University campaign.
  2. Set learning objectives: We partnered with an outside agency because we knew we couldn't do this on our own.
  3. Develop a learning framework: We created a rubric (in almost 8 months). This is the most crucial part. We had to answer what are the skills we want you to live and breathe on a daily basis? How do we turn this from a social training program to something required for you to take as an employee of a company — even something fun.
  4. Build delivery methodology model. Build a rollout plan: The only way I was able to execute on this was with a project manager. We've spent $230,000 (not including my full-time employee expenses — plus, you can't forget that you have to market it to your own people.

12:07 — Lauren: Does everyone need to be certified? There are different levels. So we had to follow two separate paths: Certification and Awareness Training. These paths are not job specific or just for one group of our six stakeholders.

12:08 — Lauren shares some nitty gritty lessons learned:

  • No one size fits all. The way people consume content is different across the board. You need a mix of various formats, delivery, and the ability to span across different audiences.
  • Self-identified employees want you to teach them how to fish.You'll also need mandatory training on hand for your general workforce. (This is especially important for a regulated industry.) And don't forget your agency partners.

12:11 — Lauren: We wanted all of our training curriculum to have some kind of takeaway. We want people to have something to do every step of the way. It gave them accountability, something to apply their learning to. Give them tiny things they can do along their certification path.

12:12 — Lauren: Our channel agnostic, social media resource library helps add color to what we do. Since we're a big company and we move a little slower, the curriculum has to keep up with the fast pace of social. We help people look at this as a holistic conversation with context and color — like Facebook 101 questions — in the social media resource library. All of this information was created not just from within my department but with legal, HR, corporate communication, tech security, from the onset.

12:14 — Lauren explains the levels of the curriculum:

  • White Belt (On-demand training): In 2015, this will be a required course.
  • Green Belt (Mix): This is for community managers
  • Black Belt (Instructor Led): Guest contributors help teach the strategy piece. This is for stakeholders requesting a social media channel. This is for people who need to understand the strategic process of why we do what we do.

12:15 — Lauren: Have all of the players at the table on the onset.

Q & A

Q: Can you go into depth of your reverse mentorship program?

A: Lauren: The reverse mentoring and interactive development of the training won't be released until 2015. It will help people who are certified as a Green Belt to help other people learn how to fish. I want to get to a point at the end of each module of certification that you can demonstrate the right skill set.

Q: How did you remain flexible and agile as you were rolling this out?

A: Lauren: It was about not creating everything simultaneously. Not just the execution or the digestion of the end audience, but in the way we created it. Starting that modular content rubric was the key to success here. It help address fears upfront. I had an easier time getting buy-in because people had already knew what was in the rubric. M

Q: What do your monthly power sessions entail?

A: Lauren: We had so much participation we had to create two monthly sessions. Community managers and people interested in social picked a topic that our team could help answer.

Q: we're looking at governance for internal communities. How do you make sure fears are allieved without making employees feel restricted by the governance.

A: Lauren: I can't say that people aren't overwhelmed — we're in a regulated industry after all. Having one-on-ones with all of the various business units at the start helps. It became a constant quarterly review with all of these business units. Governance took my an entire year, but with those quarterly reviews we could adapt and change. 80% is evergreen, we allow that 20% to develop and change.

Q: How do you market the training internally?

A: Lauren: As soon as the curriculum was defined, we used those stakeholders from early on to be a test group. Then, we gave them accountability. When you're relying on someone to do that, giving them an ultimatum on access being revoked without certification helps. Legal and compliance in that regard have been my best friends. It hasn't scaled to the general workforce yet, but we're working on pairing it with our annual training and making it a part of the on-boarding process.