I get a lot of questions about learning social media, digital, and breaking into the industry. With more universities offering diplomas, certifications, and courses for social and digital media, the question is whether it’s worth your money.
My advice is always to use extreme caution.
The nature of the digital space is such that its in a constant state of change. Social is new; Facebook is nine years old and Twitter six. What’s the next disruptive social platform?
The point is social and digital evolves quicker than any industry – formal education doesn’t mesh with this space.
Professors develop curriculum long before courses take place. It goes against the real-time nature which makes digital and social so unique and exciting. Any course becomes outdated before it is taught.
While formal education isn’t a perfect fit for the industry, there are specific use cases. I’ll rattle off a few examples.
Skill Acquisition: If you’re looking to add specific skills, ie photoshop, illustrator… etc, formal courses make a decent fit. The important thing here is utility. Ensure you are learning tangible skills that transfer and are directly applicable to your goals.
Networking: Professional network development. As much as I hate networking, it is necessary. You have to ‘play the game’ no matter how fake and phony it makes you feel. This is something i’ve personally struggled with before because I find it exhausting.
The beauty of formal education is how it provides a rolodex of connections for the future. This is probably the only reason i would consider an grad school down the line.
Keep in mind building these relationships takes effort and is only worth it if you attend a globally recognized grad-school program.
Learn yourself. I personally take pride in self learning… you should too, but how does one do this?
Expose yourself to the social space, experiment on different social networks and research who is influential and innovative on these subjects. These are who you should learn from.
An easy example is by making a Twitter list with digital “thought leaders.” Read not just what they write, but what they read as well.
Everyone knows the spiel about how everything is free on the internets, i’ll save it and instead, point you to some resources i’m using to continually learn. Same knowledge, but without the fancy piece of paper.
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The cool thing about self-education is that it is a matter of choice. Everything rests firmly on the shoulders of the individual. There are no barriers to entry, applications or GPA restrictions. Desire and drive are two key necessities for mastery through self-education. Intrinsic motivation is an extremely powerful cognitive process. That is why self-education is 100% what you make it.
I wrote a bit in the past about my self-education efforts to date. These range from simply reading books to attending seminars and conferences on social media. Recently I have been getting a bit more creative with my education. I want to talk a bit about two different approaches I’ve been using in the hopes that some of you will be inspired to try them out.
Online Twitter Conversations
Twitter or social media may not be your thing. Hear me out.
If you have ever come across someone spamming your twitter timeline with a bunch of annoying random answers to questions followed by the same stupid hashtag, they are likely deep into a twitter chat. A Twitter chat is an online conversation hosted by an individual or company where a group of tweeters share insight on a pre-selected topic. The chat is structured by the host who provides questions, moderates and progresses the conversation from one question to the next.
The host often recruits an expert on the topic as their co-host. Free professional advice!
The chats take advantage of the hashtag search feature on twitter, allowing the conversation to be organized and followed in a linear fashion. The beauty of these conversations is the versatility. How else can a community of passionate contributors from around the world be assembled for an intellectual conversation?
There are twitter chats on just about every subject. You just have to do some digging and research to find the date and time.
I realize that some may see this conversation medium as impersonal and retarded. You are mistaken. I’ve been doing a few of these twitter chats per week. The diverse audience provides insight that you would never find in a real time conversation anywhere else.
A meetup is a group meeting organized online through social media on a specific topic. Like twitter chats, there are meetup groups for everything. Two weeks ago, I came across a message about a meetup called Internet Masterminds. Internet Masterminds is a meetup about marketing, social media, career and social networking. They have a guest speaker every week.
I showed up to my first #IMgroup meetup having no idea what to expect. Slightly less nerves while signing in compared to my last networking event. However, the nerves came roaring back when I was asked to make a quick introduction to the group. I have high threshold for pain, no fear of spiders or competition, but public speaking scares me. Public speaking in front of a group of 75 strangers is petrifying. I thought back to my grade eight public speaking class. Strike a power pose and make eye contact.
Somehow I managed to tell my story without too much stuttering. What a miracle.
I’ve been to two meetups so far. The most practical information I have learned about social media have come from these meetups. If you’re looking to learn about or meet people in an industry, a meetup is a perfect way to kill two birds with one rock.
The only issue with my self-education is my real education. Midterm week makes blogging tough.
Have you attended a meetup or twitter chat? Any creative self-education secrets for me? Post a comment!
What follows is my first attempt at networking. Let’s take a peak.
A couple weeks ago, I came across a tweet from Trevor Turnbull promoting an event he was presenting at. Being familiar with his work I was intrigued at the chance to hear him speak as he is very much in tune with social media in sports. The event was called ‘Your Keys to Networking Success,’ by ‘Networking in Vancouver.’ Or NIV.
Talking to strangers is not something that comes easy for me. I used to see networking as shameless self-promotion involving all sorts of fake courting and interaction in order to peddle ones hidden agenda. Not exactly an optimistic view of humanity. Forgive me for my short-sighted ignorance, but that is how I felt. Despite the prevailing hypocrisy, I decided to register.
The day came a week or so later. I had to go directly from class on campus downtown to the venue. This meant a long, uncomfortably steamy bus ride on the 44. It was pouring rain and windy outside. As the bus driver was prodding us in like cattle, I suddenly remembered my prof last semester lecturing about how busy Vancouver busses were operation zones for frotteurs (use that word in a sentence to impress someone). Great. Standing room only. Between listening to my ipod and constantly shuffling with my phone I managed to spear about three people with my umbrella as the bus crashed to every stop.
This guy drives like an animal.
I got to the venue, walked in with my heart racing as nerves started to creep in. It represented a pretty big deal for me to step outside my comfort zone and go by myself to something like this. I was greeted by one of the organizers asking if I had a business card to put in the jar for the raffle prizes. Blindsided, I said something to the effect of: ” You know I don’t have any with me today,” could barely keep a straight face while I crafted that one. Crisis averted.
Now what do I do before this thing starts? Clearly I mistimed my arrival. To my dismay, a friendly face! I went over and we chatted for a bit. Natalie recently completed her MSc in sport management. Check out her blog here.
The NIV event consisted of six groups of speakers: some on their own, some in pairs. They preached a variety of different strategies for networking. I eagerly listened as they talked about personal branding, finding unique ways to differentiate yourself and positive networking. The content was great. After they spoke, there was a mandatory networking period where they encouraged people to… Network. Shit. Should I just bolt and go watch the Canucks game?
Despite the new knowledge, networking still is not as easy. Especially for an introvert like myself. I curbed my natural escape tendencies and managed to introduce myself to a few people, actually making an awesome contact in the process.
I can provide one suggestion. Motivated trial and error is extremely important in order to make progress at just about anything. I learned this playing sport, but networking is no exception. Yes Allen Iverson, we are talking about PRACTICE!
If you are like me and are shy around new people, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to a friend of a friend or a stranger. A smile is a start. Be yourself and be honest. Why be someone else? Why be Dishonest?
A good resource for introverts is this primer on networking for introverts.
NIV has some great networking events coming up.
Any good networking tips, resources or events I should know about? Any good sites to order business cards?