Most businesses think social media is for marketing. Digital analyst Brian Solis disagrees.

In his new book What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences, Solis explains how the dynamic customer journey inspires “intentional experiences” before, during and after the decision to purchase which go far beyond the call of marketing. More »

I always thought HIPAA social media guidelines would have all kinds of unique provisions and social media training requirements that companies outside the health care sector wouldn’t need. I was wrong.

If you don’t work in health care, HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was enacted in 1996 under US president Bill Clinton.

It’s all about making sure patient information stays private, unless of course, patients share it themselves.  Social media, needless to say, has made keeping things private tougher than ever.  But given that health care providers are beholden to Federal Regulators, you’d think their social media policies would need special language.  Wouldn’t you?

But according to Mayo Clinic General Counsel Daniel Goldman, that’s just not the case. “If you look at our social media policy, I don’t know that it’s dramatically different from folks in other industries,” says Dan, in an interview recorded today on HIPAA and Social Media who also says the  Mayo Clinic offers it’s employees and others in the health care sector a portfolio of social media training courses to increase their digital IQs.

But when it comes to developing a corporate social media policy, being HIPAA compliant does not require a unique approach.  “I do think the emphasis on privacy is probably a bit stronger as it should be for any health care provider,” he says. But that’s not as much about legal compliance as brand equity. “If people don’t have confidence you’re going to protect very sensitive information, it’s not only a legal issue, it’s a brand issue. And for most of us that’s even more important. Our brand is a multi-billion dollar asset and tarnishing it by having people believe we’d play fast and lose with privacy is an even greater risk than the regulatory penalties we’d have to pay.”

The emphasis on privacy and providing social media training with examples of how someone might make an inadvertent HIPAA social media violation is critical as well.  Tweets and status updates are automatically date and time stamped, so if someone working for a healthcare provider shared something general about treating a patient and omitted their name, it is possible that that time stamp, combined with other public information, could become a patient privacy violation.

But having a HIPAA-complaint social media policy is not enough. The social media training and guidance you give people to understand HIPAA regulations is equally important.

“The best policy in the world is useless if it sits on the shelf or on your intranet and either people don’t look at it or people don’t really understand the nuances so I would encourage employers in any industry, but especially in health care, to really provide education. Add it into new employee orientation. Add it into your yearly or regular compliance training. Just about everybody entering the workplace these days has grown up with social media. So there really is that urge to share everything that’s interesting that happens in your life on social media, so it really is about getting people to take the extra 3 seconds before they hit post on their mobile phone or computer,” says Dan. “Education is equally as important as your policy.”

Dan characterizes those organizations that have responded to the risks of HIPAA social media violations by blocking access to social media entirely on their networks as somewhat naive, since most people have smart phones they can use to social network and are not reliant on their work computer for access to Facebook or Twitter. “You’re much better served by being realistic about it and working with your employees to train them to be responsible social media users as opposed to just saying no,” he says.

Social media training is more sustainable to achieving widespread compliance than reliance solely on policy or governance.  As general counsel for the Mayo Clinic, which employees more than 58 thousands people and treats more than 1.1 million patients each year, he should know.  My conversation with Daniel M. Goldberg, esquire is also available On the Record…Online.


Google SalesPro  (screenshot)

After discovering that 80% of employees were putting it off until the last minute, Google used social media and gamification to reinvent their internal online sales training program.

They scrapped their conventional online course and developed a new, custom online training where participants can earn points and top rankings by contributing answers to sales-related, essay questions in a game environment with an activity stream, levels and a leaderboard. They call their new course SalesPro+.

In their original training, the right answers to questions were all predetermined by one subject matter expert. But when they added the social network, they realized it served to procure a veritable subject matter network of answers and on-topic discussions, all of which were contributed by the game’s actual participants.  So rather than be entirely instructor-led, the participants built their own storehouse of subject matter expertise, debating the finer points amongst themselves.

Social Media in eLearning

Social interaction allows for more immediate feedback, and that feedback motivates engagement. Social networking solves that problem, be engaging participants in discussion.  But the use of social media in eLearning brings it’s own set of risks.

Partnering with a friend can be a great way to lose weight or quit bad habits.  But when the person you’re partnering with has to be a subject matter expert, social networks pose real challenges, because the most popular people aren’t always the most knowledgeable.

Demagogues are skilled at using social interactions for self-promotion, but they may also lack depth and experience. Their ignorance could easily result in highly recommended, albeit misguided, advice being seen are worthwhile by participants.

Michael W. Allen, chairman and CEO of Allen Interactions

“Would you rather be mentored by a friend or an expert?  A mentor shouldn’t always be the person who’s most available or the person you know, but the person who really has expertise and credibility,” says Michael W. Allen, chairman and CEO of Allen Interactions, who is largely regarded as the father of the eLearning industry.

Google SalesPro+ attempts to solve this problem by overlaying a voting feature on answers posted, in hopes that the community will recognize and reward the top answers. If you leave an answer that gets the most votes, it not only ranks highest, but you also receive a personal, congratulatory email from the SalesPro+ training team, and your manager is cc’ed.

At Google, which attracts Ivy League college graduates, this may be of less concern.  But adapting the same training approach for use at other organizations could be dangerous.  Perhaps a flipped classroom approach, where a reliable subject matter experts guide participants through exercises after the on-demand module has been completed could be used to keep misguided advice from becoming company gospel.

Gamification of Learning

Social networking isn’t the only hot trend in elearning design these days.  By applying game mechanics, Google also increased consumption seven fold. But at what cost?

“The goal is to use your time productively so that you walk away more able to do something than you were before you took the training,” say Allen. “We’re very time sensitive in the work that we do because when we’re teaching someone to do something like sell on the floor effectively, they’re not on the floor selling.”

Time is an expense. Online trainings need to build skills quickly.  Games can be engaging, but if they’re just entertaining and don’t actually build skills or increase retention, they fail. The amount of learning that occurs by the amount of time invested is what determines not just the effectiveness, but the fiscal prudence of an online training initiative.

SalesPro+ was pieced together using Google Sites, Google Gadgets, Google+, Google Forms and Google Analytics. And the community and gaming features increased consumption by a factor of 7. If the increase in time spent also improves retention, and ultimately the sales person’s close rate, then the added time off the job to complete the course is a very wise investment.

Those numbers are yet to be recorded but one thing is sure. Google increased consumption and retention of their internal online sales program exponentially bu integrating social networking and gamification.

Eric Schwartzman is an Online Social Media Training provider. His Online Social Media Bootcamp, which includes lifetime access to a comprehensive knowledge base of key concepts, how-to tutorials and best practices, is available at a special introductory rate through the year end.

This post was written from interviews conducted at the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn 2012 in Las Vegas.


Online social media training is emerging as not just the most cost effective way of making social media courses available to employees.

As digital leaders in all categories continue to outperform their peers, beginners and conservative organziations are realizing that the promise of social media is much more than just social marketing.

Social media is, as other technological innovations have been, another productivity windfall.  A way to do more with less. And a way to extend the visibility of organization as a byproduct of doing your job.

Pre-Facebook and Twitter, when external communication could be contained to marketing or PR department, official company spokespersons were media trained.

Today, the entire organization needs to be social media trained.  For these 4 reasons, the Internet is the best pace to get it done.

  1. Speed – Forget about the cost of travel and lodging.  “Time off the job is the number one cost of professional training,” says Mark Lambertson of Certilearn.  The problem with instructor-led training is it’s linear. Everyone brings different knowledge with them to the seminar. They have to sit through what they know already to get to the good stuff.  Online social media training can be chunked up into bite sized nuggets and employees can focus on what they don’t know, and avoid sitting through what they know already. “A six-hour class can be delivered online in as little as three hours, and with better retention rates,” says Jim Recker, product specialist at Citrix GoToTraining.
  2. Retention – After 4 to 5 hours of new information, even the keenest mind shuts down. But since it’s not economical to send an employee to an off site training for 2 hours a day for 6 days, they get fire hosed with new information for 6 hours a day. None of it is recorded, so they have to write everything down themselves. Try that while you’re learning advanced online social networking best practices.  Online social media training is prerecorded, so they can focus on learning the key concepts, and if they miss something, they can rewind and watch again as many times as they like.
  3. Mentorship – There’s just no need to invest a subject matter expert’s productivity in delivering the same information over and over again when it can be recorded and delivered on-demand. ” When you’ve got a limited amount of contact time between instructor and student you want use it for the most meaningful purpose. And it’s not the presentation of information. It’s guiding people when they’re making mistakes, giving them feedback, helping them understand the consequences of their mistake, appraise their successes and know hoe well they’re doing,” says Michael W. Allen, Chairman and CEO of Allen Interactions.
  4. Convenience – Whether they’re virtual or live, instructor led trainings require the assembly of group. So when new employees are on-boarded, they have to wait until the next training before they can acquire those skills.  Online social media training can be delivered anytime, anywhere on any device.

After nearly ten years leading social media trainings and social media bootcamps for clients like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota, the U.S. Dept. of State, the United States Marine Corps and UCLA, I recently created 1o online social media training courses to make them available to a broader audience for a fraction of what they cost in the real world.

I’m also experimenting with the addition of virtual instructor-led sessions as part of my online social media training courses, so participants can get questions answered and receive live mentoring, after they’ve gone through the on-demand courseware.

What is your experience with online social media training? I’m not talking about social media marketing courses online, but rather social media training for employees outside of the marketing and PR departments. Are you using them to train your people?

What if you could count on your colleagues to like, retweet and plus one your shares?  How much further would your message be seen and heard?

And what if everyone in your organization used social media for all public communications?

If you could drive adoption on that scale, your organization would just naturally transfer public intelligence to the social web, where it could be discovered through search and shared by others through social.

That is the real promise of social media. Not just as a marketing channel. But as a communications channel which leaves behind a trial of digital breadcrumbs that leads back to you.

This post was written from interviews conducted with attendees of the eLearning Guild’s annual DevLearn conference, which occured Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 in Las Vegas.

Image by wafflesncream




It’s not easy to systematically maintain a consistent customer experience among hundreds of retail stores staffed by different people from disparate cultures across the globe. But that’s exactly what great retail brands do best.  They guarantee the same quality and standards worldwide.

Have you ever wondered how they do it? The answer is a well thought out, developed training program. They make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.

And like everything else, that learning happens more and more online.  Dunhill tapped Epic to build a custom mobile learning app that in-store associates can use to explore their stores in a virtual environment and the Nike eLearning team (pictured above) recently built their own API to leverage the best of Moodle and Drupal in one platform.

They’re using technology to guarantee a consistent customer experience.

So why not use eLearning to guarantee a consistent social media experience by advancing digital literacy? That’s what I’m doing.

In the industrial age we media trained our official company spokespeople. Today, we need to social media train the whole organization.

I’m headed to Le Web 2012 in Paris next month to explore that question with some of the sharpest minds in social business.

If you are a social media trainer interested in the use of eLearning modalities for online social media training, how do you think this development will play out? Is the future self-paced courseware, virtual instructor-led sessions, or some combination? Is it a flipped classroom, or something else?

I’m also on the look out for keynote speakers for the 2012 Digital Impact Conference, which is June 27 & 28 (new dates) in NYC. If you’re interested in presenting, follow me to get the call for speakers when it goes out.

Will I see you Paris?

When critics use social networks to focus negative attention on a company, brand, product or service, social media pundits call them social media horror stories

But before you assume that what you’ve got is an actual, bona fide social media horror story, use this litmus test for gaging the severity of an online crisis

What Are they Criticizing?
Outspoken criticism on Twitter is not, necessarily, a social media crisis. What are they criticizing exactly? Is it product performance or something else? The Motrin ads which offended a few, vocal moms and dads in 2008 got huge media attention. Social Media pundits lined up with case studies cataloging what they called the Motrin Moms social media horror story. But sales and the company’s stock performance was unaffected. Before you assume you have a crisis on your hands, ask yourself whether or not the criticism impacts the actual performance.

Are You Guilty by Omission?
Nothing gets under the skin of free speech activists more than a company that is trying to hide something. The reason people support such a controversial project like Wikileaks is because they believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. If your social media horror story is the result of a perceived leak, unless you acknowledge the problem, you may have a real crisis on your hands. But if your perceived crisis result of an errant tweet by a misguidedemployee, a sincere apology my be good enough. But don’t over react. Everyone makes mistakes.

Mountains and Mole Hills
Mistakes are part of innovation. Trial and error are the mothers of invention. You cannot innovate unless you’re willing to fail. Social business is innovative. So unless you’re willing to be tolerant of your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, you’re not supporting innovation.

If your social media crisis is real, there’s plenty you can do, but only if you’re aware. So monitor social networks and respond quickly. And make sure your employees have social media training accessible so they know not just how to use social media, but how to use it responsibly for business. Social media policies alone are not enough. People need formal training on those policies as well.

I’ll be discussing Social Media Horror Stories with Marla Schulman @DvinMsM , Jen Mathews, @TopTierMedia and Cynthia Kahn, @cynthiakahn on a panel organized by Social Media Club L.A. next Tuesday at 6:30PM at The HubLA.

How do you judge what constitutes a social media crisis? What aspects of online crisis communications management are most important? If I use your comment in the panel discussion, I promise full attribution.

Last night, neither candidate shared a realistic vision for getting the economy back on its feet.  Because the only way we have a chance of recovery is through innovation. And that’s something, at least historically, the US has done very, very well.

How We Got Here
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s failed monetary policy led to low interest rates, cheap money and an unsustainable spike in housing prices. Unfortunately, the housing crash not only put millions of homeowners in a terrible financial position, it also created millions of unskilled construction, retail and finance jobs.  When new home construction stalled and credit seized that unskilled workforce became unemployed.

Where We Are Now
One of every four young adults in the US is a high school drop out. During the housing boom, these young Americans were the construction and retail work force. And while workers over 50 in this country are among the most educated in the world, their knowledge is from the analog era, much of which has been made obsolete.

Revitalizing the American, and in turn global, economy will not occur by luring manufacturing jobs back from China. As the late, great Steve Jobs said, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

Our only hope is in innovating ourselves out of this economic malaise.  Education spurs innovation. Those who truly understand how digital technology can be used to innovate are best positioned to lead us out of this economic funk.

What We Need to Hear
As we have seen in Scandinavia, when the government sponsors reliable, cheap high-speed broadband internet access and secondary education, people innovate themselves into all kinds of new opportunities. Skype, Spotify and Path are all Swedish innovations.

But big business has become so powerful in the US that the public agenda often takes a back seat.

Consider telecommunications services in the US.  If your telecomm provider can’t deliver the services you’ve contracted, and you withhold payment until the service is remedied, you risk being reported to a credit bureau for delinquency, which in turns, drives up your borrowing costs. The deck is stacked against the little guy, and that’s a problem.

What we need now is a president willing to create an environment where big business cannot racketeer, where reliable, high-speed broadband is cheap and where everyone has a chance to acquire digital, not just analog, job skills.

The overwhelming majority of consumers expect to be able to do business with organizations online.  But most corporate websites are a brick wall, with Priority Passfew or no interactive features, and that’s because these organizations don’t have the skill to implement these innovations.  Demand for digital job skills outstrips supply.

Sunday at SFO I checked my mobile and learned that the United Airlines frequent flyer lounge accepted my Priority Pass card. But when I tried to actually enter, I was turned away. “We no longer take that,” I was told. When I tweeted, here’s what I was told.

Fifteen days later, this Priority Pass website is still out of date. And I’m sure they’re not alone. If you’re reading this, chances are your website’s out of date too! And it’s probably because you don’t have the skills to change it yourself.

— EricSchwartzman (@ericschwartzman) October 15, 2012

In the world of social marketing, only a dismal 12% of organizations employ these emerging channels effectively, according to Harvard Business Review.  Imagine how our economy would grow if our unskilled work force acquired the skills to become information workers. Manufacturing is not the answer. Building public works, while necessary, is not a long term fix either. Innovation is!  Because innovation improves productivity, which increases GDP and improves quality of life.

In my opinion, neither candidate articulated a vision for this kind of recovery, and that disappoints me.

What I’m Doing About It
Not everyone can afford to fly to a conference to attend a Social Media Bootcamp. I’m making social media training available online for fraction of what it costs in the real world by offering a half-price bundle of online social media training classes that teach key concepts, best practices as well as the actual mechanics of how to use social media for business applications.

But we’re still going to need a level playing field to ensure healthy competition between small and big business and we’re still going to need to bring the price and availability of truly high speed internet access down.

The level of economic growth we need will not be won through taxation strategy, manufacturing jobs or improving public works. It will be won through the web, a cyberverse where we’ve really only just scratched the service for delivering significant gains in perpetuity.

What will YOU do help us get there?

Note: This blog post was inspired, and many of the statistics were borrowed, from today’s column in the New York Times by foreign affairs corespondent Thomas Friedman.

Top photo is a pixelated version of an image by Flickr user Steve A Johnson

Also, I intentionally don’t capitalize internet, cause it’s no longer something special or proper.