(Virtually) apprentice your way to social media proficiency

A friend of mine who has had a long career in communications emailed me the other day to inquire about a certification in social media. An associate of his wondered about the best program for this.

So, he asked, which did I recommend? And this is what I told him:


I just don’t think that’s the best way to figure out the culture and language and inner workings of social media.

When someone wants to become skilled in using and knowing the capabilities, dos and don’ts, and many other aspects of social media that can seem intimidating to neophytes, a program that offers a certification isn’t the answer. What that someone does need to do is to get online — as many hours a day as possible — and plunge hip-deep in lingo, Tweetchats, hash tags, RTs, repins, shares, likes, following, tribes and posts.

To absorb. Learn. Play a little. And take it all in. Seriously.

“Social media is, somewhat ironically, really best learned the old-fashioned way — watching how it’s done by those who already make it look easy, and then practicing as much as possible and getting the hang of things.”

Just as an apprentice might. While apprenticeships used to be much more common, they still exist. And they make so much sense.

Because, like any truly hands-on work, no short cuts can replace the polished skills that come only from use and practice. And no certifications will replace the hours and hours that takes. It’s very much like Malcolm Gladwell’s premise in his book Outliers.

Two years or so ago when immersing myself into the social media realm, I found folks who were always worth reading and following. I relied on their advice and their smarts. They probably don’t know it. But they taught me a great deal. And they still do.

The list of worthy social media folks to follow is very, very long. So, this is not exclusive, by any means. This group also does not necessarily include the best bloggers or writers on the web. Nonetheless, these folks know the ins and outs of social media as well as anyone. They are definitely worth following.

As I began my virtual apprenticeship on social media, these are among the “master craftsmen and women” I relied on the most. (I’d be keen to hear about yours!)

Paul Biedermann

Olivier Blanchard

Jeff Bullas

Shonali Burke

Robert Caruso

Brian Clark

Margie Clayman

Gini Dietrich

Peggy Fitzpatrick 

Nick Kellet

Shelly Kramer

Pam Moore

Ken Mueller

Mark Schaefer

Michael Q Todd

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  1. (Virtually) apprentice your way to social media proficiency

    That is a great list of social media peeps to follow that I wish I had known about when I first started on Twitter almost a year ago! For me, I’d have to say being a part of 12 Most was a great way to learn about social media because people like Paul, Peggy and yourself are there. Also, when I started out I connected with another super friendly presentation coach, Lisa Braithwaite, who engaged with me and made me feel welcomed on twitter!

  2. (Virtually) apprentice your way to social media proficiency

    Thanks so much, Michelle! And I agree that 12 Most has been an amazing group. It’s been such a wonderful community, and the source of so much learning for me, too.

  3. (Virtually) apprentice your way to social media proficiency

    Aw, thanks Becky – I really appreciate that :) So glad I got to meet you via 12most!!

  4. (Virtually) apprentice your way to social media proficiency

    Woot Woot! A great list with a few names I do not know. This is post to bookmark for sure. I agree, the best way to learn is by doing. That is why I do not teach “social media”: to clients. I coach, giving them confidence and skills to navigate the waters. But you have to let them go and experience it for themselves.

    • (Virtually) apprentice your way to social media proficiency

      @susansilver Thanks so much, Susan. And I totally agree with your description about coaching clients about social media.

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