Teaching the teachers: what we’ve learned from our social media workshops

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An Every Dot Connects social media workshop - all laptops and ears (photo by Sheila Scarborough)In June 2008, after a lot of talks with Connie Reece, reflection time at the SOBCon conference and great advice from both Small Biz Survival’s Becky McCray and Successful Blog’s Liz Strauss, we began to teach a series of entry-level Every Dot Connects social media workshops.

Connie, Jennifer Navarrete and I knew that we had a valuable skill set; a pile of knowledge born of many hours living online trying to figure out how social media works and how to be an effective part of the Web 2.0 world.

The trick was figuring out a way to make a living out of it.

Teaching focused workshops to small businesses, freelancers and solo entrepreneurs seemed like a good start….towards exactly what, we didn’t know, but we were gonna start something!

To be honest, a lot of it was classic “throw something up against the wall and see what sticks….and what peels back off and goes SPLAT on the floor.”

Even how we look is part of what we offer….we are three semi-fearless professional women in our 30′s, 40′s and 50′s who are living proof that social media isn’t only for narcissists, pajama-clad losers living in Mom’s basement or “young people.”

Along the way, we’ve learned all sorts of lessons and discovered that we provide a service that is not all that common and is currently in high demand. Journalists, for example, want to know what we know, so I recently spent two days in Dayton teaching Cox Ohio journalists at the Dayton Daily News about writing for the Web, blogging and general social media topics.

Here is some of what we’ve learned….

  • When in doubt, set a date and make things happen. If you don’t want to make money right away but want to test the waters for interest, offer a free one-hour class about some aspect of social media at your local library.  Pick a date, reserve a room and start getting the word out. Nothing’s more motivating than having a set date when you must deliver content.
  • The ones who want entry-level social media training are - newsflash! - probably not on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or even blogs. Our biggest marketing struggle is remembering that we can’t depend on announcements to our geek network.  Attending the local Chamber of Commerce meeting and passing out business cards is better for reaching the market that we seek, as is attending our Association for Women in Communications (AWC) or IABC or PRSA chapter meetings, and monthly eWomenNetwork get-togethers.
  • On the other hand, don’t assume that high tech Web developers or coding nerds understand social media; they may not know Twitter from a circuit board. For us, Door 64 Austin High Tech Online has been a surprising source of workshop interest.
  • It is hard to hit the instructional sweet spot. At one workshop, an attendee wrote in a post-event survey that, “This would have been better for my Mom. I already know a lot of this,” but someone in the same class wrote, “Wow, there is so much to learn! It’s rather overwhelming.”
  • Don’t try to cram in too much. We’ve gone from trying to cover 5 different social media tools/services to hyper-focus on one at a time. Our next workshop is just on LinkedIn - even trying to include Twitter last time turned out to be almost too much to digest for entry-level attendees.
  • We’re also exploring one-on-one Consulting with Connie sessions; is being a “social media personal trainer” a viable approach? We think so, but are still testing the waters.
  • Find the right venue. To teach, you need a room with tables, chairs, lots of outlets, strong WiFi, a projector for a laptop and a screen. Not complicated, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to find all of that somewhere that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg and is also well-located.  If you can find a good spot that’s not expensive, you’ll be able to do the next item….
  • Price it right.  Our target audience of successful businesspeople are not necessarily raking in big bucks, and today’s tough economy makes them even pickier about where to spend hard-earned money.  We set what we think are very reasonable prices for our workshops. We don’t run a “soak the rich” corporate training outfit, but neither are we willing to go broke doing this.  We have bills (and taxes!) to pay and our valuable expertise is worth a lot. It is a tough balance.

Serving as social media teachers, trainers and guides to others is a pleasure for us. Connie, Jennifer and I also try to keep in touch with our students long after each workshop is over. We introduce them to each other on Twitter, swap comments on Facebook, admire their new blog, connect on LinkedIn or just say, “How’s it going online for you?” when we meet workshop attendees in person out in town.

Do any of you have tips and helpful advice if you’ve been teaching others about social media? Let us know in the comments - fresh ideas are always welcome!

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This post was written by:

Sheila Scarborough - who has written 31 posts on Every Dot Connects.

I'm a writer and speaker specializing in tourism,travel and social media. Co-founder of Tourism Currents.

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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Bryan Person Says:


    Nice post, and I’m reading and watching with interest how you all (no contraction for me yet!) are building this business. I’m one of your “geek friends” who probably wouldn’t be your ideal student at this stage, but … you never know.

    Keep the posts about what you’re learning coming!

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

  2. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Hi Bryan, and thanks for dropping by. Yep, it’s a work in progress, but we’ve learned so much and know that we’re in the right place!

  3. Amie Paxton Says:

    Sheila, I just read a little about Jason Falls starting down a similar path. Check out his blog at and connect with him for additional thoughts.

    Amie Paxton - @amiepaxton

  4. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Thanks, Amie, I know Jason but haven’t visited his blog lately; I’ve been remiss….

  5. Sue Rostvold Says:

    Great post Sheila! Thanks so much for sharing what you guys have learned, that’s what social media it’s all about!

    I attended the first first class, “Learn Five Web 2.0 Tools in One Day”, and it was awesome! (In fact, I see the top of my head in the photo above.)

    You guys really helped me get going with twitter. I sort of feel like I got my “twitter wings” in your class. Seriously, you guys were incredibly helpful and I really appreciate the mentoring.

  6. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Wow, Sue, what a nice thing to say! We all still wince over that first workshop - not that the content wasn’t good, but we simply weren’t as smooth as we would have wanted to be. Still, you have to start somewhere, right? I am so glad to hear that it was truly useful for you - thanks for keeping up with all of us online….

  7. Karen Swim Says:

    Sheila, this post is worth its weight in gold. I dipped a toe in the water with a couple of live webinars, but you really do have to maintain focus on one tool or it becomes overwhelming. I have enjoyed working one on one with clients doing social media strategy and training but hands on workshops are a great idea!

  8. Scott Townsend Says:

    Great job on starting up these workshops. It must have been a bit scary at first. Am interested to hear how future workshops turn out.

    We have a Marketing group ( that meets once a month and during that time, we have made presentations on Facebook and look forward to doing a presentation on Twitter. Drew McLellan ( did an outstanding job doing a video conference with us over the subject of Social networking and why marketing professionals need to be aware of and get a handle on social media.

    Would you interested in discussing doing a video conference with our Marketing and Communications group?

  9. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    @Karen Swim - Thanks very much. For us, hands-on and small is the only way to go for entry-level training.

    @Scott Townsend - Sure, I’d be interested. Let me contact you via email. Thanks for asking!

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Every Dot Connects gave me my twitter wings — Learn Twitter, Linkedin, Plurk, YouTube, Facebook, Marketing and more! Says:

    [...] Most people know that networking, i.e. relationship building, is not so much about what you can get, but what you can give to someone else. What value can you add to their life, business, cause, goal, etc…? Every Dot Connects obviously knows networking, not only do they give various workshops in social media but they also share what they have learned in the process. Check out Sheila Scarborough’s latest post here: Teaching the teachers: what we’ve learned from our social media workshops. [...]