How to Explain Social Media to Clients Starting Their First Site

On 14.10.2015, by

How to Explain Social Media to Clients Starting Their First Site

Working with people who are starting their first sites means we often encounter people who are quite new to the world of technology. This creates special challenges.

Sooner or later, most of us will find ourselves watching a client type an address in, index fingers extended, their remaining fingers balled into fists. They’ll forget to add the domain extension, so, when they slowly guide the mouse click on the address, rather than hitting enter, the screen flashes over to Google, or Bing, or, heck, sometimes AOL or Yahoo! From there, they arrive at the site, and search with a worried expression for the sign in button . . . then, after an eternity I’ve just gone ahead and skipped over for brevity, they’re signed in, and now you can start explaining how Facebook, G+, or Twitter work.

This is often a frustrating experience, but there are right ways and wrong ways to go about making it happen.

Develop the Right Mindset

There’s a special sort of rage associated with watching someone who’s not so great at technology trying to learn how everything works. Every action is painfully slow—and half of them are the wrong action, so then you must sit there, waiting for them to figure out how to undo the mistake.

There’s a word for this process: Teaching. And it can work to your advantage.

There’s a mindset that goes with it, too. You must remain calm, supportive, and helpful. It’s part of the job you accepted to make sure the client can use the platform you’re creating for them. They’re not paying you to make them a wonderful integrated outreach program they can’t use, any more than someone would pay you to build an amazing vehicle they can’t drive.

The most helpful thing to remember is this: They’re not failing to learn well enough, you’re failing to teach them well enough.

I’m going to be honest here, that’s not always true, some people seem to take a stubborn joy in not learning, but it’s almost always helpful to think that way from perspective of getting things done. Luckily, there are good ways to make the teaching process as painless as possible.

Introducing New Concepts Correctly

When you’re working to explain a new concept to someone, whether they’re 8 or 80, the most important aspects to make clear in the mind of the other person are form, function, and process. People want to know why they need to know something, what it does, and how it does so.


“What is this thing?” Unless you can answer that in a way which resonates with your clients, good luck convincing them that they really need it!


The answer to the question, “Why does this thing exist?” Function describes the desired outcome of using a device, process, technology, website, or whatever.


How does this thing achieve the purpose it was created for? Processes are often easiest to teach using the “I do, we do, you do,” method, which is to say, show them how, then help them through it, then watch them do it. Just try not to come across as patronizing.

Applied Example

This is a car, it provides transportation, by burning gasoline to turn an engine, which rotates the tires, you can control speed by regulated the amount of fuel, and steer by using a wheel to change the angle of front tire.

Boom, you’ve explained a car well enough that almost anyone could grasp its value and use.

Using Metaphor and Simile

Metaphors and similes are powerful tools, drawing lines between simple understood concepts and more complex processes sharing the same motif—and they work best if you’ve had enough time to develop them. Find good ways to break down the major platforms so that people with no background in technology can understand their form, function, and process.

Let’s take a look at a practical example.

Twitter Explained via Metaphor

This is an explanation I’ve used repeatedly, and it’s worked more often than not.

Twitter is like shouting in a stadium. You can only shout short messages, everyone else is yelling, and chances are good only a few people will even hear what you have to say. If the people who can hear you like what you’re saying, though, they might repeat it. So if you have something short and catchy that a lot of people like, you might get a big chunk of the stadium chanting it for a little while. There’s no surefire way to do this, but the best first step to do is look for, and make friends with, people rooting for the same things.

Prioritize Based on Target Audience

There’s nothing you can do to eliminate the learning curve. Even a smart client encountering new information is going to take a little time to become proficient. That’s why you need to do some of their thinking for them, and, rather than introduce them to everything at once, prioritize their entrance to social media. Since not all social media is created equal, this is usually not difficult.

Some thought should also be given to teaching your clients best practices for social media platforms, not just how to use them correctly, since this dramatically changes conversion rates.


Facebook is a go-to high priority for three reasons:

  • People are more familiar with it than any other platform, so it’s rarely too difficult to explain business or fan pages.
  • It’s especially accessible and simple for those who are new at it.
  • It drives a lot of traffic, which makes it objectively valuable to your client, and that increased feedback makes it that much more likely they’ll stick around long enough to learn it.
Google Plus

Google Plus is at the other end. It’s confusing, weird, complicated, and clients should avoid it until they’ve got the hang of everything else. That said, it’s good for SEO, so just tell clients that, automate it, and tell them to look into it somewhere down the road.


Twitter is another choice that’s natural because it’s simple to learn. There’s just not too much to it. It’s one of the less valuable platforms when it comes to driving traffic (day-to-day), but the relatively responsive userbase makes it fun for many new people.


Pinterest drives lots of traffic, and if your client has a crafty or image-oriented product, then Pinterest is worth introducing early in the pipeline, either immediately after Facebook, or third, after Twitter.


For clients with a good eye for aesthetics, and a craft or pop product or service, Instagram may be a win, but it’s relatively steep learning curve and techno-savvy base make it more of an intermediate choice.


This should be a low priority, unless your client is marketing specifically to businesses, B2B networks, or professionals. If that is the case, you might consider introducing this platform in a tertiary or quaternary capacity.

Other Networks

There may be special cases of regionally important social media platforms, or normally less important networks, such as Reddit, Imgur, or Tumblr are of particular importance to a client. These are basically a judgment call on your part. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, right?

Create an In-House Resource Base

In order to get all this done, it’s a good idea to find people who’ve done a good job of putting together “How to . . .” articles on the topics you’ve run into, and make these available to clients whenever possible. It may be part of your job to make sure they can use what you’re teaching them, but that doesn’t mean you should waste your time doing work someone else has already done.

All This is New

Above all else, remember that we were all beginners once, and to be patient. At times the process will be frustrating, but there are few rewards like opening up for someone a new and expanding avenue to success, entrepreneurship, friendship, and a greater understanding of their world.

Meet the writer!

This article was written for Mass Planner by Marco. Marco is a professional writer and blogger. He will help you understand the power and reach social media for your blog or website. You can find him on First Site Guide and tweet the First Site Guide team @firstsiteguide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This