We’re teaching social media all wrong.

We focus on how to use these platforms for business. We teach employees how to upload and tag pictures on Google+ from their association’s annual meeting or how to post a status update on Facebook about all the cool places customers have been spotted with the company’s latest gadget. We provide tips on how to write engaging blog posts. We discuss video best practices.

Now you’re probably thinking: Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? Of course it is. You can’t be a social brand if you’re not using social media for business purposes. And you certainly can’t evolve into a social business if you’re not social brand savvy.

This is the endgame.

I was speaking recently about social media at a meeting of Washington Union Women and the question arose about how to get members to be more active social media users. That’s when it hit me.

Forget the business case. First we need to make people comfortable using social media.

A lot of people are using some form of social media, but it’s all about the degree of use and their perceptions of their own proficiency and the size of the audience they are reaching.

It took me two days to push the switch on my first Web site. I had read it and reread it, and had my favorite editors (aka, my parents) read it and reread it. I had friends proof it. I was so aware that once it went live everyone, everywhere could see the site that I thought it had to be perfect before I could make a move.

A lot of people (most?) have this reaction. So why are we surprised that there’s a barrier when it comes to social media?

We need to put social media in a context where people feel comfortable. Teach seniors how to post pictures of their grandchildren on Facebook. Teach parents how to text with their teenage kids. Teach people to use medical apps or nutrition apps or parking meter apps.

Once people are comfortable using these tools for themselves, then they won’t be so afraid of “making a mistake” in the business setting. Because who hasn’t uploaded a photo upside down or been grateful for an “edit text” feature?

Photo by Nick Farr (Flickr).