I was on the #tzchat this week tweeting about social learning. It seems to have been successful, with 4 interesting questions posed and a breadth of opinions expressed in people’s responses.
Someone asked me this morning what I did and I spent 2 minutes explaining (badly) the work I do. That prompted me to think about the Twitter chat and the range of participants using Social Media (SoMe). Participating in the chat were ‘traditional’ trainers, software organisations, instructional designers, brand experts, etc. Without SoMe, would the group who contributed ever have been in the same room together? I regret to say I sincerely doubt it. Apart from the geographical boundaries, there was a range of disciplines represented whose members would be unlikely to seek each other out before the advent of SoMe.
So what did we do before SoMe? I like to think we had conversations, similar to the one I had today. I remember (pre-internet) not knowing ‘stuff’ and going to speak to an expert who would help. Alternatively I’d search the information out for myself. A key difference now is your conversations can be global, and your resources aren’t stuck in a book.
Sounds great doesn’t it? A world of resources and contacts available to all for free. Instant networks of similarly minded and interested individuals who can help me.
There needs to be some thought though before you launch into a world of SoMe. The idea that ‘if you build it they will come’ isn’t a truism. It’s a big mistake to make that you can assume your staff will substitute other ways of learning with SoMe.
You can all read this post as you’ve probably followed a link to it from a SoMe site or an email. Do me a favour then, print a copy and post it to my Mum. She’s not on the web, doesn’t want to be on the web, has no idea about what the web holds. She wouldn’t know a tweet outside of the noise a bird makes. She’s linked in to her neighbours whose doors she can knock on. She doesn’t have a face book – she has whole photo albums.
A few questions:
- Does the organisation have a culture that will embrace SoMe?
- Is the SoMe you wish to use engaging enough to inspire participation?
- Is the organisation’s culture sufficiently risk aware to try something ‘new’?
If you’re scoping SoMe as part of your learning offering, you need to know the answers to these questions before you’re able to introduce SoMe as any kind of replacement to other activities. It’s likely that you’ll need to run SoMe in tandem with your current offering for some time, possibly permanently, to be sure that you can engage with everyone who needs your support.