Harnessing the Power of Social Media: Dipping a Toe in the Water

As an instructional designer, there is nothing more that I would like than for learners to digest the information I have for them, interact with it, and take action. And with today’s demands, I need to do it quickly and impact a large population.

In walks the tool of social media. Probably many of us are using it personally, but have you found a way to harness this amazing power to meet your learning goals?

We hear a lot about social media and most of us are engaged in social media as least personally. One of the amazing things about social media is that with the the touch of a few keys, we can share a message with many people at once and get feedback. If I look down my Facebook feed, I can see:

  • A news articles that is racing across news feeds with hundreds of likes, comments, and shares.
  • A friend who posted looking for people to join him on a day trip tomorrow with six likes and as many comments, looks like he will have a couple of carloads.
  • An announcement about the death of a friend’s grandmother, that has gotten seventeen like and many comments of condolences as friends from all parts of her life rally around her.

And we are drawn to follow all this information so that we are “in the loop” with friends and acquaintances and “in the know” about what is happening locally and globally. We read, we interact, and we take action.

The power is there, it is available, the key is to work for us, and for many, the task seems too daunting.

Here a few quick tips to help you start thinking about how you can take tools that already exist and use them to support training initiatives.

  1. Understand what the people in your organization are already using. If you reach out to them in a forum they are already comfortable with, they are more likely to participate and respond. For instance, if your learners already use Twitter, connect with them there. A few hours before your upcoming webinar, tweet a question or idea that will start them thinking about the topic and making connections to what it will do to help them. If your employees are in LinkedIn, consider starting a private group for company employees where ideas can be shared and commented on. In my company, starting a discussion of ways to sell aged stock before the annual inventory is a great way for employees to share ideas across the company and make existing ideas even more effective.
  2. Start small. Pick one tool and start with one focus. Initially you will probably need to be more involved in moderating interactions, but as you find adopters and advocates, some of this will start to happen organically. As one tool/use builds effectiveness, explore when and what to incorporate next.
  3. Start internally before you try something with an external reach. There are two good reasons to do this. The first is that you want to get the kinks worked out before you open things up to external audiences. The other is that stakeholders are often worried about what information will get out or about negative backlash. By doing it internally, stakeholders develop a better understanding of how it will go and be more comfortable with using social media externally.
  4. Set up and communicate guidelines. People need to know what is not acceptable to share and what is helpful vs hurtful interaction. Be sure that people have guidelines so it doesn’t go in ways that are unwelcome, but not so restrictive that people don’t want to use it

Are you already using social media to further your training initiatives? I would love to hear about it.