Diving into Twitter

twitter profileWith my interest in social learning, you might be surprised to hear that just last week I created a Twitter account. While I see great value in social media, I can be very cautious and I plan out my goals for different social media before I engage. But I believe that if you want to get the most out of a tool, you need to do some planning before you dive in.

Before Signing Up

I first decided to jump on the Twitter band wagon a month ago, after being inspired by a book I was reading, The New Social Learning by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner and  a TED Talk called The Art of Asking given by Amanda Palmer.

When I start using a new media, I plan out my goals and consider how using this new tool will fit in with my life. i want to make sure I have that about the why, how and when of the new tool so that I can get value out of it and not get caught in the sea of what can be. Once the decision was made, I determined my goals for Twitter:

  • To create and use an account for professional purposes
  • To focus on collecting information from other professionals in the field

There are certainly other valid goals such as connecting and communicating with employees within your own organization, or developing connections with people who share a hobby, or to keep abreast with friends and family, but I decided to focus on the goals above. In the future i would love to be using Twitter with learners to activate prior knowledge before a training session and extending learning and the Q & A period after training sessions.

Then I considered my time and when I would add this to my life. I decided that I could find a few periods in my day to look at Twitter and, that as I ran across things of value I wanted to share, I could take a moment to do so.

Finally I did some research to get tips and pointers from others on their Twitter experience. Tips about who to follow and how to get followers, ways to compose your tweet, and when to jump into a conversation. (I will share my tips at the end of this post)

Getting Started

After planning, I signed up for Twitter. I admit that I had brainstormed a lot of different possible ID’s. I wanted it to be something that would give people an idea of who I was in relation to my Twitter goals. I wanted someone to be able to see it and know something about me. If I was well-known in the field, I might have chosen my name, but instead I went with a nod to my profession, @LearningDsigner. I followed that up by creating my profile, describing myself based on my Twitter goals and using unique photos for my profile page.

Next, I started looking for people to follow. I wanted to follow people that were going to tweet on topics I was interested in and possibly local people that I might connect with in person at some point. I looked for people by:

  • I went through the people I am connected to on LinkedIn that are in the learning and development field to see if they were active on Twitter
  • I looked for authors of books, articles and blogs that I have really enjoyed
  • I looked for professional organizations that produce resources I respect and use
  • And after I followed some of these people, I looked to see who they were following

Next I started to read what came through my Twitter feed. If there were links that looked interesting, I checked them out. I picked a few that were interesting and retweeted them. If someone’s tweet raised questions or I had an idea or answer to a question they raised, I answered it. They key is to write something valuable or interesting and not write for the sake of writing. As I quickly found out,  I start to tune out people who tweet constantly. I suspect that if I do that, then others probably respond the same way, so clogging up people’s twitter feed is not my plan of approach.

As I respond or write new tweets to share resources, I hash tag keywords. I find myself searching hash tags to learn more about topics and find additional people who I may want to follow.

Within days of starting Twitter, I decided to start checking out Twitter and social media clients to find a way to better organize my activity so that I focus on the most valuable information. I started with HootSuite. One of the nice things about HootSuite is that you can organize information from several social media sources and create tabs based of topics of interest. It also allows you to schedule posts to the different media as well. I haven’t spent enough time with it to fall in love and I will probably investigate others, but it has been a good place to start.

What I Have Learned

Through out this week, I have found the time to look at Twitter. I find that one great time for me is during my after lunch walk each day. Since I don’t walk on busy streets, I can scroll down my Twitter feed easily as I walk and with a few flicks of my finger I can retweet or respond to someone else’s tweet.

I have also taken advantage of hash tags to find new conversations on topics of interest. As I do this, I pay attention to people who seem to be key in those conversations and follow them. I know that if I later find they are not the right person, I can unfollow them. Also, there are some regular conversations by different groups that are scheduled for certain times. The messages in the conversation all include a specific hash tag designation. I ran across one after the fact, but have put it on my calendar for next week so I can participate.

Twitter has made valuable resources available to me. Of course I could probably find a lot of the same information online if I searched for it, but by selecting people I respect to follow, I see a collection of what they found valuable, so my information is vetted. I also can easily and quickly interact with the person who shared it and sometimes who authored it.

Tips

So here are some tips for Twitter:

  • Set goals before you start, know how you want to use it
  • Spend some time setting up your profile, this is your first impression to people in the community
  • Follow people who are leaders in topics that you are interested.
  • Use hash tags to find information and people you want and use them to index your tweets
  • Retweet something that you find valuable. If it is of value, retweeting will help others find it
  • Ask and answer questions. Join in on conversations and engage.
  • Share resources that you find valuable and if you think it is valuable to a certain person, direct it towards them by including @TheirUserID in the tweet
  • If you include links, use a link shortening tool

Do you have additional tips to share or Twitter client suggestions? Please feel free to share them in the comments.

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.