Are you reading this article on your tablet? Your phone? Another mobile technology?
Just as learning professionals have adjusted to engaging with our customers using different technology devices, we also need to incorporate the social media tools that are so much a part of our personal lives. (In fact, research by Hootsuite estimates that there are 4.2 billion social media users globally.)
Social learning includes social tools like blogs, instant messaging, group discussion boards, wikis and video chats. The biggest challenge you might face in using social media tools to support learning is not figuring out the technology or convincing people to use it but, rather, having the grit to be authentic and consistent. The information below will give you a primer on using social media in support of corporate learning.
Before you start exploring the different technologies and platforms, it’s important to start with that critical first part of the term: “social.” Especially in the corporate setting, it’s common for people to feel like they must always be formal and sound … well … corporate. But if you maintain too much formality, you will miss the value and impact of social learning.
That’s not to say you need to ignore all social decorum (or your company’s social media policy). Rather, when you engage on social media, remember that you are connecting with other humans. You are reaching out to your co-workers and hoping to spark interaction with them.
Just as you would at an in-person event, how you “speak” (i.e., your tone, your word choice, etc.) influences how people react to you and your post. When you increase your use of social media tools to enhance social learning, make sure that you do not sound like a cut-and-paste script or a template. Have a voice, and people will listen.
Some of the tactics that apply to external social media platforms carry over into internal corporate channels, too:
Incorporate multiple communication tools within posts.
- Share different types of information, such as site links, resources, books, classes and articles.
- Give shoutouts to employees for learning accomplishments, such as completing classes and earning certifications.
- Incorporate visual elements like images, memes and videos.
- Engage with your audience by using polls, asking questions, and commenting on and liking posts.
Use hashtags (#) and handles (@) to connect information and people.
Cross-promote within internal channels.
- Share posts on other groups within the social channel.
- Reference the social channel on internal blog posts.
- Include social channel handles in PowerPoint templates.
Foster participation (so it’s not just you posting).
- Send topic ideas with a request for others to post.
- Ask employees directly to post and/or comment on others’ posts.
- Leverage incentives for comments, likes and original posts.
In the corporate setting, it’s important to leverage the power of social learning to fuel knowledge-sharing and encourage skill growth. Be inclusive, be respectful and always look for ways to encourage employees to share relevant information to help each other grow.
One challenge in social learning is adjusting your mindset around metrics. If you come from a more traditional learning background, you likely use metrics like registration and completion — and, hopefully, metrics that demonstrate whether learning is applied, such as scrap learning and performance improvement.
Social learning is different than formal learning and, therefore, requires the use of different metrics. You could compare the social tool of “follow” or “join” to class enrollment, but there is not an equivalent social learning metric for “completed class” or “passing grade.” For social learning, look for engagement metrics such as comments, likes, reshares and new posts.
Different social media tools have different measurement tools through add-ons, third-party tools or within the tool itself. Work with your information technology (IT) department to identify which analytics tools work with your company’s social media platforms and policies. Once you have those tools, incorporate the monitoring of metrics into your social learning strategy.
Socialize Your Social Learning Success
Now that you have increased your social learning efforts, be social about social learning! Do not exclude social learning engagement data from your learning measurement and evaluation strategy or reporting. At the class, program and portfolio levels you can:
- Include channel metrics and statistics.
- Incorporate quotes from posts in your learning marketing efforts.
- Highlight examples of the knowledge exchange made possible through social learning.
In 2013, Deloitte predicted that over 90% of Fortune 500 companies would have an enterprise social network by the end of the year — seven years before the shift to remote work many of us experienced in 2020! Embrace social learning as part of your overall learning strategy, and your employees — on site, virtual or both — will have more opportunities to learn and to share with others what they learn.
Editor’s note: Don’t miss our infographic “Creating a Social Learning Culture in the Modern Workplace,” which shares insights from learning leaders like this one.