As an industry, Learning and Development (L&D) professionals tend to treat most social media platforms with skepticism, and it’s easy to see why. There are plenty of isolated incidents where things have gone wrong making the headlines—fake news, questionable research, leaked pictures, etc. However, these stories give us an unfair sense of how social media can be used to enhance workplace learning, build your network, and boost your knowledge and level of experience in topics that reach beyond your normal four walls.
Recently, there was a Twitter debate: Should L&D be active within social media? If so, to what extent? Do we as L&D/Training people have a responsibility to be present? Walk the talk? In short, YES! Yes, we should be active on social media…here’s why:
I understand that having a social media presence isn’t for everyone. But for me, social media has been one of the most valuable tools I’ve used in my career, mostly because it’s allowed me to tune into current trends, keep me abreast of relevant research, and have deeply engaging conversations about a variety of L&D topics.
Conversely, some people are happy in their insular world where yesterday’s news is brought to them today by network news. I’m OK with that. To each their own. I hear our own L&D family say all of the time that they don’t have time for things like Twitter, that it’s “just a social media tool.” Well, a library is just a building with books. Who has the time for all those books? Funny how we make time for things that are important to us and fit within the context of what we are trying to achieve.
Here’s the thing about social media—it connects me with some of the brightest minds in Learning and Development around the world. There are bigger brains than mine sitting in Australia, London, and Singapore. How else am I going to become more enlightened if I do not have a way to connect? To think I can only find what I need for professional growth locally is short-sighted.
Utilizing social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook groups as a learning tool allows me to find those serendipitous moments of learning—when it is convenient for me. Not to mention, it gives me an emergency group to turn to when I need help.
With all this in mind, I can see only three real reasons a trainer, L&D professional, chief learning officer, director, manager, and all manner of L&D positions wouldn’t be on some form or another of social media:
- They already know all there is to know.
- They already know all the people they need to know.
- They already do all there is to do.
Let’s unpack these statements.
• YOU ALREADY KNOW EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW.
That’s tongue in cheek. You know you don’t know everything there is to know. The question becomes: How can social media help build your knowledge?
- Join Twitter (or make better use of it). There is a lot of information flowing through Twitter at any given time by super-cool people. Brian Washburn put together a list of people to follow (see https://trainlikeachampion.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/if-youre-not-following-these-18-people-in-order-to-help-hone-your-ld-trade-craft-you-should/). Then build an L&D Twitter list (here’s how: http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Twitter-List). Add Brian’s suggestions to the list. When you access the list, you will see the combined Twitter feed of those people and only those people. Trust me, at any given time, someone on this list is sharing noteworthy stuff you want to know.
- Join LinkedIn groups and—here’s the catch with joining any group—be active. If you ask questions, people will answer. Join a Facebook group with other relevant people and follow L&D industry pages. Join Training magazine’s group at: https://www.facebook.com/TrainingMagazine/ and visit the Learning Rebels page at: https://www.facebook.com/learningrebels/—it doesn’t matter which L&D person or company you follow. The key is to interact.
• YOU ALREADY KNOW EVERYONE THERE IS TO KNOW.
I doubt it. Social media is perfect for networking, and let’s face it, as an industry, we are terrible at getting out and supporting our own professional growth.
LinkedIn is the obvious starting point. Find people you can relate to and follow them. Then ask for a connection. I know, they say you should only ask for a connection if you know someone. But you know what? How else are you going to connect if you don’t ask? It’s like being at a party and only talking to people you know. Boring!
Plus, you never know—you may connect online with someone you will meet in person someday. Twitter has led me to fabulous people I call friends in real life. You discuss and debate L&D over Twitter, and then one day at a conference near you or just due to serendipity, these people will become an important part of your personal learning network.
• YOU ALREADY DO ALL THERE IS TO DO.
LOL—hardly. There is always something to do, something to learn, something to share.
In today’s world, people learn through YouTube and Google. Through live streaming and free Webinars sponsored by your favorite L&D vendor. Through following and interacting with blogs. And through pictures on Instagram. The adventure of social media technology is that it will enlighten you at every turn. You will find new ways to do things, or ways to do things you never thought you could do. You will begin to stretch yourself and your beliefs.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what platform you are on. Just get on one. The days of excuses regarding technology are over, waaaay over. Information about how to build a personal learning network on social media is literally a Google question away. You don’t have to be on all the platforms. Find one and engage.
TUNE IN, NOT OUT
We cannot talk about advances in L&D and L&D technology without being out there ourselves. It’s hypocritical, and your team will know it. The classroom has extended beyond four walls (https://learningrebels.com/2014/04/10/technology-the-great-equalizer/)—make use of the technology to further connect learning. And for those of you who work in one-person departments, how else are you going to stay on top of advancements in the industry if you aren’t tuned in?
I understand that for many people, this is not comfortable. Learning is not comfortable. But know that connecting with others who have made the leap into social areas and blazed a path will make the adventure more fulfilling.
A WORD ABOUT ADVOCACY
One last bit about social media that many do not consider: advocacy. For whatever reason, we tend to avoid conversations around advocacy. It makes zero sense to avoid it since it basically controls our professional destiny. Why would you not want a say in where the profession is headed? Use social media to make those professional connections with others active in the advocacy process. Be a part of the conversation to drive the industry forward.
Find knowledge. Share knowledge. Use social media to enhance your skills. Don’t know how? Skype a friend or find me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/stipton) and ask. You can do this. Jump in, the water’s great.
As the owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton knows what it takes for businesses to get real results from their Training departments. Having spent more than 20 years developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures, Tipton has helped businesses throughout North America, Europe, and Korea to realize their full potential. For more information, visit: LearningRebels.com