Making the most of online communities: Tweet your way to L&D success


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Social media and online communities are all the rage at the moment but how can L&D professionals make the most of them? Can sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn bring real benefits and are the relationships that are built through them really that valuable? In this practical presentation from Learning Technologies 2011, Dan Martin, editor of, uses real world examples to demonstrate how social media, social networking and internet communities in general can be used effectively by trainers, coaches and learning professionals.

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  • Popular press like to say that social media and online communities are all about what Stephen Fry has for breakfast. That may have been the original intention of Twitter but the audience has turned the platform in a place to learn and share knowledge.
  • If you think about it, communities have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. From sitting around the camp fire telling stories to communicating through smoke signals, people have been sharing knowledge and expertise forever.
  • All that has changed is the way we do it. Online communities allow you to interact and engage with people on a mass scale but also a smaller, niche scale. The younger generation expect you to be using online tools but by doing so, you can make your training and learning experience more interactive, more effective and more flexible.
  • So how do you do it? I’d now like to give some real examples of platforms to use for learning. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The temptation is to create your own communities but many exist ones exists which can you can use and if necessary adapt.
  • Key to making a success of online communities and building relationships is sharing your expertise. One place to do that is on the often overlooked LinkedIn Q&A section. There are literally thousands of postings and interactions taking place so take time to search for topics of relevance to you and get involved. But remember it’s a two way dialogue so ask questions as well as answering them.
  • Institute of Directors uses LinkedIn to run its online community rather than build its own. Members get access to the group of joining and it currently has over 5,000 members. Perfect example of how an organisation has worked out which community is right for them. LinkedIn is a very professional community so is perfect for an organisation
  • Subtle promotion of your services. Give your advice away for free and build up a reputation as an expert in your field.
  • Social media can be used as a broadcast tool. The Pitch – Dragons’ Den-style competition we run around the UK to track down the best new entrepreneurs. As well as rewarding the best business owners, the aim is also to share with as many entrepreneurs as possible advice on pitching and starting and growing a successful business. With the regional heats behind closed doors, we used Twitter to share what was happening and engage.
  • After the excitement of the regional heats, content and learning continues through the publishing of videos which feature the pitches and the advice from the expert judges. Small business owners have very similar problems so the chances are very high that viewers will learn something from watching. The community which has been built up around The Pitch also has a stake in it which we do by allowing them to vote on the wildcard winner
  • Broadcast live from the final one-day conference featuring learning and advice. Use hashtag to take questions from the audience both at the event and elsewhere around the world. Used the same technique for the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies annual conference.
  • Use the same tool to run webchat with experts. Two entrepreneurs, three days promotion only on social media, 100+ questions and comments in an hour. Built the community around the event, the desire to learn, to network and interact.
  • The future of Q&A.
  • Exploit your expertise and create your own niche community. – Twitter for entrepreneurs based in Canada – 140 character updates, networking, events listings etc Added a live Q&A session. Network of experts on hand to answer questions.
  • Teachers are turning to Twitter to engage children in history and other subjects. This example is from Chris Leach, head of ICT at Winchester High School. Social media creates personality and brings the subject to life.
  • Other examples. Samuel Pepys tweeting his diaries and the National Archives tweeting updates from World War Two 70 years to the day.
  • History of how Dell embraced social media is a well-told story but for those that don’t know, in a nutshell, US blogger Jeff Davis blogged about problems with a Dell computer. Led to the phrase ‘Dell Hell’. Dell was initially slow to respond but eventually the corporate plucked up the courage to blog in response and…
  • Dell has now seriously embraced social media. Has hundreds of Twitter feeds, thousands of blog posts and it has even created an online platform called Ideastorm which allows Dell customers to suggest new features for Dell products. The company also recently reported it has made $6.5million in sales from one Twitter feed – Dell Outlet.
  • But it’s not all about selling and customer service – Dell also uses social media to engage internally with employees. Hundreds of employees are on Twitter and they all use ‘atDell’ and rather than communicate through email, staff are alerted to blog and Twitter updates with blog links. Dell recently held an internal ‘unconference’ where executives from the US flew over to train UK and European employees. Employees set the agenda and unlike normal internal meetings they were encouraged to tweet with the Twitter hashtag #DellSTU (Dell social media team unconference). Used the hashtag to record thoughts and attract the thoughts, responses and knowledge of external experts.
  • Zappos uses Twitter to engage with its employees. They are all encourage to tweet and tweets are publicly displayed for all to see. Employees become brand ambassadors both on and offline. They are trusted to be so because the culture is created.
  • But you can build your own community interaction. One example is BT Dare2Share 78% learn more from each other than they do from a formal learning environment. Employees are encouraged to record videos and podcasts about what they do for other employees – both existing and future to learn from. Not only creates a positive peer-to-peer learning environment but also saves the company a shed load of money. Engineer who manages about 100 people. Traditionally he would send them a manual and a new piece of kit and expect them to read that manual and use it. What we gave him was the ability to create a podcast and explain the piece of equipment, traditional methods would have taken six weeks, using this methodology we could shorten it to three days. Team leaders used to go out and repeat the same messages over and over again. Dare2Share allowed the message to be posted once.
  • Making the most of online communities: Tweet your way to L&D success

    1. 1. Learning Technologies 27 January 2011 Dan Martin Editor, <ul><li>Making the most of online communities: Tweet your way to L&D success </li></ul>
    2. 2. Who am I? <ul><li>Editor of </li></ul><ul><li>Administrator of </li></ul><ul><li>Sister communities to (stand 81) </li></ul><ul><li>Published by Sift Media, an online publisher founded in 1996 </li></ul><ul><li>10 th most influential political blogger on Twitter (The Independent) </li></ul><ul><li>Self-confessed twaddict (@Dan_Martin) </li></ul>
    3. 3. Fry-up?
    4. 4. Communities are nothing new…
    5. 5. … it’s just the tools that have changed
    6. 6. Which community?
    7. 7. Don’t reinvent the wheel
    8. 8. Share your expertise
    9. 9. Networking and knowledge sharing
    10. 10. Give stuff away for free
    11. 11. Promote and engage
    12. 12. Broadcast live
    13. 13. Entertainment and learning
    14. 14. Broadcast live
    15. 15. Broadcast live
    16. 16. Broadcast live
    17. 17. The new kid on the block
    18. 18. Replicate success
    19. 19. Twitter in the classroom
    20. 20. Twitter in the classroom
    21. 21. Dell Hell
    22. 22. Dell Heaven
    23. 23. Listening
    24. 24. Training #DellSTU
    25. 25. Twitter and employees
    26. 26. Replicate success
    27. 27. Replicate success “ By having technicians video, edit and review their own work before posting it on a website available to all technicians, BT has made all traditional phone networking practices available to the next generation of employees who are not specifically trained in these traditional skills. A great example of technology led social learning being used in succession planning to real business benefit.”, September 2009
    28. 28. Conclusion <ul><li>1. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Find methods, platforms and communities that have already worked and use or replicate them. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Don’t be afraid to test. Not all communities and platforms will be relevant to your audience. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Social media shouldn’t be as a stand-alone method . It should be part of your overall L&D strategy. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Listen to feedback and respond appropriately. Your community knows what works and what doesn’t work for them. </li></ul>
    29. 29. Get in touch [email_address]