What do you check first when you get to work every morning, your email or Facebook? While email is still the number one reason why Internet users go online, social media is gaining ground. There are currently 8.2 million active Facebook users in Australia (log on at least once a day).
With data costs coming down and the enormous popularity of smartphone and tablet devices, social media usage is expected to explode and eventually eclipse email. While most decry social media as a distraction that adversely affects productivity, social media does in fact mimic the way humans naturally learn: we learn from one another.
The one-way lecture format that is traditionally used to teach and train can be enhanced to promote knowledge retention by using social media applications like Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In this post, we’ll look at the four ways that social media can be used to enhance organisational learning in your business, as well as what factors businesses need to consider when using social media to gather and share knowledge internally.
1. Internally Market Training
Originally social media was used to share and discuss content within communities of like-minded members. These communities could be close friends, acquaintances, a professional network, or fans of a particular TV show or genre of music. However, today businesses are increasingly using social media to market their products and services. Small businesses can use social media to market training to their teams much the same way they use these applications to market their products to external customers. In advance of launching a new training program a business could blog about the goals of the training, and stream a video message from the managing director or CEO explaining how the training will benefit the business and the workers on a personal level. Short previews of the training, like snippets of training videos and other training content, can be published on the company’s Facebook timeline and tweeted on the company’s Twitter stream. For training delivered via cloud-based learning management system, the learner will need to be motivated to log on and view the training presentations. Social media can be used to remind the learner to log on to the company’s LMS (virtual training room), but more importantly by effectively marketing the training and highlighting the features of the training and its benefits there will be buy-in on the part of the learner.
2. Promote Retention with Spaced Reminders
The sobering fact is that most learners will forget much of what they have learned one week after the training. This phenomenon was labeled the “forgetting curve” by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the 1880s. He formulated a theory about the durability of memory and about the exponential nature of forgetting. According to Ebbinghaus a learner’s ability to retain information degrades over time until the learner has forgotten the information completely. Ebbinghaus’s solution to the problem of forgetting was scheduling reminders to rehearse what one has learned. To maintain 90% retention over time, the first rehearsal would have to be within days of the original training session and then reminders to rehearse the training spaced at 10, 30 and 60 day intervals. Social media applications like Twitter allow the user to pre-schedule tweets. A business could schedule tweets that reminder workers to log on to the learning management system for refresher training. Social media can also be used to reinforce and expand on what a learner has learned by sharing links to articles, video’s, infographics, and blogs.
3. Ask Questions to Engage Learners
Every training course should be followed by a online assessment that tests what a learner has learned. As with spacing out reminders to rehearse information, it’s important that learners are tested repeatedly over time to assess what they still know and what they have forgotten. You could ask that workers submit to testing at spaced intervals, but this is not always practical. Instead of requiring that a worker give up an hour of their day to submit to an online test, a better option is to broadcast a different question via social media every few days, with instructions on how to find the answer. As stated above, information retention degrades. Instead of just testing learners on what they remember, better to remind learners of where they can find the answer. Make it a competition by posting a question and a time limit, and the first person to get the right answer wins a prize. Or, you could have teams of workers competing against each other to find the answer to a question. You can do this by separating workers into teams and putting each team in their own Google+ Circle. Team members can then use features like Google+ Hangout to collaborate on solving the problem.
4. Collect and Impart Knowledge
Learning is all about imparting knowledge to others. But organizational knowledge is hardly static like a listing of facts and figures. Organizational knowledge is constantly being updated and shared informally through quick chats, water cooler gossip, and yes, social media. Learning doesn’t just happen in a training room. Much of it takes place on the job. The problem that businesses have had in the past is that there was no effective way to capture and share this knowledge. People weren’t in the habit of just writing down their hands-on experiences and sharing them with others. However, today, with every other person the proud owner of a smartphone or tablet (or both), and all boasting myriad social media applications, users can record and easily share their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. For example, let’s say that a chain of bakeries is being plagued by a problem endemic to all the ovens being used in all the satellite bakeries across the country. It just so happens that Cathy at the Fremantle bakery has found a solution to the problem. Cathy uses her iPad to record a video on how to fix the oven. She uploads the video to YouTube along with some detailed comments, and by the end of the day the whole chain is back up to full production.
Social media applications are great for collecting and disseminating organizational know-how. However, there are a few factors that businesses need to consider before using social media internally. These factors include choosing the right social media application and privacy.
- The Right Social Media App: It is important to consider the age demographics of the workers in your organization. For example LinkedIn is popular with professionals between the ages of 25 and 55, but not university-aged workers and those just starting out. Also the average household income for LinkedIn users is $100K+. If the average age of workers in your team is 23, Facebook would be the way to go. Half of 18-34 year olds start their day by checking their Facebook. Google+ is very much the new kid on the SM block. If your business applications are powered by Google (Google Apps for Business) then Google+ is a good choice, as it seamlessly integrates with Gmail and Google Docs (Google Drive). Twitter is very popular amongst mobile users, but brevity is key. Tweets are limited to just 140 characters (including spaces).
- Privacy: If a business plans to use social media for internal communications, they should consider drafting a code of conduct first. They also need to make sure that they select the correct privacy settings when they set up accounts. For example, Twitter accounts can be made private, whereby followers have to be approved by the account holder before they can view any content. On Google+, a user can group people in circles. If they wish to share content with people in one circle, but not with people in another, they have that option to choose before posting content. Failing to set up privacy setting properly could see sensitive in-house broadcast to the world! The code of conduct should outline what is appropriate material to be shared with others in the business. For example, for privacy reasons, a user should not share personal or identifying information like phone numbers and email addresses in posts.
Facebook, Google+, and Twitter aren’t just for telling your friends what you had for breakfast, sharing viral videos of pandas playing, and posting embarrassing pics from an office party, they are user-friendly tools that can help your business gather and narrowcast vital organisational knowledge. Social media application can assist with motivating learners, improving learner’s information retention, and actively engaging them in training.
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