Here at Dashe & Thomson, we made a New Year's resolution for 2011 to dig a little deeper into social media and explore how to use it for social and informal learning, increasing website traffic, and building networks. Of course, Twitter was on the list of tools we were nudged to start using on a regular basis.
I have to say, I met this announcement with an inward groan. In my mind, at the time, I considered Twitter to be for celebrities to keep fans up to date with their most recent apologies (who cares?) and other sad folks who felt the need to broadcast their lunch menu to the world (double who cares?). Not for me, I thought. I am generally an introvert and not prone to fits of opinion sharing without being asked. I was NOT excited about this.
On the other hand, I was willing to give it a try, especially if it could potentially benefit our business. So I dug up my Twitter account information...I had signed up back in early 2009, but never used the account...and started tweeting. A few colleagues recommended some people to follow, explained retweeting and such and demonstrated Tweetdeck for me. Still, I was not impressed and tweeted with fits and starts. I didn't know what to say or really who I was saying it to...it felt a little like being at a party where you don't know anyone and can't quite break into a conversation. It was uncomfortable at best and I was not yet finding the value, personally or professionally.
Then, in March, I attended the Learning Solutions 2011 conference hosted by the eLearning Guild. To say I had some a-ha moments in regards to Twitter that week would be an understatement. More like choirs of angels sang. Presentations by Jane Bozarth and Sumeet Moghe in particular finally gave me the ideas and direction I needed to find my way in and make Twitter work for me. I have not looked back since and now consider myself something of a Twitter convert, leaving most of my colleagues far behind in tweet volume and number of followers over the last several months. Go figure that the most resistant of us would become the most prolific tweeter. Strange how things work out sometimes.
Anyway, back to the Learning Solutions conference, my two biggest take aways were:
- How to use hash tags effectively to find and track topics that are important to me.
- Finding out about #lrnchat - a weekly (monthly in the summer) Twitter chat session focused on learning.
The first thing, hash tags, really helped me to finally find streams that I could follow that actually held value for me. Links to blog posts in the adult learning and training arena, studies, opinions, and back channel resources for a variety of conferences are shared on a daily basis...I just had to know how to find them.
But if learning to effectively use hash tags was good, the second take away, #lrnchat, has been an amazing find for me. It's been my experience so far that the folks who participate in #lrnchat are clever, articulate people working across a variety of learning disciplines. They have a wealth of different perspectives and spending an hour or so with them each week has been an exciting wake up call, reminding me to keep up on my own continuous leaning and consider ideas I would not have been exposed to otherwise.
By participating in #lrnchat, I also found a ton of new people to follow and these folks have become my personal vetting system for high-quality articles and blog posts. They have also become my go-to learning encyclopedia and poll group. A few weeks ago in a staff meeting we were having a discussion about the art and science of instructional design. We came to a shared conclusion at the time, but I was curious what others outside of my organization thought of the question. I put the question out on Twitter and within an hour had several opinions and a link to a great post on the topic. That is value in my opinion and well worth the time I have put into Twitter.
Another example of the professional value I have found in Twitter happened just last week in a rogue off week #lrnchat discussion (remember, the official #lrnchats are monthly in the summer). One of the participants had to present a new learning and development vision for her organization to executives the next morning. She had many concerns about how to communicate and sell her vision effectively. By bringing her issue to the rouge #lrnchat she was able to find several instructional designers, including myself, willing to spend a little time that day reviewing her material and providing feedback. I found it very satisfying to provide that assistance and participate in a group that is so willing to share their expertise. The next time I need that kind of feedback, I'll know exactly where to go.