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Learning & Development Blog

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How to Get ROI by Using Social Media for Learning

Social media is almost synonymous with communication, especially among millennials. Let’s face it, even our grandmas are on Facebook, posting about their pets and commenting on every photo we share. Companies are also using social media to directly communicate with stakeholders at the farthest reaches of the globe.

So, we recognize that most of today’s world is familiar with social media as a communication tool, but can it be effective for training? Bottom line is yes, immensely. Though it shouldn’t be used for all or in-depth training initiatives, organizations can see an ROI by using social media for learning.

An article by Training Magazine says that social media as a learning tool is beneficial at all stages of employee training: beginning, continuing, and follow-up. “A great advantage that social media provides in terms of training employees is the ability to create virtual communities where everyone on the team can interact.”

There are some obvious benefits to social learning, for example:

Instant Peer-To-Peer Learning: Companies can create virtual, peer-to-peer learning environments on many platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Yammer. These platforms offer learners the opportunity to comment and converse in real-time.

Technique: The National Cyber Security Alliance leads the cybersecurity awareness campaign, STOP.THINK.CONNECT., which uses a common hashtag to host “Twitter Chats,” where they pose questions and tips, and stakeholders/learners can respond in real time, creating an engaging and collaborative discussion. This allows them to share insights, discuss challenges, provide feedback, and suggest new ideas or solutions.

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Easier Gamification: Social media turbo-charges learner engagement by enabling highly interactive elements like polling, games, and real-time quizzing. The standout benefit of doing this through social media is that it’s “instant.”

Technique: Learners can respond to quizzes in real-time, rate quiz effectiveness and other posts, and provide instant feedback  in the classroom, on their phones, or at their leisure. Learners can participate in the online activity and share results through social media, allowing peers and instructors to comment and provide feedback. Twitter and Yammer are great tools for this two-way communication. This also encourages meaningful interactions between both learners and trainers, since they can communicate concisely and instantly, and opens the door for timely communication.

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More Robust Onboarding Experience: Social media can enhance the employee onboarding experience by creating a single location for new employees to find everything they need, and the ability to communicate instantly with other new employees.

Technique: At Dashe, we see fantastic benefit from social media in the ability to create an employee onboarding portal linking to necessary documents, training links, best practices, and other pertinent information. Many platforms can provide this (WordPress, Yammer, even SharePoint), and depending on the platform, message boards can also be used for new employees to discuss tips and tricks.

To recap, social media is easy-to-use and we are beginning to see benefits for training and development. But the real question is what’s the ROI? Should companies include social learning within existing training programs? As you probably guessed, social media is absolutely a cost-effective way to reinforce training or even as a standalone option for bite-sized training. Here are a couple of examples:

Reduced Turnover

The Association of Talent Development tells us that eight out of ten employees will leave an organization if they don’t feel like they received the appropriate training to do their jobs effectively. We know that practices to promote effective training include peer learning, hands-on learning, and the opportunity for real-time feedback  all things provided by social media.

As mentioned earlier, onboarding can be greatly improved by using social media, and since 90 percent of organizations believe employees make their decision to stay within the first year, an improved onboarding experience through social media becomes a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have. This is especially true when you consider how an improved onboarding process leads to not only higher employee retention rates, but also increased job performance, especially among millennials, who make up the largest part of the American workforce.

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Cutting Costs for Widely Dispersed Teams

You’re probably already social media savvy, but maybe your boss still doesn’t see the ROI or benefits. How do you get your management to buy-in? Nancy Kaplan talks about how internal social media really does bring big dividends in terms of, well, dividends. As she writes on her blog:

“A recent Gallup study found that firms with engaged workforces have 2.6 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to their industry counterparts. And an Aberdeen Group study found that companies using Web 2.0 achieved an 18% boost in employee engagement.”

Putting everything together accordingly reads like this: Web 2.0 = Engagement = Productivity = $$$. While Nancy’s post is not directly focused on corporate learning, she notes that one of the major benefits of internal social media use is its effect on streamlining operations, which can certainly be said for how social media can streamline knowledge uptake and act as an “exo-brain,” for the overworked employee. As an example, she notes that Cisco has cited the use of wikis in saving millions of dollars, by allowing “geographically dispersed staff [to] efficiently work on single documents, share ideas and comments, and decrease development time.”

Choosing Wisely: How to Implement Social Media for Learning

But it’s more than just having social media; you must choose the right platforms. Taking advantage of visual demonstration tools, like creating an instructional video to put on YouTube enables the learner to observe a process physically, as opposed to reading about it in a training guide. Following the observation, the learner can then actually practice the task, discuss it with peers on an online message board, and then seek feedback from a mentor through an online platform.

Instagram, with its slide-image feature, allows the opportunity to share bite-sized or step-by-step training information with learners, with visual cues in the photo and written instructions in the caption area. Learners are also then able to comment with questions directly on the post, and instructors can directly respond to that comment within the post for others to see, or send a direct message for a more in-depth conversation.

Having the opportunity to access an instant feedback mechanism is something most of the workforce seeks. Interestingly, it’s not just millennials who look for this; 41 percent of non-millennials and 29 percent of millennials want more feedback than they are currently getting. Commenting, rating, and video messaging are some social media capabilities that easily solve that issue.

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The fact is, social media is already being used by most people in their personal lives, and it’s time to take advantage of these types of platforms in the professional training world. The trends in what people are demanding of their workplaces (hands-on learning, peer learning, feedback mechanisms) are all offered by various social media platforms. So given the benefits, techniques, and ROI opportunities listed here, using social media for business training is a simple no-brainer.  

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Kaplan, N. (2011, April 21). 3 Benefit Measures - The ROI of Internal Social Media Networks. Retrieved from http://socialmedia-insideout.blogspot.com/2011/04/3-benefit-measures-roi-of-internal.html

Ellis, R. M. The ROI of Social Learning: An Infographic. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links/the-roi-of-social-learning-an-infographic