Skillsoft Blog

The Learning Professional’s Guide to Social Media, 101

This past year was the defining year for social media.  With 350-million members of its online
community, ‘Facebook Nation’ surpassed the population of the USA and if it were
a country would sit behind only India and China.  Twitter exploded from relative obscurity to
become a favorite sounding board for everyone from Iranian reformers to Ashton
Kutcher.  And Linked-in quietly leveraged
its vast database of online profiles into one of the most effective recruiting
engines of all time.

Yet despite the publicity and the increasing number of
prime-time TV references to social media, it is surprising how many people are
still confused by, intimidated by, or just in plain old denial about these

So I offer you this mini guide to the Big Three social media
sites along with why it is important from a learning professional’s POV (point
of view).

Linked-in:  This is the career web 2.0 site. You create a
profile, and the magic of the site starts connecting you to just about every
colleague you once worked with. Even those whose names you’ve long forgotten.

Why Important?  There
are dynamic discussion groups on almost every topic, including excellent groups
on every conceivable learning topic. Get free advice, share best practices,
find good people to hire. Your HR department is likely paying Linked-in to get
access to resume data for recruiting purposes.

Facebook:  The big daddy of social media. This is your
friends and family site. You create a profile and start ‘friending’ people you
know. This allows you to share pictures, musings, and links with them.  Your kids will be embarrassed that you finally
joined, but your friends will chide you with ‘what took you so long’ messages.

Why important?
Facebook blurs the line between professional and personal relationships.
Facebook can help you sustain distant relationships with colleagues spread all
over the planet who you might see just once or twice per year.  Most people don’t talk shop, and that’s ok.
This is a digital replacement for the water cooler.  And since I’ve heard the term ‘water cooler
learning’ more than once, why would you not want to imbibe?

Twitter:  New kid on the block. Simple concept.  You can send and receive messages (i.e.
‘tweets’) that can never exceed 140 characters, including spaces.  Roughly the amount of text up to that last
period. You can follow whomever you wish. You don’t share personal information.
You share ideas and links.

Why important? Twitter gave us the ‘activity stream’ concept
which is a powerful model for collaboration. The stream is a dynamic list of
all comments from those you follow. The user guardrails the content by adding
or deleting followers based on what they tweet about. Twitter is also a way to
eavesdrop on the world’s conversation.
Want to know what 40-million+ people are saying about your company’s
brand, type it in the search box and read the stream.

These short descriptions purposefully underplay the
functionality of these sites. But this is only a 101 course. Now that you’ve
passed, continue on to 201, which requires that you delve into these sites on
your own.  Only by experiencing these
sites first hand will you be able to begin visioning how the concepts behind
social media might be leveraged for learning in 2010 and beyond.

By: John Ambrose

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