Using social media for my own personal and professional development is almost second nature to me now but five years ago I didn’t know my hashtags from my hash browns!
This morning I’m giving an Ignite talk at the CIPD L&D show on how I journeyed from being a shy introverted lurker on social media to harnessing its value for my own development. Let’s not dwell on the anxiety that the Ignite format induces (20 slides, 5 mins, 15 seconds per slide) or is that just me?! or the fact that I was at my own leaving do last night and many in the audience will have been at the Day 1 #tweet up till late the night before, let’s try to focus… with me yet?
Here’s a few of my thoughts on using social media for your development:
- Not enough people in L&D yet use social media to its fullest potential for their own and others learning.
- It’s invaluable for providing peer insight and challenge, especially if you’re the sole L&D professional in your organisation.
- The learning you can gain from being active on social media is immense, and it can be as purposeful and boundaried as you want it to be, you don’t need to spend every waking second tweeting to get value from your engagements.
- It helps you gain fresh perspectives – building a personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter or Google +, Facebook provides a springboard into new relationships, collaborations and conversations.
- Conversations are at the heart of a healthy PLN – just as in your relationships offline, conversations on social media need to be two-way, you give, you receive – reciprocity is key.
- Each little gesture, comment on other people’s tweets or posts, likes or favourites will give you courage and encourage others to connect with you.
- You’ll need to experiment a little to find the platform that suits you, some people like the fast paced brevity of Twitter, others prefer more visual formats like Pinterest or Tumblr, try them, settle in, get comfortable and watch what’s going on.
- Lurking is fine as you find your feet, getting social for the first time can be scary so there’s nothing wrong with watching, listening in and learning. But if that’s all you do you are missing out on serendipitous connections, new ideas and a stream of resources and horizon widening perspectives.
- It’s not hard to get started – find people you’ve heard of, respect or who talk about things you’re interested in and follow them, then follow people they follow – as a famous Meerkat would say ‘simples’.
- Try not fear the stream, the sheer volume of posts on any social media network can be overwhelming but think of it like a passign river not a deluge. You can dip your toe in and out – you can’t and won’t experience everything or engage with everyone & that’s OK – and don’t worry too much about how you’ll come across, every time you dip your toe in you’ll make a tiny ripple, it’s not a wave, it won’t overcome you.
- Try Twitterchats to get you into the flow of conversations and meeting new folk – they usually last no longer than an hour and are focused on a series of linked questions/issues or a single topic. There are a host of brilliant L&D chats you can join like #ldinsight (Friday mornings 8-9am GMT) or #chat2lrn (First Thursday of the month 4-5pm GMT) to name but two, #pkmchat is a US based chat on personal knowledge management which is also great and highlights the way social media can internationalise your learning network. Read more here about how to participate in a Twitter chat, they really got me started and gave me confidence to start having my own voice and find my place on social media. Here’s some more advice on Tweetchatting: http://blogs.constantcontact.com/how-to-join-the-conversation/
I’m recognising that this may not fit into the 5 minutes I have for my Ignite talk – AAGH!!
Anyway… my final thought is that your PLN needs to grow with you, it will change shape over time, if you want your network to keep nourishing your curiosity you’ll need to tend to it, if you don’t do this then your network will stagnate and you’ll stop hearing new and interesting thing. Be careful you don’t end up in echo chamber of people saying like-minded things. It’s human nature to seek the familiar and agreeable but we all need a bit of challenge in our lives, seek out people with different or alternative perspectives, look for people who are outside of your sector or profession, see what you can share with each other.
There’s a whole heap of excellent advice on building PLNs & getting social online, here are a few:
And above all appreciation is important, your network is not an impersonal ‘thing’ it’s a diverse group of human beings, each with their own challenges, anxieties and insights, remember to thank them for sharing – for helping you to grow. So my PLN – I salute you, you share your insights, time and resources with me and challenge me to do better, think wider, and keep learning on a daily basis.