From lurker to learner – ignite your passions #CIPDldshow

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.

melville quote

  • 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:

http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/creating-a-pln/

https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/how-to-create-a-robust-and-meaningful-personal-learning-network-pln/

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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.

thank you for helping me grow

Why I 💜 social…

imageAnyone who looks at my Twitter account can see I’m a prolific tweeter, 16.8k tweets in five years is *frantically does maths* about 9.6 tweets per day. How did this happen? I’m not naturally inclined to be a great networker or in the public gaze, if you believe the psychometrics I’m quite an extreme introvert. But one of the interesting things I’ve noticed is that quite a lot of L&D professionals and qualitative researchers are introverts, despite the fact that going out, talking to people, giving presentations and being generally social are a large part of our working lives. But that’s an aside and something for another post… So why did social get me? Or how? Well one day I stopped lurking, stepped out from behind my egg and started connecting, sharing and dipping my toe in the stream. And I realised that it:

  • ignites my passions and inspires me to try new things
  • satisfies my curiosity about the world and people around me
  • connects me to others, those with shared interests & those with very different experiences and viewpoints (hence the passion & the curiosity)
  • can be unexpected and surprising, challenging my mindset & opinions
  • supports my learning – my Twitter #pln are peerless, fearless & fabulous
  • connects and shares my work and ideas with a wide range of people
  • helps me collaborate with fellow professionals, in networks that cross time zone, geographical and disciplinary borders
  • it lifts my spirits and makes me think about the serious and the silly

I often get comments about how much time I must spend on social media but in fact it’s very little. I have pretty demanding job, most days I tweet on the way into the office and on the way home, a little during the day if something crops up I want to share. To me it’s just a conversation, I have them throughout the day some are in person, some on the phone, some are virtual – all are valid. I don’t stare at my timeline all day long, but the moments when I do dip my toe in are so very valuable, as @HR_Gem has also shared this week sometimes the most unexpected things come out of 140 characters. I want to share what happened for me in the course of seven days on Twitter last week, just to demonstrate that it is more than sharing inspirational quotes and pictures of fluffy kittens (although let’s face it I am partial to them too!):

  • I floated the idea to create a multi-author book of blogs on social media in social research (if you’re interested you can read more about the project here) in a tweet and a blog. Just a week later we have over 30 people lined up to contribute
  • A chance tweet to a fellow blogger led to us coming up, quite organically, with the idea of arranging a meet up of fellow social science bloggers who run multi- author blogs. We’ll be getting together in London in September to share our experiences and hopefully learn from one another about how to keep people engaged and coming back to our blogs.
  • I idly tweeted July was looking less busy for me, then got reminded by several people who I’d promised to meet them for lunch/dinner/coffee… July is less empty now 😀
  • I got invited to contribute to a round table discussion by someone I would never have met if it weren’t for social media
  • I received some words of support and wisdom at a moment when I needed them (no names you know who you are, thank you)
  • I had several laugh out loud moments (thanks especially to @AndrewLJacobs for sharing POOS with us)
  • I got to share the fantastic work that our British Social Attitudes researchers & interviewers do every year @NatCen, supporting the efforts of our Comms team with a series of links and posts highlighting key findings

How’s that for a set of amazing, and in some cases totally unexpected  outcomes from a handful of tweets and a blog? And that is why I 💜 social.