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Learn about using social media, part 2 #socialmedia

October 29, 2010 16:20 by Tora Estep

Yesterday, I wrote about the social media training session that we had here at ASTD and described a few companies that are doing great jobs at engaging their audiences through social media. Today, I am going to talk about what I learned about using Facebook and Twitter and a bit about what we are doing inside ASTD with Yammer. (Please note that I am not covering everything; this is already a long post.)

The first lesson about using social media is that there isn’t really a “right” way to do it. The ways people use it are constantly evolving, and the platforms themselves are constantly changing. But you don’t have to keep up with every change to make it work for you and your organization.

What you do have to do is be authentic, ready to engage with people, and consistent. What people want to see when they follow an organization or “like” a company is a lot of activity with frequent updates, but they don’t want to hear canned messages; they want to hear someone’s voice. The authentic voice is the key to social engagement—people like to feel as though they have an “in” with the company they are following, that they have some sort of connection with real, live people on the other end.


Facebook is probably one of the most dominant social media sites out there. More than 500 million people are on Facebook, and it’s one of the best ways to create engagement with your audience. Why? Because Facebook is more about conversation than Twitter, which is more broadcast-oriented. Facebook allows you to connect directly with your audience by enabling you to respond to questions, to comment on what people are saying, to start discussions, to post pictures and links that your audience may find relevant, and so forth. (To be clear, Twitter does allow a lot of these things, but it’s more organic on Facebook.)

The important thing to remember when you create a Facebook Page is constant attention and interaction. Don’t just throw content on the wall and hope that people are getting it. Ask questions, try to find out what people are looking for, be a resource. And don’t just promote your own products and ideas, share what other people are doing that could be valuable to your followers. Seth Godin had a great blog post about reasons for sharing ideas. 

And once again—I am going to keep reiterating this—be real, use your own voice, and have fun. Talk to people! Do it often!


Twitter is one of those things that you don’t really get until you’ve tried it. And maybe not until you’ve tried it some more. I mean, 140 characters? Really? What can you say that’s meaningful in 140 characters? And why would you want to read it? I certainly didn’t get it at first. But I signed up for an account and messed around a little bit—and then messed around some more.

It wasn’t until my husband got stuck in Vienna, Austria, during the Eyjafjalljökull eruption back in April that I got it (and yes, I do know how to pronounce it—my father was born in Iceland). I would click on this trending topic trying to find out what was going on, what news was out there, and what people were saying about it. I started finding links to gorgeous photos of the eruption, maps of airport closures, and all kinds of other stuff (including jokes about Iceland firing off a volcano at Great Britain as revenge for the banking debacle).

Suddenly I was starting to get why this was cool. I looked at various topics that were interesting to me, like food and cooking, and found lots of chefs that I like, so I started following them. I started following my favorite newspapers, which tweet headlines of the day and I can click on links to the stories I want to read or just get an ambient awareness of what’s going on out there. I don’t have to know where to find everything that I am interested in, because a lot of it comes to me.

I also found that it was an unmediated, uncensored way to get a real sense of what real human beings are doing and saying out there (even though that’s not always great, but you have to take the bad with the good).

It’s also fun. Who doesn’t want to hear directly from their favorite celebrity from time to time? Or hear what people are saying about the new movies that are out?

Once again, there are no real rules for success when it comes to using Twitter but here are a few ideas:

  • To start, sign up for an account and start following people. Lurk. Find out what other people are doing. Click on trending topics. Search particular subjects. Just see what’s out there. You don’t really have to do anything at first—just try to get the hang of what it is and get a feel for what you can find out and what appeals to you. When you see someone do something you like, don’t be afraid to try to emulate it. If you come across posts that are interesting to you, re-tweet them. 
  • Don’t forget to check out Twitter’s own 101 guide for businesses. They have lots of tips and ideas for using Twitter to connect with your audience.
  • If you’re in an organization with multiple departments, don’t spread yourself too thin. When ASTD first started using Twitter, we sort of went crazy and started lots of Twitter accounts for different departments or for different events (using social media is definitely a trial-and-error kind of thing). The problem is that all these different accounts are hard to keep up with—and the constant attention rule is true for Twitter just as much as it is for Facebook. Also, it takes some time to build a following, so you want to try to concentrate your efforts.
  • If you want to get a conversation going about a specific event, use hashtags (#). Some hashtags to try are #astd, #L2010, #lrnchat, #elearning, #socialmedia. When you click on a hashtag in someone’s tweet, you will get a display of every post that includes that hashtag. So, for example, while Learning 2010 was going on a few days ago, I would regularly check #L2010 to get everything that people were saying about that conference. Using hashtags is also an effective to create an audience for your own tweets if you don’t already have one. If you put a particular hashtag in your tweet, your message will be read by everyone who is following that particular topic.
  • Find an application that helps you monitor your Twitter traffic. TweetDeck and HootSuite are popular applications (and they are free!).
  • Some cool ideas suggested in the training session are creating events on Twitter. For example, ASTD’s Chapter Services has bi-weekly chapter chats that are popular, and something we may try in the near future is to have a Twitterview with an ASTD Press author.

Update: In her 2009 story on Learning Circuits, Pat Galagan also talks about using Twitter for learning.


Finally, I am going to talk a minute about what ASTD is doing with Yammer as an example of things that your organization may want to try. Yammer is a social network for use within organizations. This allows all the members of an organization to be in contact with one another, but to restrict information flowing out to the general public. It works a little bit like Facebook in that you can post brief messages and people can comment on them in turn. What it does for us is connects all different parts of the organization that may not have all that much interaction typically. In our training session, our facilitators Jennifer, Anthony, and Kristen asked what we liked about it. Some of the responses included

  • sharing interesting stories, information, and links that everyone may not be aware of
  • finding out what other departments are doing
  • creating a more personal connection with people in the organization you may not interact with very often
  • recognizing others for the work that they do in a public forum
  • discussing topics of interest and getting different perspectives
  • finding specific information or getting access to specific resources (for example, someone may throw out a question like “Does anyone have a copy of this book?” and they will have an answer in no time).

For more information about social media, a sample chapter from Darin Hartley’s book has a table that lists some of the platforms that are available. You can also check out Beth Kanter’s blog about how nonprofits use social media to create change; CMSWire’s website, which aggregates articles on social media; a variety of social media groups on LinkedIn, or just do a search for social media on Google and see what’s interesting.

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Learn about using social media, part 1 #socialmedia

October 28, 2010 12:05 by Tora Estep

Yesterday, some of us here at ASTD participated in a training session facilitated by fellow ASTD’ers Jennifer Homer, Anthony Allen, and Kristen Fyfe about social media, and I thought it might be fun to share some of what we learned.

One of the main messages I took away from the session is that one point of social media is about engagement with one another and with our customers. What ASTD aims to do is not just to provide information for you, but to learn from you. What’s on your minds? What kind of ideas do you have that can make us better, more valuable to you? What’s going on out there that’s cool, interesting, earth-shattering, or just plain useful? We want to know!

In their session, Jennifer, Anthony, and Kristen shared examples of organizations that are doing great jobs at engaging their audiences and making social media work for them:

The first of these was Starbucks with its My Starbucks Idea program. Their MyStarbucksIdea site provides an avenue for customers to offer ideas to Starbucks to provide more and more of what customers want. More than just a suggestion box, the site actually shows where Starbucks is taking these ideas and encourages everyone to vote on the ideas that they like the most, thus allowing the best ideas to rise to the top. That allows Starbucks to get a better picture of the kinds of things that their customers would like and continually improve the customer experience.

Another example of great use of social media for engaging customers is the Zappos blog. Zappos is an online retailer that started out primarily selling shoes, but has expanded to lots of other products. The company generates an enormous amount of customer loyalty. In yesterday's session we heard lots of oohs and aahs from the group demonstrating people’s excitement about the company’s customer service. What companies do you know that can generate that kind of response? On the Zappos blog are blogs from the CEO and the COO, blogs from other employees of the company, videos, a fashion culture blog, and more. When I went to check it out, one of the employees had just posted a video of another employee’s response to returning from vacation to find her desk decorated with hundreds of teabags (apparently she really likes tea). It’s a funny, personal touch that endears people to the company and its people. (Darin Hartley talks more about the Starbucks and Zappos examples in his book 10 Steps to Successful Social Networking for Business.)

The relaxed, casual use of social media represented by Starbucks and may seem incompatible with more formal types of cultures, but social media can be valuable for any type of organization. One of the examples shared in our training session was the Mayo Clinic’s Twitter feed. In their book, The New Social Learning, Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner tell a story about a woman suffering from wrist pain who clicked on a link to a story about wrist pain through the Mayo Clinic Twitter feed, found a surgeon who was doing new things, underwent a new type of surgery, and then went on to a better life without wrist pain. Another aspect of the Mayo Clinic example is that use of the organization's internal microsharing network is allowing physicians to connect with each other to work on new forms of treatment and to share ideas and information. (My husbands works as a research scientist at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and I love the idea of them using microsharing to brainstorm and work on new research ideas.) 

Another example Bingham and Conner share of a culture that places a high premium on control of information is the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which has implemented an intelligence community wiki called Intellipedia that allows analysts from across the intelligence community to share information and capture knowledge. Intellipedia now has tens of thousands of users and gets upwards of 10,000 page edits per day. Now that’s a culture that clearly requires tight control of information—and yet, in this case, social media represents a way to share data in a way that’s fast enough to keep up with the speed of the world and to capture valuable background information that may not make it into formal reports.

The last example shared in our training session was the JetBlue Airways feed on Twitter. The feed allows JetBlue to connect directly with customers, giving the company an avenue to provide up-to-date information and to gather feedback that it then displays on its speakup site (both positive and negative). It lets JetBlue be transparent about what’s not working and how they plan to fix it, as well as share positive stories and thus gain valuable word-of-mouth advertising for its service. It also allows JetBlue employees to establish a direct connection with their customers, which supports customer loyalty.

Tomorrow, I will talk a bit about what I learned about using Twitter and Facebook and what ASTD is doing with its internal microsharing site, Yammer.

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Get Darin Hartley's slides from his presentation at Learning 2010 #L2010!

October 26, 2010 13:14 by Tora Estep

This morning Darin Hartley, author of 10 Steps to Successful Social Networking for Business, had his presentation at Learning 2010 based on the book. He's made his presentation available here.

To learn more about the book, click here.

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What's going on at the ASTD Store at Learning 2010 #L2010?

October 25, 2010 15:06 by Tora Estep

I just checked in with Justin Brusino at the ASTD store at Learning 2010 to find out what's going on down there. Several signings will take place in the store, including ASTD Press authors Darin Hartley and Cindy Huggett as well as keynote speakers Roger Nierenberg and Apolo Ohno (and yes, I am a bit jealous that I am going to miss Apolo). Those are happening tomorrow. Marshall Goldsmith was there signing his books this morning.

Other stats for the conference and the store? About 1,700 people are in attendance for the conference, and the store offers more than 200 Infoline and book titles.



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What's going on at Learning 2010 #L2010?

October 25, 2010 13:18 by Tora Estep

So I have been following some of the Twitter traffic coming out of Learning 2010 (some of my colleagues are down there running a bookstore), and one of the attendees just posted a pic of some popular books at the store. Of course, I am pretty psyched that one of them is our very own The New Social Learning by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner!

Another one of our authors, Cindy Huggett (@cindyhugg), has been tweeting regularly about virtual training and will have a session on Tuesday at 2:45 called "Virtual Sessions Gone Bad." She is the author of ASTD Press's Virtual Training Basics, which provides all the how-to information you might need to deliver effective virtual training.

Also tweeting at Learning 2010 is my pal Darin Hartley (@soc_net_writer), author of 10 Steps to Successful Social Networking for Business. He's got a session tomorrow at 8 a.m. He notes that keynote speaker Marshall Goldsmith (and contributor to The ASTD Leadership Handbook) offers the content of his library unrestricted, so you might want to check that out.


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Nine steps for choosing technology for social networking

January 20, 2010 15:08 by Tora Estep

So I am working on editing Darin Hartley's forthcoming book 10 Steps to Social Networking for Business, and I feel like I could use a break so I thought I would write a little about his book. It has a lot of good information for getting into social networking as a business, but so far his nine-step process for selecting social networking technology has struck me as one of the more useful (now I am only up to step 4, so don't assume that I am giving everything away!).

  1. Identify needs based on critical business initiatives. In other words, don't just jump into social networking because it's cool. You really need to know why you are doing it.
  2. Estabish a core decision-making team. When you are trying to decide whether or not to use off-the-shelf social networking technologies (such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so forth) or to build a custom system, make sure that you've got the right people involved. Hint: One of those people should be someone from your IT department!
  3. Develop core functional requirements. Determine what your current systems look like so that whatever you choose to go with is compatible.
  4. Develop a criteria matrix. Decide what you need (and maybe a little something you want?).
  5. Establish a list of potential solution candidates.  Make a (short-ish) list of technologies that may fit your needs.
  6. Review potential solutions against criteria and rank them. Well, you've got a list of possible solutions: Now look at them, figure out which ones have the most of the stuff you need and want, and then put them in order.
  7. Participate in product demos with company-specific use cases. This step applies if you are seriously considering a custom system.
  8. Choose the networking solution. You've got all the data you need. Now, pick something!
  9. Implement your organization's social networking solution. In other words, come up with a plan for using off-the-shelf technology, or buy, modify, or build something specifically made for your organization.

So there it is. A simple process for deciding whether to get involved with social networking and deciding what technology to use. To learn more about Darin, his book, and social networking in general, check out the social network he has created over at Ning: Social Networking for Business. And go ahead and join it, why don't you? He had a contest a while back where the person who brought the greatest number of new members got a prize. Let him know I sent you. I could use a prize!



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