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Social media for learning


Once castigated as a drain on workers' productivity, Facebook, Twitter et al are actually showing us a new way when it comes to L&D, says Gemma Middleton.

There are many buzzwords that highlight key events and activities that have happened in the 21st century, with one of the most explosive phenomenons of recent times being social media.

The prominence that organisations place on social media has grown significantly, which is likely to be a direct response to the number of people joining social networks. For example, a recent Harvard study found that during the period of February 2008 to February 2009 the number of people who joined Twitter increased by 1,382% to 7 million and during the same period Facebook also experienced an increase of 228% to 200 million active users - numbers not to be sniffed at.

Initially social media raised many concerns for organisations, as there was the fear that their employees could tarnish their image and twitter working hours away by poking people. In some cases this did happen, which resulted in negative publicity being splashed across the more traditional media. However it didn’t take long for many to see it as an opportunity to build online communities, increase brand awareness and target customer audiences as social media offers increased interaction, quick and direct communications as well as being low cost, which is a necessity these days.

Creating online organisational communities could, and will, play a strong role in supporting internal HR and training functions.

You may be forgiven for thinking that many organisations use social media purely as a marketing tool and, whilst it currently is a favoured marketing medium, many organisations are starting to use it internally by creating online communities as a means of supporting and enabling networking opportunities as well as increasing organisational and product knowledge. In fact utilising technical advancements and social media seems to be important in delivering messages for thousands of people, with even the Queen and Gordon Brown taking advantage of it. This brings me to the conclusion that it should be commonplace for training and HR departments to be fully utilising the concept of social media too.

Trustworthy knowledge
Researching social media, I came across an interesting article, which discussed the changing face of a training department. It said that management and HR needed to focus on providing a constant flow of trustworthy knowledge and information throughout the organisation as employees are facing continual change and so should be supported through constant and adequate communication. This idea is perfect for social media and really got me thinking of the power and role it could have regarding the future approach organisations take towards learning and development, after all interaction and speed are the key features of many social networking sites.

Take for example. The site is constantly updated with news and articles whilst enabling interaction and the ability to network with peers, all of which are accessible anywhere; personally I have found it invaluable. I can imagine the same concept working well for training and HR departments as it could provide support, help employees keep up-to-date with organisational plans and news, keep a record of development, etc.

Personal touch
Obviously, I believe that it is vital to keep the human element in training and HR departments; it is all too easy to stay behind a computer screen, bat emails off and hide behind online aliases. However, I do think that creating online organisational communities could, and will, play a strong role in supporting internal HR and training functions.

Failing to utilise all forms of relevant communication would be a waste and, as the concept of social media and online communities look set to remain an integral and important communication tool for a long time to come, exploiting its full potential across all departments makes perfect sense.

Gemma Middleton is a marketing coordinator for Right Track consultancy.

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Claire Savage

Editor, news

Read more from Claire Savage

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