I had a coffee with my friend Rebekah yesterday. Rebekah is an e-learning designer for veterinary educators and we met through Twitter. On the few occasions we caught up at a local cafe, our passions for social media for learning and development were evident. Our ideas tumbled out of us as we grappled with possibilities on how we could influence our own learning teams to use social media for their own professional development or even just to incorporate it into the design of programs.
Rebekah will be presenting on The Value of Twitter for Professional Development at the Australian Veterinary Conference in Perth Australia on 25-30 May so we talked about what she can do or show on stage to get the audience inspired to use Twitter but also to have a comeback for the dreaded statement she always hears…
“But I don’t have time for all this!”
I hear a lot of this too. Friends, family and colleagues think that my use of social media is a frivolous time waster and detracts from my real work. However, I believe their exclamation stems more from a fear of using social media rather than a lack of time on their part.
From my observations and experiences when talking to people in organisations, their fears relate to the following:
- A genuine lack of knowledge of how to use it to their advantage (—but being open to being coached)
- A stubborn and haughty expectation that their organisation is responsible for their development during working hours and a refusal to use it in their own time for any work related purpose
- A genuine fear of using social media especially at a time when organisations cut costs and staff and where any breach of social media policy will result in loss of a job or income
In my experience the last two are prevalent in organisations but my most rewarding experiences in helping people were from getting people from 3 to 1 and then supporting them through their journey to build their own peer networks online. Once I got them to this point, I could stand back and watch them have their own ‘a ha’ moments and leave them be to follow their own exploratory journey.
But some people need a bit of a push.
So I offered Rebekah a suggestion of what I do in this case to help others to build and create their personal learning network through Twitter Lists when “they don’t have the time!”
Why are Twitter Lists helpful?
If I told someone that, like me they used their mornings, evenings and down times to surf websites, blogs and newsfeeds, tag articles and posts, read them in bed or while munching on their Vegemite on toast or train ride into work – and then in a few years they may have a select group of special and trust peer networks, they’d say I have rocks in my head.
Their first reaction would be that it’s too hard and too much effort for little gain.
However, tell them I have a Twitter List of people whom they can follow immediately to start them on their Twitter journey, that’s an entirely different matter. The first step is already done for them!
Let’s face it. Many people want simple, quick, easy solutions. Dare I say it, some want their thinking done for them.
I’m not saying that this is the right or wrong way to gently push people to use Twitter but the solution there if they choose to use it. The benefit is that it will shorten their journey to to build their own learning network.
Of course, the challenge for them is having the motivation to stick with it and build on these Twitter lists to create their own and start connecting and learning. I don’t have all the answers for this – I’m not a miracle worker but too often many organisations expect Learning and Development teams to be just that.
So How Do I Use Twitter Lists?
Firstly, I don’t follow everyone. Sorry for those waiting for me to follow back – I don’t. Don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s me.
Instead, I read their Twitter profile and scan through their tweets to gauge what information, tweets and work they share. I look for good references and links – in particularly, if they share their work. I see who follows them and if they are followed by my own Personal Learning Network. I also look for robust twitter conversations and exchanges – and yes, I like a bit of personality about them too.
If I like what I see, then I add these people to the relevant list but I don’t follow them immediately. Not yet.
Who do I instantly follow?
People who have a reputation in the fields I’m interested in; or who are followed by some select members of my Personal Learning Network. If I have had a Twitter conversation and shared tips, references, work or ideas – I follow back.
What about Public and Private Lists?
My lists are a blend of Public or Private.
It’s my own choice about what constitutes a Private or Public list. Personally, I’ve decided to keep my Friends, Work Colleagues and Personal Learning Network private – but really, they don’t have to be. I’ve kept them private more as some respect to them but it is a moot point as Twitter is meant to be open anyway.
While I’m writing this post, I’m thinking that I’ll use this weekend to just open all my lists to Public.
During the day, I surf through my lists in a particular order:
- Personal Learning Network
- Instructional Design/Learning Development
- Work Colleagues
Yes, don’t think it strange that my friends and colleagues are further down the list as I skim through their posts to see what they’re up to. This explains why my husband becomes irate with me if I hadn’t seen or retweeted his funny cat gifs or his comments on West Ham United.
My aim in work life is to get number 5 into number 2. What was that about being a miracle worker?
Sometimes, I see great tweets or start conversations with people in these lists that warrants a Follow and a transfer to the Personal Learning Network Twitter List. If you’re in my PLN list, you’re pretty special.
You’ll notice that I have a LOT of people in my Personal Learning Network. This means it’s time for me to start culling. Every few months I go into this list and transfer people out back into other lists or entirely remove them if they have not tweeted anything using other Twitter tools such as Unfollowers.Me.
Using Lists at Conferences or Events
At conferences, I create Lists and add people who are contributing to the back channel into the relevant Conference list. I then send out a tweet inviting conference participants to subscribe.
Over time, this grows and every few months, I review the lists and invariably see the people who are quite active and share information. I then move these people to other lists and delete the Conference list (especially if there’s no one subscribed). I use Conference Lists as temporary lists to jog my memory of the people who attended and the conversations that occurred around conference topics. They have a time limit.
What about Blocking People?
I haven’t had the need to block anyone – certainly any person who is in my profession or field is not blocked because I feel it sets the wrong impression.
If I espouse sharing my work and openness then blocking goes against this ethos. Instead, I unfollow them or remove them from my list.
So How Else May We Use Twitter Lists?
I’ve been thinking that my main role in the last few years in Learning and Development has been more like a “Connector”. People come to me and ask if I can help them connect with someone of a particular expertise. I see the potential of using Twitter Lists as a “collection of global subject matter experts around a particular topic” and then providing this list to others to build their own PLN.
For example, in Rebekah’s case, she may decide to create a list of Veterinary Educators or people in the Veterinary field and then promote this to her Learning and Development team. Sure, the list may be really small to begin with but it is something that can grow over time.
So when people say to you that they ‘don’t have time’ for using social media in their own professional development, think about the true reason behind that statement and work with them to allay their fears and support them. A simple gesture of helping them subscribe to your own lists is one way to get them comfortable and curious to learn more.
Note: At the time of writing this blog post, I’ve gone ahead and made my lists public. Hope you can do the same!