Social media. It’s not just for marketing anymore

Maybe you wrinkled your nose when you first heard terms like blogs, tweets, posts, and wikis enter your organization’s vocabulary. Perhaps social media didn’t even exist when you started your professional career. But social media is here to stay—and it’s not just a tech-savvy marketing channel anymore.

Yep. It’s time to rethink what constitutes a learning tool. It’s time to consider social media and the role it can play in employee and management development.

Learning is a continuous process. It’s not something that happens independent of any given work day. In fact Jay Cross, the author of Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance (Essential Knowledge Resource) claims that only 20% of learning takes place in formal settings, such as classroom programs, e-learning, and the like.

The other 80%? Informal learning.

People learn from the knowledge and expertise of other people, whether it’s in the meeting room, the lunch room, over the watercooler—or through social media.

In their book, The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media"" by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner, most of what people learn outside of formal learning settings is through collaboration, information sharing, and networking. And social media is an excellent vehicle for this.

Here are several examples of how popular social media platforms can create informal learning opportunities for your organization:

Google and Skype – Gives individuals instant access to new information and communication with peers, team members, and managers.

Podcasts, webinars, and YouTube – Enables individuals to learn “on the go” and stay up to date with the latest technology through subject matter experts.

Twitter and Flickr – Provides an excellent way to broadcast important information quickly and engage learners in specific topics.

LinkedIn and Facebook – Encourages individuals to build professional networks, develop interpersonal relationships, and gain a sense of community.

While it’s fair to say that the majority of training and development departments have not formalized social media as part of their learning strategy, there is some evidence that it’s starting to infiltrate the world of training and development. In a survey conducted by Linked: HR, Cris Wildermuth reports that most organizations are using social media in some form, but that almost 30% have not (yet) integrated social media as a recognized learning channel.

So speaking of social media, let’s use it to open a dialogue. Tell us—do you use social media as part of your learning strategy, and if so, how? If not, how come?

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