By Matt Pierce
With the increasing uptake of social media and engagement, trainers have the opportunity to reach employees through entirely new mediums.
With so many using the most popular services, such as Twitter and Facebook, the challenge is finding the right social media outlets and strategy to fit training objectives, and how to use this opportunity to full effect in terms of pushing out training materials and engaging with learners.
Content is king
The content-is-king axiom has become something of a buzz term within social media. Nonetheless, it holds firm. Your blog posts, tweets, or status updates will not be read if they do not provide value beyond the banal.
Although written content can provide a high level of detail, in the world of social media, a standalone text document or PowerPoint will not encourage high levels of engagement with trainees. This is especially true when we consider the death by PowerPoint argument.
Video content has become a common method of delivering training lessons, following the adage that a picture says a thousand words. Creating such content is relatively straightforward, as trainers will already have many of the resources required in place.
When presenting a training session using PowerPoint, a screencast can be created of the presentation. Screencasting refers to the recording of activity on a computer screen, which can be augmented with a voiceover audio track or video taken from a Web cam. Recordings can be completed either as a presentation is delivered or in the trainer’s own time. Such recordings can be a great asset for trainers specializing in a specific software or online resource. Explaining how to get started on Twitter verbally or via PowerPoint, for example, can be very difficult. Over time, trainers can build up a bank of screencasts and create their own video library of training content.
Creating a social media presence
With this bank of learning content in place, trainers should examine how to push content to learners.
Video-hosting Web sites provide the ideal facility for hosting content, and can add significant value to a trainer’s offering. YouTube is the ubiquitous choice, but there are a number of other sites, such as Vimeo, DailyMotion, and MetaCafe. Some provide videos in specific areas of interest. VideoJug, for example, offers instructional videos. TechSmith also operates a video hosting site, screencast.com, for hosting and sharing screencasts.
Video hosting sites provide trainers with the option to create their own channel or profile. The bank of training content can be instantly brought online, making it sharable across social media sites, either through a URL link or by embedding videos.
Existing social media presence
With the ability to share video content in place, trainers can begin to engage with learners through social media. One option is to look at a company’s existing social media presence for opportunities.
An organization might have a strong presence on Twitter, with employees following the company’s Twitter handle for news and updates. This existing engagement can be used by trainers to push content by tweeting a link to a training video, instantly disseminating it to all employees within an organization. For example, a tweet reading “Click here for a short demo of the new intranet system,” could be used when rolling out a new intranet. This can be done as a follow up to a recorded training session to aid retention.
There also is the option to directly @reply to all employees following a training session with a link to a video, provided their Twitter handles are available.
Building company-specific network
A second alternative lies within less common social media tools. A good example is Yammer, a service very similar in nature to Twitter, but aimed solely at businesses. Yammer allows businesses to create a private network for employees only.
Once created, employees can post status updates on current work, share links, or ask questions of coworkers. Trainers can use this network to post links to training content, aiming it solely at those within an organization. The private nature of the network means questions can be asked without broadcasting them to the entire Web.
The recent addition of communities allows one private network to connect to another. Trainers can use this facility to connect with a client company’s network, post training material, and monitor and respond to questions. Alternatively, an in-house trainer or HR manager can take responsibility for posting within a Yammer network.
Engagement and evaluation
A further advantage of using social media to disseminate training content is the high level of evaluation it provides. The simplest method is to use a site such as bit.ly, which allows users to shorten a URL and monitor exactly how many times it has been clicked on. There also is a second advantage of making links easier to share, as they are shorter.
Trainers have the option to directly contact trainees on Yammer, or @reply them to request feedback or ask follow up questions to test retention, perhaps a week after the training session. Where lengthier or private feedback is required, a trainer can provide an e-mail or other contact details.
Social media undoubtedly offers trainers a new way to interact with trainees, provided they have the right content to do so. The social media world is still evolving and, as it continues to do so, the opportunities for trainers will change and grow, accordingly.
About the author:
Matt Pierce is training manager at TechSmith Corporation , specializing in helping trainers to create effective training materials.