Social “runaround”

Last year I facilitated a session for our IT field teams on communication and sharing. As my session was after lunch and I risked the wrath of what an ex colleague of mine called “pudding hour” I knew I would need something energetic to prevent the group from dozing off in front of me! I used the concept of a children’s TV game “Runaround” to identify who in the group had a social networking account of some sort and how many were active users.

I can’t remember the exact details of the game but the basis is that the host asks a question and there are a number of answers. The contestants run to the answer of their choice and those that choose the winning answer collect a ball. The contestant with the most balls passes through to the next stage.

Well there were no balls on the day and no prizes. The question was simply “do you network online?” The answers located in each corner of the room were:
1) I don’t have an online account
2) I have an online account but I don’t use it
3) I have one or more online accounts and I look at or contribute to them at least monthly
4) I have one or more online accounts and I look at or contribute to at least one of these weekly

The aim was to split the group into two and identify the ‘challenges’ and the ‘benefits’ of being social online. I wanted to find out what people gained from participating in online communities and what prevented others from having an online presence.

Whilst the pace at which my colleagues ‘ran’ around the room made me consider renaming my version to “stroll around” I ended up with at least one person in every corner which meant I could split the group into two. I asked the group that were using social networking tools at least weekly to share the benefits they had experienced through networking online. I asked the other group who were much less or not at all active to share the reasons why they didn’t engage with this type of online activity; what were their issues or challenges.

The discussions focussed predominately around using social networking at a personal level and surprisingly they got a little heated at some points as both groups put forward their reasons for being or not being active in an online community of some sort.

I collated their points and reviewed the challenges and benefits in line with business communications and networking. I informed the group that my team and I were using a tool called Chatter to stay in touch and share knowledge and content with each other in the absence of access to business systems. I encouraged the groups to start thinking about the potential gains if we were all active in this one community. How could business communication, networking and knowledge sharing be improved without overloading the ole inbox!

Chatter is similar to other tools. You can access it online at chatter.com; users can install a desktop version (if their IT setup allows this); you can install an iPad version plus there is an app for the iPhone, android and Blackberry.

At the end of the session I sent everyone in the workshop (approx 30) a link to sign up to Chatter and told them to look out for the #chatterhowto tag which I set up to offer getting started guidance plus tips.

That session was in August 2011. Shortly afterwards the whole department was invited to join in and fairly quickly we had approx 80 staff in the community with regular content being posted and shared. This online community opened up a new communication channel for staff based at head office and out in the field to stay in touch. I started communicating with people that I hadn’t had a conversation with before the workshop session. I see the teams creating groups and sharing with each other. Feedback from the community is positive and the ability to access the content from a mobile device and the desktop makes it far more accessible.

It is almost a year since I ran this session and through word of mouth and other interactions the community continues to grow. We now have the CEO and leaders across the organisation signed up to the site. Some are actively engaged and contributing. Many are lurking. The lurkers may not have found the confidence to post their own content or comments yet but they are talking about the community and the content being posted by others which is start!

Some of the benefits I’ve seen to date include:

Collaboration and knowledge sharing:
People openly sharing content and posting comments.

Engagement:
Directors posting from conferences allowing others to comment and raise questions in real time.
Questions being posted to generate discussion.

Overcoming challenges and turning them into benefits:
People that were very against it in the workshop session a year ago giving it a go. One called me a few weeks after the workshop and said “you know, you were right. I’ve found some really useful content on LinkedIn that I am now sharing with the team”.

Communication across boundaries:
Being able to communicate and interact with others regardless of position and across geographic boundaries.

What benefits are you seeing from the use of online communities in your organisation/business?

Getting started with Twitter

Image of Shakespeare deciding at the computer to blog or not to blogTo blog or not to blog… 

After much deliberation I have decided to use this blog to document my learning technologies journey and share both my learning and the challenges I face.

After attending the Learning Technologies Conference in January this year I decided that 2011 was the time for me to stop thinking about SoMe technologies and to start using them!  Following an inspiring session with  Craig Taylor I took advantage of the free desk calendar he gave out and committed myself to trying out at least one SoMe technology per month. 

January 2011 – Craig’s tip – get started with Twitter
Whilst I already had a Twitter account, TuppyMagic I hadn’t really used it other than to learn how to tweet and send a direct message with a couple of colleagues Sue Fredson (@azzadays) and Jan Cowell (@geordiecow).  I am not sure any of us would have selected the code names had we realised at the time how much potenial Twitter would offer us to network with other professionals in our field and be part of a community committed to sharing good advice and resources.

In the same month I received an email from Alison.com recommending a free online Twitter course. Within minutes I realised where I was going wrong – I needed to build up my followers to make Twitter work!  Craig gave some really good advice – follow the people I follow and some will follow you back.  I am now following over 200 people and have just over 80 followers. 

My main learning points: View user profiles to choose people that you want to follow.  Spend time building up your followers; in many cases (unless they are a celeb!) they will follow you back.  If anyone mentions you in a tweet this is listed in the @mentions tab.  If you want to send a private (direct message) to a someone you follow they need to be following you. 

My main challenges: I don’t work in an office everyday so am not always sat at a PC when working.  I am living in rented accomodation temporarily so don’t have a broadband line or wifi access at home and at the time of taking the Twitter plunge didn’t have a smart phone.  My access was restricted to a 3G connection via a shared laptop that my partner needed for study.  This resulted in irregular and inflexible access to Twitter which was more than frustrating. 

Overcoming my barriers: In February 2011 I placed an order for an iphone.  Since then I haven’t looked back! With my iphone in hand access to Twitter and being able to Tweet/Retweet is at my fingertips!! 

The next challenge…getting to grips with the iphone!!!!!!  This is where February 2011, Craig’s recommendation, You Tube comes in handy – I’ll share that journey in my next blog now that I have finally taken the plunge!