Posted tagged ‘web 2.0’

Social media: Prevention is better than cure

1 June 2010

My previous article, Social media: It’s not about the technology!, focused on the internal use of social media by employees to import and share knowledge inside the organisation.

This article shifts its focus to the external use of social media by employees to export knowledge outside of the organisation.

Traditionally this is called marketing, customer service or public relations. From a learning perspective, it might also be called educating your customers.

The big bad wolf

I think it’s fair to say that some companies still have a phobia about social media. Their fears are eloquently illustrated by Mark Smiciklas…

Social Media Phobias for Business

…who in turn was inspired by Social Media Today’s article The Top Six Reasons Companies are Still Scared of Social Media.

Only recently an acquaintance of mine asked me:

What if someone says something negative about the company?

If you are wondering the same thing, allow me to ask three questions of my own:

Does your company rely on the generosity of its former employees?
Does your company rely on the ethics of its competitors?
Does your company rely on the benevolence of the general public?

If you answered “no” to these questions, but you don’t participate in the social media space, then I’m sorry to say that you are fooling yourself.

A whole bunch of people probably are saying something negative about your company – you just don’t know about it!

A complaint is a gift

The best service providers around the world make it really easy for customers to lodge complaints.

Instead of viewing complaint management as a cost, they see it as a priceless opportunity to fix problems, retain existing customers, and even win over new ones.

It shows transparency, responsiveness and accountability.

Doing nothing is not an option

Child covering eyesRemember when you were a kid and you thought that by covering your eyes, no one could see you?

That’s what your company is doing if it doesn’t participate in external social media. You can choose to hear no evil, see no evil, but it will still be seen and heard by everyone else.

Reclaim control over your own brand by joining the conversation. Have your say. Defend yourself. Counter disinformation. Be heard.

At the same time, embrace the opportunity to engage with your customers. Listen to them. Ask them questions. Invite their feedback. Fix their problems. Service their needs. Knock their socks off.

If you don’t, what’s the worst that could happen?

I’ll refer this question to United Airlines…

Yep, that little ditty has attracted over 8 million views so far.

But it’s not just the clever memes you should worry about. It’s also the long tail of boring, low profile gripes that fester unanswered.

I’ve changed my mind about a restaurant or an online shop plenty of times because of negative comments about them on the web.

Three things you can do

These days, you can’t ignore the phenomenon that is social media. It’s far too popular for that.

So why not use some brain power and leverage it to your advantage?

Here are three things you can do:

1. Scan the social media space and respond to gripes against your company.

Don’t fight your customers. Help them.

2. Go a step further and create an alternative channel in which your customers can voice a complaint.

If a particular demographic of your customer base is hooked on social media, why not provide a Twitter presence or a Facebook page or a discussion forum in which to attract, contain and manage the discourse?

Old phone covered by a cobwebSeriously: how many of your customers will go to the trouble of finding the phone number of your call centre, navigate through your infuriating IVR, wait on hold for 15 minutes while listening to your inane music (or worse, ads), then explain their problem umpteen times as they get flick passed around the office.

Have you called your own call centre lately?

3. When someone does complain, nip it in the bud by responding immediately and appropriately.

Fix the problem rather than try to wriggle out of it.

Never give anyone the moral authority to go all out with a “United Breaks Guitars” style of complaint. That behaviour indicates exasperation on the part of the customer, which means it’s your fault.

If, however, it does happen, then respond to it in the very same forum. IMHO, United’s final mistake in the whole sorry saga was to fail to post a comment on YouTube saying something to the effect of: we are seriously concerned about your allegation, it doesn’t reflect our corporate values, we are investigating it immediately, and can you please contact us via x so that we can get more details from you.

I’d rather 8 million people saw that.

The moral of the story

A wise and handsome man once said, “If a man punches you in the face, you may sue him in court; but you will still have a broken nose.”

Everyone knows prevention is better than cure.


Social media: It’s not about the technology!

4 May 2010

As an enterprise, Acme Corporation is “dipping its toes” into social media. It might be said it’s adopting a cautious, almost experimental approach to the concept.

While the organisation has invested in social technology, and maybe even documented a social media policy, the majority of its social media activity is driven from the bottom up.

In other words, usage of social media within the organisation relies heavily on grass-roots support and viral marketing among its rank-and-file employees.

Does this sound like your workplace?

If so, what does it mean?

In a nutshell, it means you still have plenty of scope to increase your social media activity and realise the corresponding benefits of collaboration, engagement and informal learning.

Take it to the next level

So what does your organisation need to do to take social media to the next level?

To help answer this question, I’ve decided to share 10 insights about workplace social media from a practising learning & development professional in the corporate sector (ie yours truly).

Disclaimer: These insights are not the result of any scientific analysis. Instead, they are the result of observation, conversation, experience, gut instinct, self-important opinion, and general naivety.

1. Field Of Dreams was just a movie.

Just because you build it, doesn’t necessarily mean they will come.


2. Some of your employees will take to social media like ducks to water.

They will be the local champions who celebrate the concept of social media, participate avidly, and engage in true collaboration.

Rubber duck

3. Some of your employees are not team players.

Sure, they know the right words to say, and the bare minimum to be seen to be doing, but that’s about as far as it goes.

You will never force these people to collaborate. Sorry.

Dead rubber ducky

4. Not everyone who shies away from social media is a lone wolf.

Numerous reasons might explain their lack of participation, such as:

•  scared of technology
•  too shy to voice an opinion
•  wary of looking silly in front of the whole company
•  too many tools and whizz-bang gadgets to keep track of
•  legal implications
•  security implications
•  too busy

The question you need to ask yourself is: How many of these reasons are legitimate (which means they can be addressed), and how many are excuses that mask deeper problems?


5. A grass-roots, bottom-up approach will only get you so far.

While plenty of organisations have invested in social technology, and some have even documented social media policies, most corporate social media activity appears to be driven from the bottom up.

To achieve the critical mass of users and ongoing participation rate required for ROI, you need to adopt a complementary top-down approach.

The sustained support of — and participation by — senior executives is essential. They must lead by example.

Rubber ducky wearing a tie

6. The fear of overstepping your authority is a natural inhibitor.

The company should state explicitly what its employees can and can’t do on both internal and external social media, preferably via a formal policy.

Otherwise many employees will err on the side of caution, which may mean refusing to participate.


7. A decentralised model of implementation may not be effective.

If the managers in your workplace don’t implement social media on their own accord, you might need to change the structure and processes of your organisation to make it happen.

Specifically, someone needs to own it. This may mean appointing a Social Media Manager to centralise the authority, engage with the right people, and drive real outcomes.

The Social Media Manager will need to exhibit that rare combination of determination and creativity to overcome the multitude of reasons why it can’t work, and instead focus on how it can.

Light bulb

8. Banning social media is a double-edged sword.

If you block access to social media frivolity, you also block access to useful resources.

Of course, personal mobile devices can circumvent the company’s access policy anyway.


9. Self-regulation can be effective.

That’s not to say that no one will ever abuse their privileges, but again, a good social media policy will define the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

Most people will follow suit.

Smiley Face

10. No one else cares.

If your organisation doesn’t embrace social media, the Earth will still turn without you.

If your employees don’t want to collaborate, participate and learn, that’s your problem.

Planet Earth

Organisational culture

In summary, the potential of social media is not about the technology. It’s about culture.

To maximise the value of the available tools and platforms, your employees must want to be collaborative; your managers must want to try something new to achieve greater success; your company must be proactive.

If this doesn’t sound like your culture, your competitors won’t mind at all.

Reflections of LearnX 2009 – Day 1

3 April 2009

I attended the annual LearnX Asia Pacific conference this week at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour on a dreary April morning.

While the weather was dreary, I found the sessions topical and thought provoking. Below I’ve shared some of the key messages that I drew from Day 1…

5 pm 3, courtesy of getwired, stock.xchng.The Magic of Speed Thinking: Ken Hudson, Director of The Speed Thinking Zone, kicked off proceedings with a keynote address about working smarter, not harder. Ken’s central theme is that being able to think faster and better can help us unlock ideas and improve our productivity. Maintaining that “our brain works better when our bodies are moving”, Ken got everyone in the room to participate in a few ice-breaker activities involving coin catching and brainstorming answers to pop questions. I must admit, it lifted the energy of the room. Ken then introduced a 9-circle template with the question “In these tough economic times, why should we invest more into training?” – and asked us to list 9 possibilities in 2 minutes. The idea isn’t necessarily to achieve a full gamut of answers, but to get the party started quickly. I think Ken’s ideas have real potential for expediting meetings and stimulating brainstorming sessions, but I still think that careful thought and deep reflection are necessary follow-ups. For more information about speed thinking, visit Ken’s website and refer to his book The Idea Generator.

Teamwork 2, courtesy of svilen001, stock.xchng.Bringing Generations Together through Collaboration and Informal Learning: Faith Legendre, Senior Global Consultant at Cisco WebEx, provided the audience with a synopsis of our 4 major generations today (Generation Vet, Boomers, Gen Y & Gen X), and an overview of their changing learning styles over time (push to pull, formal to informal, comprehensive to nibblets, and physical classes to online). While Faith recognised that generational attributes are widely disputed (eg online habits are not defined by age but by exposure to emerging technology), her key message is that people across all generations are using technology today to bridge gaps and collaborate. Faith also highlighted the technology collaboration community at Cisco Community Central.

Business or education, courtesy of lockstockb, stock.xchng.How to capture evaluation data to prevent costly e-learning deployment failures: Susan Pepper, Managing Director of the ROI Institute of Australia, reinforced the need for rigorous evaluation to ensure the success of e‑learning. Susan adheres to 5 levels of feedback, comprising Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation, plus the calculation of return on investment (ROI). Susan also recommends that evaluation data be collected not only post implementation, but also during implementation to remedy any problems as they arise. Another key message is that e-learning programs require thorough planning, particularly to determine the organisation’s need, which in turn should inform the objectives of the solution.

Palmtop Series 1, courtesy of bizior, stock.xchng.Learning without boundaries: Ben Saunders, Business Analyst Consultant at HCS, provided us with a comprehensive overview of m‑learning. While pointing out that m-learning started as far back as 3000BC when the Sumerians carved out text onto portable stone tablets, Ben recognises that the increasing sophistication and decreasing cost of mobile devices (eg smart phones) are making m-learning more relevant today. Ben categorises the limitations of m‑learning under three major banners: hardware (screen size, usability, information security), software (multiple operating systems, unsupported file formats, SCORM compliance) and culture (work/life balance and the digital divide). However, he also notes that learners are already using mobile technologies in their general day-to-day activities, leading them to expect to do likewise for education.

Talking2, courtesy of len-k-a, stock.xchng.Extending your reach: Learning at a distance: Glen Hansen, National L&D Manager at Employment Plus, shared his organisation’s experience of using web conferencing to transition from traditional face-to-face learning delivery to a blended model. While the transition period was challenging (learning curve, lost skills through staff turnover), Glen cites significant benefits, such as: enhanced collaboration, enablement of JIT learning, consistency of message and reduced single point sensitivity. Glen also shares some practical tips for webconferencing, such as: conduct a needs analysis before launching web conferencing, trial potential software prior to selection, enquire whether the provider includes training in their package, appoint a moderator to support the facilitator during sessions, freeze the webcam to save bandwidth, use plenty of graphics, and provide opportunities for the learners to interact with one another. Glen also recommends The eLearning Guild’s Handbook on Synchronous e‑Learning.

Shaking hands, courtesy of acerin, stock.xchng.Selling e-learning to your clients: A culture change approach: I must admit that I felt like I had walked into the wrong session, as Ingrid Karlaftis, National Account Executive at Catapult E-Learning, adopted the vendor’s perspective of selling an e-learning solution to an organisation. However, I think Ingrid’s key messages can help e-learning practitioners within organisations, especially when implementing a project or major initiative. For example: never over promise and under deliver, work hand-in-hand with your clients along the journey, identify the needs of each team across the business (they will be different!), promote the notion of “one community”, train the trainer, maintain your transparency, provide constant support, measure and report.

Singer 4, courtesy of scottsnyde, stock.xchng.Professional Audio – The Key to Effective E-Learning: This was a shameless sales pitch, but to be fair, the presenters didn’t pretend otherwise. Adam Morgan and his crew promoted the advantages of employing professional actors (rather than “Tim from Accounts”) to produce the voiceovers in your e-learning courseware. Why? Because actors are better skilled at engaging your audience. Adam has a point in that an outfit like Voiceoversonthenet can cater for different audiences through variables such as accent, tone, gender and pace. So should you use an actor? Well that’s up to you.

Learning Leaders Panel: The final session on Day 1 was a facilitated discussion about building talent and learning anytime, anywhere, at any pace. Among the topics discussed: Bob Spence observed that informal learning relies on trust that the material being learned is worthwhile; Rob Wilkins shared his view that the feudal management system of a typical corporation inhibits its use of social media for learning; Anne Moore suggested that organisations need to become more like Gen-Y’s to support the next generation of employees who will lead us beyond the GFC; John Clifford informed us that every Telstra field technician has a laptop and a mobile device to enable e-learning on the road; Ann Quach recommended that we focus on content, then its mode of delivery (avoid using a blog or wiki just because it’s the latest fad); and Wendy John reminded us to empower staff to learn when they need to, otherwise engagement will be low and the experience will be a waste of time.

Stay tuned for an overview of Day 2…!

Workplace learning in 10 years

24 March 2009

The Learning Circuits Big QuestionThe Learning Circuits Big Question for this month is:

If you peer inside an organization in 10 years time and you look at how workplace learning is being supported by that organization, what will you see?

To answer this question, I’ve organised my own two cents’ worth under six major banners…

1. The responsibility for e-learning development will decentralise across the organisation.

In 10 years’ time, I believe organisations will rely less on external development houses to produce e-learning solutions, and instead bring more – if not all – of it in-house.

Of course this is already happening; however, it’s usually associated with the appointment of a specialist “E-Learning Team”. While such a team may fill a gap in the short term, it’s akin to appointing a Photocopier Operating Team, a Word Document Authoring Team, a Google Searching Team and an Email Sending Team. While all of these technologies were novel at one time or another, everyone has since learned to integrate them into their day-to-day activities.

E-Learning development should be no different. My view is that it’s unsustainable for a specialised E-Learning Team to remain responsible, in the long term, for developing all of the e-learning solutions for everyone in the organisation. Soon enough they’ll get swamped, their turn-around times will lag, and their colleagues will start to say silly things like “e-learning doesn’t work”.

It makes more sense to me to train the organisation’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in rapid e-learning authoring. Then, whenever a learning need arises, the SME has both the knowledge and the skills to develop their own e-learning solution, quickly and effectively.

Hand Work 1, courtesy of jmark, stock.xchng.

Sure, the interactivity of the e-learning that is produced by the SMEs will take a short-term hit. However, that should change over time as their confidence and experience grows with using these tools. I’m sure you’re better with Word now than when you first started?

Of course, the support and guidance of qualified e-learning coaches will be crucial during this transition period.

2. E-Learning will shift from instructivism towards constructivism and connectivism.

In a previous article, I said that workplace learning has thankfully become more constructivist and even connectivist over time. I think in 10 years’ time it will be even more so.

A driver of this shift will be people power. As staff familiarise themselves with blogs, wikis, RSS, YouTube and Twitter, and as more tech-savvy Gen-Y’s & Z’s join the organisation, the demand for self-paced, self-directed learning will accelerate.

Conquer the world 1, courtesy of Mart1n, stock.xchng.

Couple that with the increasing demand for e-learning more generally across the organisation, and no one will be able to afford the time and effort to prepare perfectly pre-defined, pre-packaged content for all occasions. Something’s gotta give; open it up to Web 2.0.

I still maintain that instructivism will remain relevant in the digital age. However, with less hand holding from a “teacher”, meta‑learning (or learning how to learn) will become an increasingly important skill set.

3. Staff will collaborate and share knowledge.

The shift towards constructivism and connectivism will demand organisation-wide collaboration and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, facilitated by blogs, wikis, discussion forums and other online media.

Toplaps, courtesy of ugaldew, stock.xchng.

Single-point sensitive gurus are a liability; everyone has the obligation to share their knowledge with everyone else. This might seem a lofty or even altruistic notion, but the principles of Wikinomics tell us that the organisations whose staff don’t do this won’t be able to compete effectively in the marketplace.

This shift will be accompanied by formal acknowledgements of informal learning. Sure, you can learn something anywhere, but the organisation still needs to be confident of your capability. Insert summative online assessments here.

4. Learning will be fully networked.

As the virtual workplace gains in popularity, more and more people will be working from home, in different cities and different countries.

Virtual classrooms will be the norm for centralising everyone in the one space, while emerging technologies such as virtual worlds and holograms will also bridge the geographical divide.

5. M-Learning will be popular.

Ragan reported recently that only 10% of Americans use their cell phones to access the web daily. My gut tells me this statistic is reflected right across the corporate sector.

Palmtop Series 1, courtesy of bizior, stock.xchng.

However, advances in mobile technology and connectivity, coupled with the business world’s shift towards cloud computing, will eventually render the cell phone an indispensable learning and working tool.

Why? Because everything will be online. Why wouldn’t you use your phone to get it if you needed it?!

6. E-Learning will be smart.

Finally, while many technological advances will continue to improve knowledge distribution, it’s on another plane to personalise it so that it’s relevant to the individual learner. I think we’re just seeing the beginnings of artificial intelligence and the dawn of the semantic web.

So, do you agree with my predictions?

How do you see workplace learning in 10 years’ time?

A refreshing perspective of Web 2.0

12 February 2009

Today I watched this 6-minute video clip from MyRaganTV, in which Jim Davis, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of SAS, talks about that company’s approach to Web 2.0.

I think Jim maintains a refreshing perspective of Web 2.0 in the corporate sector. SAS doesn’t just talk about transparency, integrity and collaboration: they breathe life into these principles through their application and approach to internal blogs, customer blogs and external social media.

Shouldn’t more companies follow SAS’s lead?

Iconoclasm 2.0

1 February 2009

I’ve been seeing a lot more social media icons on websites these days, and you may have noticed that I’ve recently added a few to this blog.

Add this blog to your Technorati favoritesWhy? Well, I figure that if I’m serious about the use of social media for collaborative learning and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, then I should do what I can to encourage participation.

However, not everyone shares my view. Steven Bradley provides an enjoyable review of some of the negative sentiment out there that’s brooding over social media icons. Like most things in life, this new iconoclasm can be divided into themes of quality and quantity.

Post this blog to FacebookQuality

One of the points raised by the brooders is that the addition of social media icons to your blog won’t increase your readership if the quality of your content is poor. Too true, but I think this line of argument misses the point.

I’m sure most bloggers feel they have an important message to tell; that’s why they invest their time, energy and emotion in blogging in the first place. Isn’t it natural for them to want to spread their message? Social media can help them do that.

Tag this blog on del.icio.usSure, good content will be bookmarked and shared regardless of the presence or absence of icons, but only if it’s read in the first place! Blogs with a small readership aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just struggling to make their mark. Social media provides them with an opportunity for promotion.

So my point is: Social media icons won’t increase your readership if the quality of your content is poor, but they can if it’s good.

StumbleUpon this blogQuantity

Another line adopted by the brooders is that social media icons are just plain annoying. Again, I agree to the extent that no one likes seeing millions of icons littering the screen. They’re an eyesore.

However, I don’t agree that the icons serve no purpose and should all be removed. Steven Bradley observed “most people who are familiar with social media probably know how to submit your posts, but why not help them along by making it easier for them”. In other words, you can copy the URL of my cool blog, log into your favourite social media site, post the link, and key in all the other necessary details – or you can click this button.

From this perspective, then, adding social media icons to your blog may be considered a professional courtesy.

So if social media icons are useful (even for superusers), but too many are an eyesore, the solution is to use only a few of them. You could pick your favourites or the Top 5 most popular, or you could use a service such as AddThis to umbrella many of them under the one icon.

Applying the learnings

Do I practice what I preach? I think so.

Tweet about this blog on TwitterFirst of all, I do my best to maintain the quality of my blog. I don’t post anything willy nilly – I use Twitter for that! Rather, when I blog, I make a conscious effort to add fresh insight into my topic of interest and to extract applications for the real world. (You can be the judge of that.)

Secondly, yes, I want to spread my message. At the very least, I think it’s worth sharing, so I’ve added a couple of icons to assist the sharing process. It’s not about vanity, believe it or not: it’s about participating in a community of practice.

So I haven’t added millions of icons: just two via AddThis (along with the ubiquitous RSS feed). These catch-all icons allow me to provide access to dozens of popular social media sites without having to list each and every one up front. It’s not only quicker to code, but also easier on the eye.

Why do I have two AddThis icons? Because I want to emphasise the difference between bookmarking and sharing. Yes, both icons go to the same place, but I’m hoping that my readers will do so for dual reasons.

Digg this blogYou’ll notice that I’ve haven’t added the icons to my individual articles – except this one! While I realise there’s a difference between sharing a whole blog and sharing a specific article on that blog, I’m wary of overkill.

Finally, I’ve added a few extra icons on my About me page. In this case, I haven’t used AddThis because only a few social media are relevant to me.

Furthermore, you won’t find any links to my Flickr photos or my Amazon wishlist, because my blog isn’t actually about me per se. It’s about my (modest) contributions to the e‑learning community.

P.S. Please feel free to bookmark and share this blog. Go on, you know you want to!

Bookmark this blog on social media

Share this blog via social media

P.P.S. The cool icons decorating this article were created by

E-Learning challenges in vocational education

5 December 2008

Yesterday I participated in an enterprise discussion panel at the eLearning08 conference in Sydney. Topics under discussion were the emerging issues and key challenges facing e-learning in the vocational education sector.

James Dellow, Kate Carruthers, Catherine Eibner & Ryan Tracey on the Enterprise Panel at eLearning08, courtesy of rosao, Flickr.

The discussion was facilitated by Kate Carruthers (CEO, Digital Business Group), and my fellow panellists were James Dellow (Consultant, Chief Technology Solutions) and Catherine Eibner (Dynamics Developer Evangelist, Microsoft Australia).

Our role was to share our perspectives of e-learning in the industry sector with the conference delegates, hopefully sharing some knowledge, experiences and ideas that can cross over into vocational education.

Emerging issues

For me, one of the major emerging issues in both sectors is the rise of Web 2.0. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, blogs, wikis and other social media have shifted the role of the learner from a mere recipient of content, to an active participant in the production of content.

Likewise, Web 2.0 has shifted the role of the teacher from an authoritarian transmitter of content, to a facilitator of content exploration and generation. Sure, the teacher can remain the “expert” in their field, but their role today is not so much to tell you what’s what, but to guide, coach, mentor and assist you in using the tools at your disposal to find out for yourself and to share your own ideas.


Three of the challenges that resonated with me during the discussion were: computer literacy (or lack thereof), assessment difficulties and information overload.

Companies and vocational education institutions share the challenge of a diverse target audience, particularly in terms of computer literacy. This tends to (but does not always) correlate with age. For example, more and more recruits into companies are being drawn from Generation Y, whose members are typically familiar with the Internet and happily use it in their everyday lives. In contrast, many of us among the existing staff base may never have heard of podcasting, don’t have a clue what Facebook is, and are totally mystified by the concept of a “wiki”.

A similar situation is experienced by vocational education institutions, which draw their students from all walks of life. Teachers also find themselves in this predicament: how can you use e-learning to its full potential if you don’t have the practical skills?

Assessment via e-learning presents other challenges. For example, can you effectively assess a skill like repairing a fuel pump remotely? Can you be confident in an online learner’s competency more generally? How do you even know the right person is undertaking the assessment?

With so many e-learning tools and technologies available to us today, and with it all changing so rapidly, how can we keep a handle on it all? We can’t spend our entire days reading endless news feeds and subscribing to a multitude of professional journals and magazines. After all, we have a job to do!

Further discussion

It’s clear that there are no single, simple solutions to these challenges, and any solution will depend heavily on context and circumstance. However, I’m sure we can learn plenty from each other and share some great ideas.

Please join the follow-up discussion at: