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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Selling Social Media for Learning: ASTD Big Question

This month's ASTD Learning Circuit's Blog Big Question is "How do I communicate the value of social media as a learning tool to my organization?"

Here are several ways to help sell Social Media in an organization.

Address a Business Need
The most important element in communicating the value of Social Media is to solve a pressing business need. If you try to sell the use of social media as a technology play, it will not work. Address the need to share knowledge over distances or the value of timely information to sales tactics, don't focus on the technology.

For example, if an organization is having trouble keeping training manuals up-to-date or keeping SOPs up-to-date and tracking changes and referencing older versions of the documentation, a wiki is a perfect tool In fact, one company saved over a million dollars by transferring their three-ring binder training manuals to a wiki and the wiki is used more than the old manuals were.

If you have scientists and engineers working across geographic boundaries in isolation and knowledge of what they are doing within the organization is limited, consider having them establish blogs to share their insights and ideas. Focus on the business need and the technology will follow.

Consider the Organizational Culture
Cultural influences in terms of sharing  information openly is more important than the technology. An atmosphere of sharing is required for Social Media to be adopted. If people feel they will be punished or “get in trouble” for postings, Social Media will not work within the organization. People don't share business insights, innovations and concepts just because technology is available, they share because they feel everyone is working toward a common goal. If that feeling doesn't exist, social media won't work as a productivity enhancement tool.

Point to Case Studies
The case studies for Pfizerpedia or Intellipedia are great examples of how social media can work in highly regulated industries. Check out the use of social media by the US State Department, Wachovia Bank now part of Citigroup and others in Pedia Palooza and see many examples of how Social Media can be valuable.

Instead of social media call it "Knowledge Media." Names seem to matter and sometimes Knowledge Media has more traction than social media as a term within the organization.

Follow the "Diffusion of Innovations" process"
This process, described by Everett M. Roger outlines how a technology "takes off" within a social system. Read about Diffusions of Innovations. Roger's also talks about the technology adoption continuum which will help position social media within the organization. Also understanding how to sell technology to different groups within the organisation such as techies and visionaries versus pragmatists, conservatives and skeptics is important as well. Learn about that in Selling to Visionaries and Techies.

Follow Lessons Learned by Others
Lessons learned from others like, "don't start with a blank slate" and "seek contributors early" will help position the social media appropriately. Check out these lessons learned for helping with the implementation of social media within an organization from the post Web 2.0 Lessons Learned.

Position Social Media Differently Than It's Intended Use
For example, the Twitter question is "What are you doing?" Most knowledge workers, when hard at work, don't care what others are doing. But they do care about what others are thinking. The question should be "What you are thinking?" or "What problem are you trying to solve?" or "Can anyone help me...?" Reposition the use of something like Twitter to be a productivity tool, not a social networking tool. Position it as an extended, continuously-on call network of individuals within an organization who can help each other by having access to the thoughts, ideas and mentoring of the knowledge workers within the organization.

Have an Orientation Session
While many of the Social Media tools seem intuitive and familiar to just about everyone, some employees will need to be oriented to Social Media in face-to-face sessions. Providing up-front assistance and training is essential for the majority of employees to adopt. A small group will adopt irregardless of training but others will need some sort of training to become familiar with the tools just like we had browser and mouse training back in the day. Here is a link called Blogging to Learn, Learning to Blog that describes some things to cover when orienting someone who is going to become a blogger. For additional adoptions tips, here is a link to a  few ideas for adoption of social media within an organization.

Make Sure Stakeholders Understand the Potential Business Uses of the Technology
My blog Tech Dimensions contains a series of posts about how blogs, wikis, RSS, Twitter, and other Social Media tools can be used to address business needs.

Don't Tell Anyone, Just Start Using It
Sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission. Start using social media tools without fanfare to address your needs and others may follow...just don't tell them they are social media tools...maybe you use them to communicate or post information (this relates a little to some earlier ideas.)

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1 comment:

Ranelle said...

I agree that you should not refer to Social Media as such since that name now has a bad reputation among resisters. Instead, call it Social Learning tools (you referred to it as Knowledge Media). In training, the term 'social learning' has been around for a long time and has a good reputation. It's also easily recognizable and relatable to those in the workplace learning and performance industry.