Discussions on social media often focus on how to use it to market a business and connect with customers. But one key benefit of social media that is often overlooked is how to use it as a tool for learning and knowledge sharing.
A new book by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner entitled “The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media” focuses on how businesses and organizations can use social media for learning. The learning component of social media can help businesses communicate and interact with external stakeholders (customers, partners, suppliers, industry practitioners, even competitors) as well as within the internal organization such as employees.
When I talk about social media to other small business owners, many are still skeptical about what it can contribute to their businesses. In fact, some of the comments posted in one of the most popular Webmaster forum highlight the lack of understanding of the true power of social media, especially when viewed from the perspective of learning and what it can bring to their tables:
“You’ll never see me on FB or Twitter. I’d rather spend my time doing something important.”
“I’m an individual, unique, just like everyone else…I don’t want to be part of pseudo communities.”
I wish these guys could read this new book :o)
What I like about the book is that it helps you understand how you can use social media to build on your knowledge, not just as a way to market a business or get clicks from the links shared. According to the authors, micro blogging platforms such as Twitter, for example, are not just an “ego massaging, social networking time drain.” There are a number of ways you can use it for learning within and outside your organization, such as:
- Posting “can you help me” questions, whether requests for information, customer service help, advice and feedback
- “What are you learning information” such as tweets made during a conference where attendees talk about what is being said in the conference and what they are learning. You don’t even have to attend the conference to get a sneak peak of all the information being discussed!
- “How can I excel here” types of questions, which is all about sharing information within the company and learning what practices have been vetted and how they can get ahead quickly
- “How does this work questions” for those trying to do something new and someone has already tried it. I posted a tweet before on how should I set up my Facebook page for PowerHomeBiz and got tons of very useful tips – quickly!
- “How Am I doing questions” can provide immediate feedback that can help you improve right away and correct your mistakes.
“The New Social Learning” book offers a broader understanding of social media, and I hope all small business owners will see and understand the power of collective thinking and having a platform to interact with other individuals instantaneously. What can be more powerful than asking a question, then minutes later getting informed responses from others – for free!
The book offers real life examples and case studies on how big businesses are using social media and its various tools – from blogs to wikis to videos to microsharing – to share information, learn and interact with others.
It is not a book on how to use Twitter or Facebook to market your business. Rather, it is a guide for deciphering how you can tap the collective knowledge of a group and bring back what you learn to your business.
For skeptics of social media — and there are many such as those in the forum I mentioned — the book offers suggestions on how you can overcome your skepticism about how social media can help you. Examples of these objections include:
- “I have too much to say.” Practice how to get your message as concise as possible. Through practice you’ll eventually get better in writing clear and concise
- “I don’t have time.” It only takes about 2 minutes to compose a tweet. What can you do in two minutes? That’s 2 minutes you can be learning and sharing information.
The book focuses more on big organizations, and you may find some sections not relevant to you (e.g. how to use intranet environments for social media in order to build more camaraderie among employees).
But there’s a lot of takeaways as well for mom and pop operations, one person businesses and work at home entrepreneurs – foremost of which is to stop thinking that social media is only for getting traffic, but also for improving yourself and learning from others. Social media can be a way for you and your business to grow, communicate better and learn from the bigger community of possibly like-minded individuals – quickly and for free.