Getting Over The Social Media Wall

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(aka: Why I think if you work in L&D/OD you should be active on Social Media.)

So I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been in few conversations of late with folk who work in organisations and whose job seems to be about delivering/ improving people development or engagement or organisational culture. At the same time, I’m in conversations with those who are consultants, external experts, trainers, facilitators, coaches – folk who offer to design and deliver interventions for clients or into a client system.

And I keep bumping into some sort of Social Media Wall.

On one side of it, there are a community of practitioners who have embraced Social Media – they Tweet, Blog, their presentations are swoopingly Prezi-ed or eye dazzlingly Haiku Decked. They have TED talks at their finger tips, can crowd source ideas in under 10 minutes through Twitter and can tell you what the emerging live themes from a HR Conference in Austin, Texas seem to be. They know a MOOC from a Module and can discuss the benefits of either. They are in touch with practitioners from France, Romania, UAE South Africa, India, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada & the USA, with everyone in between. They carry chargers with them everywhere.

On the other side of the Wall, there are a community of practitioners who embrace networking on a face to face basis. They keep up to date by reading widely, meeting and talking with others, using the Web for research purposes. They go to conferences annually to understand and consider what is emerging in the field. They read publications that give news from the wider Profession. They are often widely connected and networked still, with the capacity to pull in new thinking through the virtue of who they know. They carry chargers with them most places (it’s universal issue).

Now before I go further – I’m not saying one is right or good or The Only Way is So-Me – I’m laying out what I think I see here. I am aware that I am making generalisations– work with me a little? For the purposes of the point, I need to work with a broad brush.

I think it is fair to say I’m firmly on the “Active” side of the social media wall. I tweet, blog on both WordPress and LinkedIn now; I’ve spoken about use-of-Social Media to groups of practioners; I’m up to my eyes in getting the L&D Connect Unconference going in Glasgow on 3rd October (shameless, unsubtle plug – welcome to Social Media) I’m working with “virtual” groups in organisations to build virtual networks and communities of practice…..

And so here is the thing… the thing that’s kind of scratching at me – I am increasingly having to translate some of the activities that seem so “normal” within my virtual, social world. As I speak about what I’m up to these days, I can find I’m talking to a wall of confusion ….. My high connectivity is leading to disconnect.
An example is when I say that I met someone “on Twitter” or “We were talking about this at the Connecting HR Tweet up in Manchester…” “Hold on – let me just Shazam this tune and download it on to Spotify to listen to later” or  “Is there a hashtag for this event?”

From those who are on The Other Side I get the impression I’m kind of: a) speaking a different language b) a little bit eccentric/ dangerously delusional c) have too much time on my hands.

And this perception might be fair enough – but I feel I should make The Case for My Sanity….

This is why I am active on Social Media.
This is my case for looking over here, if you are not already on this side of the Social Media Wall. (I am steadfastly ignoring the absurdity of writing this as a non-print blog, which will go out via Social Media to “virtually” well connected peers, friends and colleagues – I get the irony. I totally do).
This is my attempt to beguile or entice you to look again if you believe that this Social Stuff isn’t for you.
It’s my attempt to get you to think about what Social Media gives you, if you move to the other side.
Let’s see how we go.

Being part of a conversation
At the CIPD Scotland Conference in February this year, Jeff Turner Facebook Director of Learning & Development explained why they see social media as so crucial: “Our view? The conversation is happening, whether you are in it or not. Better to be in it than not”
Part of what brought me to Twitter in the first instance (and subsequently to read blogs from peers and people within my field….and then to write blogs) was the acknowledgement that there was an entire conversation, or actually many conversations, about the work I did, which I was entirely missing out on.

It was Jackie Cameron, of Consult Cameron in Edinburgh, who talked to me about Twitter and how she encouraged better use of Social Media wherever she could. She told me about blogging, about the information she gleaned from being on Twitter, how it had supported her and her business. Jackie was (and very much still is) a pioneer in this stuff. Without her nudging me forth, I may never have considered the virtual life of fuchsiablue…. or certainly I’d have been even later in adopting what has proved to be a rich rich source of information, friendship, client work and development of my thinking.

The point is this – one of the ways I feel I stay relevant is by plugging into and participating in the thinking and conversations that happen through Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus and (in my case to a lesser extent) Facebook. I have learned about Pecha Kuchas, Unconferences, Open Space facilitation, virtual communities and how they need care and attention just like 3 D ones….. I now know things, work with things, that as a freelancer who does not have the organisational support mechanisms for CPD I would have struggled to hear about.

The Time Issue
“I don’t have time to be wasting on Twitter and Linkedin Groups”
Fair enough to some extent…
I tell one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul type stories sometimes:
2 woodsmen get into a debate about who can chop the most logs in a day.
They get started and every hour or so one of them pops off for 5 minutes.
After 8 hours, they stand back and look at the volume of logs chopped. The chap who has worked tirelessly has chopped significantly fewer logs.
“how? How can that be?” he asks the other woodcutter “You kept taking a break”
“No. I wasn’t taking break. I was sharpening my axe”

I think you get the point. From my perspective, some time spent daily, weekly checking out what is happening, plugging into people and stuff that, when I have my head down, I would never notice, isn’t time wasted. It’s time invested.

The volume of stuff I have learned from my network..the resources, the shared knowledge and blogs; the new methods for running awaydays; the challenges to my thinking (is there such a thing as employee engagement? Do “Millennials” exist? DO we really always need a coaching culture?). The list is endless.

Perhaps this is why it can feel a little scary? Perhaps the sheer volume and noise and seeming complexity just seems overwhelming? I remember that feeling.
What I would say is persist. Find folk who use social media and ask them how they use it, why they use it, how they fit it in to their busy worklives.
Because it will help you stay sharp – stay relevant and knowledgeable – therefore it supports your employers, your staff, your clients, your peers.

The Organisational Issue
I also believe that, if you don’t plug into at least some of this stuff, your strategies for supporting good Learning, Talent or Development in your organisation are under threat. You could be being told or sold something that is not needed, or fit for purpose. I’ve seen Tech-baffle, we all have – the smoke n mirrors that go along with “virtual solutions” etc. It is arguable that, if you can’t really understand the potential and pros/ cons of Social Media, there will be an impact on the capability of your organisation.

Getting Back to The Wall
If you are dripping in Social Media jargon – Twittered up, fully Storified, hashtagged, Liked and +1’ed, with blog stats to die for, please remember to not scoff or sneer at those who aren’t directly in your wake? To be fair, most of the social media savvy folk I have met virtually and in real life are super friendly and want others to “get social” – but I’m well aware that my tweet ups and Google Hangout suggestions can leave some folk a little “huh?”
So let’s go slowly with each other.
And if you are loathe to embrace technology…if you are suspicious of a data-rich world or you get angry at the suggestion that face-to-face contact, propped up with a few calls/ emails might not be enough to illicit change or sustain the good things happening in your organisation… can I ask you to sit quietly with someone who will talk you through some of it? Just have a look. Get some orientation. See what is out there that might be interesting, or useful, or both…

It’s not going away, this social stuff….. time to find the low point in that wall & peer over.

I don’t believe use of social media is “the answer” – but then I don’t believe there is “an answer” to anything in the complex world we live and work in.
I don’t believe this stuff has to be tough or complex… I believe it takes a little confidence and practice.

But what I know to be true, for me, is that on the days inspiration just isn’t coming and I feel stuck, baffled or really disconnect – I can find conversations and information virtually which nourish, sustain and reconnect me.

Now… where are the ladders?

Contact fuchsiablue to find out more:

13 thoughts on “Getting Over The Social Media Wall

  1. What a great blog post Julie and one that resonates with me.

    Oh that wall. So many times I’ve tried to jump it, I’ve been on one side helping people jump over it and other days, I bang my head against it.

    Like you, I do believe that it’s our role as learning professionals to help our colleagues who haven’t experienced what we have so that they can come onboard. I remember the days when email first came out. Some people had emails, others didn’t. We had to fax or post letters or documents to them which was so annoyingly frustrating because we felt we were double handling the same information. We lamented, “oh if only, they’d get themselves an email account so they can receive the same information everyone else is getting!”

    Now for me, it’s “Oh, if only they’re on Twitter or LinkedIn or Yammer, so I can share this information. I’m NOT going to create a list of links and email this to them!”

    However, in my experience there have been the majority of people who did make that final move but it took a while and when they did, they too saw how easy it was. Maybe they created this fuss for nothing? But there are others – a small minority – who flatly refused to get onboard. Still to this day, I know some people who refuse to use social media or other social tools for their privacy or security or fear and will deliberately find ways to manage, filter, secure information so that they do not have to contribute or participate openly in any conversation. I am certain that this impacts their reputation, their role and contribution towards a collaborative workplace environment.

    What I’m seeing is that we don’t have the luxury of time anymore. Long delays in developing ourselves in new media will mean we just make ourselves redundant more quickly. The question must be asked – do you want to invest the time to develop and skill up or do you want to risk a life possible lack of future employability?

    I’m seeing it now in enterprise social networking forums where people are taking charge of their own learning; creating groups of communities where they share information, documents, videos, links, work out loud all seamlessly and easily without fuss – and guess what, Learning and Development is nowhere to be found. In fact, they’re not even role modelling or driving these behaviours to help people learn. This then puts themselves at risk because the gap between what they know and where the world is today grows bigger.

    I don’t have the answers and yes, there are many days when even social media overwhelms me and I wish we could go back to the simple days of the past. But at the same time, the future also excites me because never before have social tools put me into direct contact with others around the world who have fired up my thinking, who have given me a voice and who have allowed me to use critical thinking and reasoning and finally, allowed me to think creatively in my role.

    Thank you for your post. All the best with inspiring others on the social media journey and getting them over that wall they built themselves.

    • Thank you Helen – your points have really helped me to think further. I’m particularly enjoying the context you add and the e-mail comparison… it’s useful.

      Yes – some people will feel unwilling/ unable/ unmoved to use tech & Social Media – I have worked with people who wear their “Non-Tech” badge with pride and there are days (Wifi is sluggish, battery running low, my diary relies on me having a mysteriously named “device” on me, handbag cluttered with earphones and wires) when I have a LOT of sympathy and respect for that choice… and I”m pragmatic enough & like shiny new things enough that this couldn’t ever really be my choice.

      The punchy question for me, in what you wrote is the decision:
      Do I invest now to develop & skill up or take a risk – leading to a possible impact on my future employability?
      Never easy, I’d offer.

      I recognise the Overwhelm you describe and the excitement too – and the tension between these… but I guess that keeps us thoughtful and critically evaluative of what we see?

      Loving your insights on this topic & thank you for your twitter support.

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  3. Hi Jools. Top post this, loved it. Also found it really interesting that as someone who is in both camps so to speak at the moment it is fascinating. When I am ‘in the office’ with my client my social media habits morph to be in line with what you describe. I rarely tweet or check my feed, I don’t search for thinking or ideas when I am in that physical space. Stick me outside, like I am now, sat in a hotel in Leicestershire, even though I am working for the same client, here I am tweeting, commenting on blogs etc. it seems really habitual. If that is what I am experiencing, what may it be like for those that visit that environment every day. Hmmm, more pondering required. Thanks for getting me pondering 😀

    • Hiya – again, there is a great point in here about how our context, environment or our sense of social politeness, will alter our social media habits.
      I’m not an advocate about being “on Social” constantly… I do believe there is a time and a place and nothing but nothing but nothing beats genuine human interaction, for me….

      What I like is being able to dance on either side – be fully plugged in and virtual/ social and be fully plugged in and human/social.

      Keep pondering….

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  5. Thank you, Julie. This is a terrific invitation for those on the other side of the wall to have a look over and see what’s what. Just as importantly, I applaud your caution to those of us already there to be patient, humble and inviting — never scoffing and dismissive. Both sides willingness to peer over to the other side is exactly the right prescription.
    I hope you won’t mind if I blog about and link back to this: inthelearningage.com
    Cheers,
    –Ben

    • I don’t mind at all. I’m always honoured when my stuff get shared.
      Nice to “meet” you on here & thank you for commenting

  6. Nice blog Julie. I would like to extend the invitation to more than the folks in HR and OD, although I understand the context in which you have written this.

    When I read the blog a couple of days ago I was immediately reminded of my future life when I used to hanker for being on the periodical circulation list, look for interesting articles and would photocopy them and leave them on colleagues and bosses desks. Some welcomed it and positively encouraged it, and whilst others were not interested and either asked me to stop or just ignored my attempts at broadening their knowledge or challenging their assumptions.

    I often wondered why, and maybe its your metaphor of the wall, as to why.

    With the benefit of some hindsight and maybe a little more knowledge on my part I offer a couple of thoughts as to why the wall.

    Firstly, if we think about personality, then some of us are more curious than others, and some have a higher “conceptual” thinking and more open to new experiences.
    Secondly, I think some people are just happy to do what they do, do it as well as they can, but just not open to change what they do. Why should they, they have worked hard to get where they are, know that they know, and have the respect of others for it. Why risk that?

    So a couple of thoughts to throw into the mix. Carry on building ladders, and I do a mean square lashing if you need to make your own…

    • HI Ian –
      I have a vivid image of you now, physically handing out knowledge – it is a powerful thing…

      I guess I was aiming it at OD/ L&D folk because they are particularly involved in the cultural/ change agendas & I’m always curious and baffled when a high level of resistance occurs here… because I can imagine the wider impact….

      and as for ladder building? I might take you up on the Square lashing…

      thank you for commenting.

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  8. Lovely blog Julie, which I have just discovered in my online research! 🙂 You may remember me I am one of the i-practitioners and we met at the L&D show. Hope all is well with you? I am certainly still on the ‘other side of the wall!’ as in face to face networking, google research and find it all a bit overwhelming at times! It would be lovely to pick your brains on it all if you have time? I certainly need to climb over the wall and I am getting there fore sure! Many thanks!

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