Maybe one of the reasons I love Pinterest so much is that I’ve learned how to use basic household substances to remove stains; how to make cute Thanksgiving pinecone turkeys; how to make pasta from squash; and the list goes on and on.
In other words, I’ve admittedly expanded my horizons with social media.
By now, you know I’m an avid user of Facebook and Twitter, partly because I realize the potential of social media to educate. Yep, I said it: It’s possible to learn from social media.
In fact, the term is “social learning,” and associations are slowly embracing it as part of their learning efforts.
Last April, consulting firm Tagoras conducted an informal survey about associations’ use of social technologies for learning products and/or services, and shortly thereafter released a whitepaper on the topic.
Social technologies are defined as any technology that allows users to communicate with each other via the Internet or cellular networks to share videos, graphics, etc. Examples: blogs, discussion boards, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), YouTube and podcasts.
Of the 102 respondents, more than half reported they use social technologies for learning, with 25 percent indicating plans to do so within the year. Not surprisingly, YouTube ranked No. 1, followed by discussion forums and Twitter. Facebook and LinkedIn, thanks to their discussion capabilities, were also popular.
In addition, a placed-based annual meeting of members was the No. 1 type of learning product associated with social technologies.
So why should associations adopt social learning, according to Tagoras?
- It’s a natural fit. Associations are social in nature, striving to connect people with similar wants and needs. So social tools – for which there are groups, pages and forums to bring together passions – simply make sense.
- Social learning boosts retention. Discussion forums allow users to learn from each other by asking questions, sharing ideas and reinforcing concepts from classes, while also fostering the building of networks.
- It’s ongoing. Often, learners attend a class and after it’s over never revisit the knowledge they gained. But by using a blog or WiKi, users can revisit archived topics anytime.
- Social learning is motivational. It’s exciting to see classmates, colleagues and peers succeed and social media and social technologies make it easy to share such news.
The Tagoras whitepaper cites several examples of associations that have successfully used social learning. But in short: Twitter chats; Facebook discussions in which people answer a question or respond to a comment and to each other; and live-tweeting during a conference.
If participation is a concern, associations can require members to participate in weekly discussion forums, contribute blog posts and participate in Twitter chats or Google hangouts.
All this said, the Tagoras survey found most associations don’t have a social learning strategy in place. At the same time, respondents indicated lack of resources and budget as top barriers for dabbling in social media. And some associations fear their staff isn’t skilled enough to successfully engage in social learning.
Nevertheless, efforts don’t have to be expensive or complicated, Tagoras says.
“Given that social learning is effective, why not try it, if you’re not already?” it wrote. “To our minds, the case for social learning is made, and the question at hand is not whether to make use of it but how to incorporate it as effectively, as strategically as possible.”