by Michelle Baker
A friend of mine had encouraged me to hop on the Twitter bandwagon a few years back, and I just didn’t see the point. “I’m happy with Facebook,” I told her. At the time, however, I worked as a client trainer for ExactTarget, an interactive marketing software company, and noticed a lot of clients were exploring Twitter. So, in an attempt to better relate to our clients, I begrudgingly signed up for a Twitter account. And here was my very first earth-shattering tweet:
It took a minute to find my “voice” on Twitter. To see the point. To add value. 2,987 (at the time of this writing) tweets later, I do see the point. And, hopefully, I add some value.
The moment Twitter finally clicked for me was when I started looking at it as a different vehicle than Facebook. Facebook, for me, is all about connecting with friends, family and a few brands to whom I’m particularly loyal. It’s a place where I laugh at old memories of summer camp, melt over pictures of my precious nephew, and feel connected to people I’m close to, but don’t get to see often.
Twitter is different. Twitter moves very, very quickly. Where Facebook is “today”, Twitter is “right now”. And Twitter is where I can stay current on what’s happening in the news, with my favorite brands, and most importantly, in my industry. The majority of people or organizations I follow are in the Learning & Development industry. Twitter has become my hub for personal learning and professional growth. As L&D practitioners, we are expected to develop others in our organizations. But so often, our own professional development is put aside – whether due to time, thin resources or budget constraints. Twitter can help you overcome these three challenges, as it has helped me:
Challenge #1: “I have no time!”
Solution: Twitter is right now.
Wherever you are, Twitter is there. Twitter is ongoing dialogue, 24/7/365. Whether you are at your desk or sitting at your child’s ballgame (been there, done that), Twitter is available. Encouraging dialogue, links to great articles and helpful resources are at your fingertips. Jump in, wherever you are, and fuel the conversation.
Challenge #2: “We have a small team with limited resources.”
Solution: Twitter is abundant.
Curious about a topic? Search for it, and I’ll bet it’s there. Using a hashtag will categorize tweets: for example, if you are looking for tweets, articles and other information on Human Resources, simply search for #humanresources or #hr. All tweets using one of those hashtags will appear in your search results.
If you fly solo or have a very small team, Twitter can serve as your auxiliary panel of experts! There are a number of seasoned, smart (and very entertaining) Learning experts who are very active on Twitter, and I know I can throw a question out to that group and receive thought-provoking feedback, ideas or assistance anytime. That said, Twitter is give-and-take. If you have knowledge, share knowledge. It’s a two-way street! Follow the #lrnchat or #chat2lrn hashtags to see a thriving community of learning experts in action (and feel free to join in!). There are weekly, live Twitter chats and daily input from a number of influential professionals in the Learning & Development industry.
Challenge #3: “We have no budget to attend conferences or outside training.”
Solution: Twitter is free. And so are back channels.
Sure, it’s always nice to attend a great conference or workshop. But in today’s economy, many businesses are cutting those “extras” from the budget, and it really stinks. Many conferences and training events (even virtual events) are setting up a customized hashtag for their event, so attendees can connect with other attendees and curate the event…but also, so non-attendees can follow what’s happening. Engaged participants excitedly share everything from great quotes from a keynote speaker to a screenshot of a great slide during a breakout session, to photos of the event (and everything in between). To learn more about leveraging back channels, David Kelly (@LnDDave) is a great one to follow.
So, putting this all out there makes me sound like a Twitter expert. I’m not. I just know that Twitter is a tool that helps me become a better trainer and part of a community of like-minded people who just “get it”. I joined Twitter with an eye roll, dismissing its value. But today, I see that value. Hopefully, my small contributions add to that value. It’s a great resource, friends. If you haven’t signed up for Twitter yet, I encourage you to do so. And be sure to follow me (@MichelleLBaker) so we can chat!
Michelle Baker is a Learning Consultant and Onboarding Strategist with phase(two)learning, a consulting firm specializing in developing learning strategies for small and medium sized businesses. For more information about public workshops or custom consulting services, visit phasetwolearning.com.