The HR Juggler

Teaching Twitter

Posted on: November 10, 2011

So, my Twitter training has taken a bit of a different form than anticipated, as the planned board meeting was rescheduled. However, the result of this has been that I have spent more time doing impromptu sessions to small groups and one-to-one coaching of my exec colleagues. It’s been an interesting experience and one that I’ve learnt a lot from so far already.

My main learnings are as follows –

  • Having a co-sponsor for training sessions is brilliant: someone who is not from the same background as you, who ‘gets’ Twitter but uses it differently. This was enormously helpful when coaching two of the exec team who were particularly cynical about its value
  • Think carefully about the language you use to convey the potential gain for those that you are coaching. They clearly won’t be interested in building an HR network, but they will take note of the fact that they can access opinion pieces and be ahead of the news
  • Show them how to use it on whichever medium they are most likely to regularly use…for most of my coachees on their blackberry or Iphone
  • Think about how to show individuals what is meaningful to them – hashtags that will be of interest for them to check out, how the business you work in or its competitors is already using Twitter, how it can build engagement between key groups
  • Tweet questions to your followers so that you can demonstrate the interactive nature of Twitter
  • Don’t over-hype or over-sell its value – it’s the quickest way to lose credibility
  • Accept that it isn’t everyone’s chosen method of communicating, but that most people will find some gain from using it…or at least from understanding it better
  • Expect unexpected questions – I was surprised that some of the questions centred more around how number of followers build up, rather than the mechanics of how Twitter works
  • Remember that Twitter can be overwhelming, noisy and confusing at first for new users
  • Follow up to find out if there is anything more they would like to know
  • Even when individuals appear to be quite proficient at using Twitter, they are often keen to find out more and learn by asking questions

I’m going to be rolling out more training soon: to the rest of the exec team, to the global HR team and then to the rest of the business. The great thing is that I’m learning more each time I do it and am really enjoying it ;).

 What have I forgotten? I’d love to hear about your experience of teaching Twitter to others too.

4 Responses to "Teaching Twitter"

Thanks for sharing this Alison! I’m getting regular questions about how to get started – this seems to be the first (main?) obstacle for many.

I wondered if you discussed etiquette or how best to manage twitter eg tools/apps?

Yes, starting often seems the hardest thing…particularly figuring out what to tweet.

I didn’t really address etiquette too much. I showed them a couple of apps that I thought they might find particularly useful eg followerwonk which lets you search people’s bios for keywords eg CEOs in pharma companies. In the main though I tried to focus just on helping them to understand Twitter, as it often seems a little overwhelming when you are new to it.

Thanks for commenting!

This one made me think and ended in ramble about standards, the proliferation of communication channels and the fraught topic of social media policy or guidelines. Thanks for your posts, they always make me think.

In 1989, a lecturer from University days (Computer Science, Reading, 1989, lumme!) was teaching us about the then already bewildering world of computer networks. This was just as the web was being born from the Joint Academic Network (JANET), which in turn was based on (nearly wrote “leveraged” there, but would have had to unfollow myself if I had, esp since it would’ve rhymed with beverage in my mind’s ear) the US military Arpanet, designed to be resilient in a nuclear war, but which even now breaks when odious boys in the neighbourhood get home from school and start downloading heaven knows what, but before Berners Lee invented another layer called the web and took all the credit.

The lecturer sardonically told us that the great thing about network standards was that there were so many to choose from. Thats standards for you. Ha ha.

His point was that choosing the right standard varied depending on what you were trying to do, and evolved rapidly as technology improved anyway so what was right one day would be sub optimal the next. I use this observation about standards all the time, especially when I get sucked into one of those “what works best” conversations. Usually, the worst answer is one shrouded in dogma and the swish of a ceremonial robe. Email bad, FB good etc…

To me a social network is the group of people, and the technology is just a channel. I encounter the problem of the proliferation of standards when choosing which channel to use to interact with my social networks effectively. A channel may be marketed in such a way that you are persuaded to think of the network and the technology as one thing, but it’s just a channel. In turn these technologies are a heady (yet dull) mix of open standards overlaid with proprietary functionality, some of which, eg FB, are so successful they become de facto standards in themselves. FB, LinkedIn etc. contain models of social networks and exercise them powerfully, they just don’t entirely contain or define how I interact with mine. In different circumstances, each channel can be effective and some will die or become marginal.

It can be tough managing the effectiveness of all these channels as they fizz then fade. I have a dizzying set of channels to worry about, SMS (mum), email (three active accounts and three mostly dormant ones), IM (WhatsApp, corporate IM and iMessage), two mobile phones and shoe leather (my favourite) as well as FB, Twitter, Yammer, a corporate collaboration hub and LinkedIn. I exclude photocopied letters inserted into Christmas cards, there are limits. That’s like putting jet skiers on a list that also includes sailors.

My daughter and I decided to write a social network policy recently. This reflected the effectiveness, value and risk of different types of communication with different groups and culminated in examples of when to and when not to use each channel to communicate with her social networks. Having been through this process with a 13 year old, I am firmly off the fence when it comes to whether corporations should have policies, or at least guidelines that help people with what works and what doesn’t. They will be imperfect but that’s fine when I see the gaffs people make without guidance, including the young to whom this stuff is supposed to come naturally…

I often hear the common sense argument. I confess, I am instinctively drawn to it. But if common sense is the aggregation of realised learning from your own and other people’s experience of what works and what doesn’t, overlaid with a view of what is right and wrong, then when new channels come along at work or you are young enough that both you and your peer group lack the necessary experience then a little guidance is a fine thing while common sense catches up. That is as long as its a little. You need people to read it and you need to be able to update it quickly and often when it is out of date. It’s a balance but it moves so quickly. This speed is both a reason to have guidelines and an excuse for not having them.

Mrs A and I occasionally send emails to our daughter and then get annoyed when she fails to respond or act on them. It turns out that she checks her emails about once per month! I really must stop keeping coal in the bath and trying to order stuff from Tesco using smoke signals…

Wow…thank you for your comment. I am glad that my posts always make you think…the same is certainly true of the comments that you leave in response to them. Plenty of food for thought.

I love the experience you describe of writing a social media policy with your daughter – would love to see the results sometime!

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