As we all know, people love to talk. However, despite this, many organisations remain wary of social learning initiatives. Many managers believe that encouraging social learning means that people will veer off into irrelevant conversations or spend more time talking than working. Relatively few businesses have taken the plunge so far and implemented a social learning platform, but we predict that they’re only going to become more popular in the coming years - not least because of their impact on learner engagement. If you’re thinking about getting started with social learning, here are seven ways it can help you boost engagement across your organisation.
1. Don't lead with work
Even though improving outcomes and productivity is exactly what it’s for, your learners may be less enthused if they discover that your social learning platform is another work tool. Instead, it’s best to lead with your platform as a place for people to interact, share stories, discuss ideas and communicate efficiently - not as something work centred. Focus on the collaboration and communication first, and the learning will follow.
2. Identify your influencers...
Some people are born influencers, and when they talk, others listen. These people can be powerful ambassadors for your social learning platform, so encourage them to spread the word about the social learning platform and its benefits to help build the community. It’s best to enlist the help of people from all different levels of the organisation, from regular employees up to the C-suite, to improve visibility and the likelihood of the platform catching on.
3. ... but don't forget about the quiet ones
Even on mainstream social media, many more people are ‘lurkers’ (passive consumers of information) than active posters. Don’t just let a few people control all the conversations - it’s worth reaching out to those people who are passively using the platform to find out if there are any barriers to them contributing themselves. You might just discover a barrier you hadn’t considered and enable them to make their voices heard too.
4. Highlight the success stories
If you have any form of internal comms, such as an internal newsletter or a group chat, consider highlighting interesting discussions or positive outcomes there to pique people’s interest. You should also recognise those who are making an effort to contribute to the community so that others can see that it’s worthwhile.
5. Clarify everyone's ownership responsibilities
We’ve all seen it happen - when nobody is put in ownership of a task, it often never gets done. Decide upfront who ‘owns’ each conversation or topic to avoid unnecessary intervention or moderation, but equally to ensure that questions get answered in a timely fashion and the pace of conversation is maintained. Ensuring everyone knows where they stand is the best way to make people feel more confident about sharing their own opinion.
6. Moderate fairly and consistently
Try to avoid deleting posts without warning - this can put people off contributing entirely. The moderator’s role shouldn’t be to act as a dictator, but to observe and support users, ensure things are running smoothly and occasionally to stop any inappropriate activities. A simple suggestion, such as ‘This is an interesting conversation, but we’re getting a little off-topic - how about we move this part of the discussion to a new thread?’ is much better than simply deleting posts or closing threads.
7. Make it safe to share
Despite the proliferation of mainstream social networking sites, many people are still unfamiliar with them and may not trust them. Consider your demographic, and make sure that you make any measures you have taken to ensure safe sharing and contributions are made explicit from the start. This could include user policies, site rules and privacy notices. A little extra attention paid to these people can go a long way in boosting engagement rates.
If you're struggling to boost engagement with your social learning programme, try out our tips and let us know how you get on, and be sure to check out our own social learning platform, Totara Social. Or if you think we've missed anything, please let us know in the comments.