Social media has made me better at my job. Not just because it's part of my job to use it, but because social networks make it easy to surround myself with new ideas, great information and useful resources. In this day and age of doing more with less, social networks enable the (free) creation of a strong personal learning network.
A PLN is a self-generated group of people who share information and ideas, provide mentorship and advice and work together to solve problems. Organizations stand in the way of their own success when they block social media tools and prevent their employees from easily creating a PLN.
Social media tools instantly curate the world’s vast shared resources through the voices of peers and colleagues, making sense out of the digital content overload. I have created a strong personal learning network through a mix of social media outlets:
1. Twitter. Through Twitter, I find articles and blog posts, new technology tools, suggestions for solving common problems and specific answers to specific questions when I ask them. Remember that Twitter is the internet’s karma. You will get only as good as you give.
2. Yammer. Yammer is a workplace social network: It looks, acts and feels like Facebook, but is built within a separate domain for the workplace. It enables media sharing, conversation and collaborative discussion with an easy-to-use interface.
3. Quora. The question and answer discussions are thought-provoking and full of opinions about the latest and greatest technologies and tools.
4. Blogs/RSS Readers. I use Google Reader to keep up with my fellow bloggers in the learning and technology fields, and I share the most valuable resources I find through Twitter.
5. Facebook. I use Facebook for general learning. I follow news organizations and professional associations to learn about current events and develop personal networks that help me make better sense of the world.
Social discussion of problems, whether horizontally across different industries or vertically within one organization, enables people to ask for help, find answers quickly and develop relationships that support ongoing and future success. An added bonus to the social media-driven PLN is the ability to stretch across geographical and time zone boundaries, further enriching learners’ perspectives and professional development opportunities.
Intrigued? For more resources on creating a social learning environment through social media tools, consult Marcia Conner or Jane Bozarth's books, blogs and Twitter feeds. These folks really know what they're doing.