You have probably been bombarded with lots of social learning surveys over the past few weeks. It is a big topic and everyone wants to pull your insight and tell you what they have found.

Data here, data there. It is overload at a mega level.  But to understand the topic, you first have to understand the basics – social media.  Because without it, you cannot have social learning.

In order for social learning to exist you need to have the following: social media plus e-learning. One cannot live without the other. And, let us clear up another point: social learning is not just social networking.

I hate when people see it as only Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. For fun, they toss in YouTube and say – look we know what social learning is for the masses.  They have no clue.

Here is the latest data on social media (as of Oct. 8th, 2010)

  • There are over 25 social media types – types include social networking, live casting, game platforms, virtual worlds, web conferencing, social bookmarking, social network aggregators, social news aggregators, blogs, app sharing (inc. video sharing, file sharing, etc.), slidesharing, livestreaming
  • Over 2,400 social media sites
  • 383 social networking sites(Facebook is one, Twitter is another, Linkedin, Ning)
  • #6 social networking site by unique visitors – Tagged with an estimated 30M per month, #7 classmates 29M, #8 hi5 27M, #9 myyearbook 12M, #10 Meetup #8
  • Ever heard of mixx? It is the #8 rated social bookmarking site by unique visitors with an estimated 2.6M, compare that to #5 StumbleUpon with 15M
  • #5 most visited video site by unique visitors is VEVO, YouTube is #1
  • In Q3 2010, the average user on Facebook spent 23 minutes on the site, that is down from 56 minutes on the site previously listed in Q1 and Q2

Let’s start our Social Media Results from the recently covered survey

Two audiences were surveyed

  • Consumers: people like you and me (i.e. not working for a vendor)
  • Vendors: People who work for a vendor (i.e. a company in the e-learning space)

1.  Do you have a Twitter account?

  • Yes 64%
  • No 36%

What does this really mean?

That there are people out there including vendors who are not on the social media scene.  I wonder how many of these vendors offer a micro-blogging like product in their product?

2. How often do you Tweet? (of the people who have an account)

  • Once a month – 16%
  • Never – 13%
  • Daily – 11%  (at least once a day)
  • Weekly – 11% (at least once a week)
  • Monthly – 9% (a couple of times a month)
  • Monthly – 4% (Multiple times a month)

What does this really mean?

  • Proof that just because Twitter claims that there are X number of users, this doesn’t mean they are active users, rather people who have signed up and have an account but may have never Tweeted.

A study conducted in Q2 2010 found that 60% of people stop using Twitter in the first month after signing up. Guess what? They are still listed as users.

  • People in our industry – consumers and vendors – are rarely using  or if ever Twitter – 29% (once a month, never) compared to daily; again it gets back to my view – of someone selling you a car and then jumping on their horse and riding away

3.  Do you have a Facebook account?

  • Yes – 87%
  • No – 13%

4.  How often do you use Facebook? (Of people who stated they have an account)

  • Often (Multiple times a day) – 38%
  • Daily (At least once a day) – 20%
  • Monthly (At least once a month) – 18%
  • Weekly (At least once a week) – 11%
  • Never – 1%

What does this really mean?

It is great to see that 58% are using Facebook at a minimum daily.  Umm, I wonder – how many vendors have a Facebook page and are actively posting on it?

5. Which of the following social media sites do you have an account?

  • Linkedin 39%
  • YouTube 25%
  • Del.icio.us 16%
  • StumbleUpon 6%
  • Technorati 5%
  • FourSquare 5%
  • Other 3%
  • None 1%

What does it really mean?

27% are social bookmarking sites (Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon & Technorati – which is also social analytics – another social media type), FourSquare is geolocation.

I have accounts with all of them, uh under other – NetVibes and a few other sites you are unlikely to have heard of.

One other interesting note, I have yet to see a LMS/LCMS that incorporates social bookmarking in their product. Real social bookmarking. I do know of a few that are on some social bookmarking sites, but for the most part as in 97%, no.  I know of only one LMS vendor Absorb that is on FourSquare.

To my question are you a consumer or a vendor, if you selected consumer, you went further into the survey. If you were a vendor you made a pit stop to a hidden section, before continuing on.

Vendor Section

A.  What products do you offer at your company?

  • LMS/LCMS – 20%
  • Quiz or Assessment Tool – 18%
  • Learning Portal 16%
  • RCAT – 14%
  • Other – 14%
  • CMS – 9%
  • M-Learning Tool – 9%

B.  Do you offer some type of social learning with your product (examples: RSS, blog, wiki, Facebook like page, micro-blog, app sharing, live streaming, social Q/A, etc.)

  • Yes 67%
  • No  33%

What does this really mean? 1/3 of companies think the buggy whip will be making a comeback in the next few years.

Consumers & Vendors

6.  If you have a LMS, LCMS, CMS or Learning Portal:

  • Offer some type of social learning?  Yes 67%
  • We do not have any of the products listed above 33%

What does this really mean?

The e-learning industry still has a long way to go to show the value in the acquisition or building of a LMS or Learning Portal. Personally, I think LCMS and CMS as a standalone are deader than a doornail.

They have passed their usefulness. However, a CMS as a backbone combined with other tools for a Learning Portal is a real winner IMO and a CMS combined with social media caps and/or with open source scripts as a backbone to a Learning Portal is an equal winner.

LMSs can equally be built to grow, but they need to continue with the path of emerging technology, APIs, tablets, social media integration – social learning, etc.

One of the most common things we all hear is this argument that a LMS, Learning Portal etc. cannot offer social media such as real time Twitter, Facebook, Livecasting, streaming etc. because of the social media governance policy at the company. That the company has blocked this, because as everyone knows people access their LMS at their companies.

I’ll be polite here and say what we are all thinking on the LMS part – Baloney!

Studies have shown that end users access LMSs, CMS, LCMS, Learning Portals, etc. off site more than they do at the workplace. It is fact.

That said, here is what my survey found about social media sites.

If you view or use any social media sites (inc. social networking) where do you access them from?

  • Off-site (includes home) 62%
  • Work 36%
  • I do not access social media sites 2%

What does this really mean?

62% of end users are accessing out of the workplace, off-site at home, wherever but not at the workplace.

Even if a company institutes a social media governance policy, what is to stop Rob who is at the company, to go home and create a separate Twitter account with a false name and blast away at his company or spill secrets?  Zip.

If he is tech savvy, he uses an IP blocker or uses an anonymizer engine and goes at it. In less than 15 seconds he can use a dump email account that expires in 30 minutes (there are plenty of sites out there, you can find them just by doing a Google search).  So the philosophy of a social media governance plan is to stop the people who are not tech savvy and to scare people who try to use social media at the workplace, and of course people try.

Bottom Line:

In my social learning webinar yesterday, one participant made an interesting statement. They mentioned that a company tried a Facebook like learning portal approach and it failed miserably. Lots of complaints. It didn’t really surprise me. Here is why.

As I surmised, people felt that big brother was watching them and as such were not putting down their true feelings and comments and insightful information. They were not truly sharing. Big brother was in fact watching, and the employees quickly figured it out.  Thus it tanked.

For companies that employ a FB like page in their systems and offer it to their employees regardless of their deliverable mechanism, never let them know you are watching. Never go in there and remove things you do not like. Prior to them using it, create a policy that they view, and sign off on, i.e. a checkbox.

It is your TOS (Terms of  Service).  It includes what is not acceptable in such discussions, forums, social networking like pages in the system, micro blogging like, etc.

No harassment, sexual comments, profanity, negative wording about the company or whatever and so on. Don’t make it so bogged down, that no one will use it. 98% will never read it, but it protects you.

Why do you think all those sites stick in there prior to you entering them or downloading an app or using their software?

Then that is it.

If you are so paranoid – you add a moderator but they are only to provide feedback if people inquire about things they are not their to be a watchdog or police the site. People hate that, and they will disappear.

Personally, I like a filter system on the back end. It will save you a lot of headaches and you do not have to monitor after that.

In the filter system, the administrator types in words that are offensive, should not be used – like bashing the CEO or whatever and if someone tries to use them and clicks enter, the word appears as *** or if it highly offensive a note appears that it is unacceptable. You can tie it back to the TOS, where you can add that if they receive 3 or 5 excessive warnings they are banned from using the system.

Thus issue solved.

Social learning is an exciting opportunity for all, but beyond incorporating social media you have to make sure it is FUN for the end user. They have to see value and have to want to come into the system and use it for more than just taking courses and bolting quickly.

Change the way they learn, show them it can enlighten them and still be fun and you will open new doors.  Regardless if it is corporate or not, it will work.

But, without fun, social learning turns into a yo-yo. Fun for about two minutes and then put away never to be used again or tossed in the trash.

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