Socialtext active usage is way, way up–over 300% so far this year. There are many reasons for the growth, but in this post I’ll focus on one specific factor: our training approach.
Some time ago, I had one of those forehead-smacking “Ah-Hah” moments about the way we were trying to train customers to use Socialtext: Traditional IT training doesn’t work for social software. Social software requires social training.
When I talk about social training, I’m not talking about charm school, or teaching your collie how to play nice with the local poodles. I’m talking about a unique method of teaching employees to use social software at work.
In traditional training, you interact with technology. In social training, you interact with other people by means of technology. The technology becomes a medium, like a telephone or a videoconference room, rather than the object of your interaction, like an MRI machine or a Boeing 777.
Suppose you were trying to train someone who had never seen a telephone before. You could teach them how to dial, how to put someone on hold, how to work the mute button. But until they actually make a call and speak to another human being, they won’t get the point. And that’s exactly what happens when you use traditional training methods for social tools: they learn how to push the buttons, but they don’t get the point.
Embracing a social approach for Socialtext training caused us to radically rethink the way we introduce new users to the system. In a Socialtext training, you don’t get told all the features of the system. You don’t walk through hypothetical use cases. You don’t get to sit back and watch a trainer walk through a system demo.
Instead, you interact with your colleagues, in real time, using Socialtext. We cram lots of users on a conference call at the same time. Everyone logs in to the system. We walk participants through basic functions like creating a profile, tagging themselves, posting Signals, editing workspace pages. We encourage them to ask questions–then answer questions that others have asked. We encourage them to tag not only themselves, but also their colleagues. We noodge everyone to upload a profile photo. We kibbitz, we cajole, we encourage people to step outside their comfort zones.
The results are amazing. We can jump-start an implementation within a couple weeks, and engage even the most skeptical, change-resistant employees within an organization in a very short time. (Did I mention that active usage is up by more than 300%?)
Why does social training work? Four simple reasons:
- It creates a social dynamic from the start. The worst failure a social software tool can make is the sin of “crickets”: a user tries to engage the community and there’s no immediate reply. By getting many users on the system all at the same time, we guarantee that each of those users is experiencing a vibrant, active community at scale.
- It answers the “why” question. For most business users, the big question in social software isn’t the “how”. The mechanics of social software are simple. Users don’t need a training course to know that they tag their profiles by clicking the “Add Tag” button, or post a Signal by clicking “Post”. However, many users do need help in understanding *why* they would want to tag a profile or post a signal. For those users, the whole thing suddenly makes sense when they see their colleagues tagging and posting in real time, and in response to each other.
- It scales. The ideal size for a training session is anywhere between 25 and 100 simultaneous participants. They don’t have to be in a room together. In fact, it’s almost better when they’re *not* in a room together. That way the software becomes their exclusive mode of interaction.
- It’s fun. When these trainings go well, they’re more like cocktail parties than training sessions. People meet new people, discuss interesting topics, and crack jokes all in the course of the hour. Many participants comment that it’s the most fun they’ve ever had at a training.
So whether you’re using Socialtext or some other social software tool…give social training a try. The results will delight you. More important, they’ll delight your users.