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How learning styles could determine your best use of social media
2012-02-27: I don't know if you read this blog about finding inspiration for your social media content in which I wrestled with how to overcome the look a client gives me when I say "you could Tweet".
Here's something quite special to add to that.
Let's start with a bit of fun from Burkeman who suggests that it's insightful to reduce a big area of expertise to two rules in the two things game. I posted that on Facebook and summarised SEO thuswise: "do stuff that's good enough for people to share, be nice enough that people want to share it".
Park that thought, and line this up. Back in the 80s I was working in a PR company who used a training company, and their 'thing' was to assess every staff member on a set of competencies, work out who's below average on what, and put together a training package to bring them up to speed.
At around the same time I was reading management gurus, probably Tom Peters, who was saying "work out what you're great at and put a rocket under that, let other people do the rest".
The latter makes sense if you want to make a difference. I accept plenty don't, but if you do, the only way is to make a difference where your strengths lie. If you're a great xylophone player, you're not going to set the world alight by learning how to do your accounts. Find a book-keeper, and push on to be the world's best xylophone player.
Compared to that, the training company's approach is rather dreary and seems more about providing them with an ongoing income than anything.
Those two things go together, right? If you want to do stuff that's good enough to share through social media, you're going to have to stand out, and you're not going to stand out if you spend precious time trying to improve things you're not very good at.
So, hands up who remembers the learning cycle? Go on, I've hacked your webcam I can see you (I haven't, that was a joke). OK, the idea from Honey & Mumford is that we tend to have favourite ways of learning. Some people won't move until they understand the theory underpinning why they should. Others like to 'have a go'. Practical people want to try a few things and experiment for themselves. A fourth type likes to watch and reflect on what's happening. The second image on this page shows the cycle (incidentally, I remember being taught that students need to be pushed through that cycle otherwise they will stick where they are comfortable, it's in the forcing to areas of discomfort that the magic happens).
So .. which are you? Here, take this test.
I remember getting really irritated with .. I can't remember whether it was Chomsky or the other dude who used to write for the Guardian .. but they'd written a book about how we could create a global citizen's parliament, a counterpoint of decision making to provide an alternative to traditional politics and properly represent the people of earth. Fabulous. He went through how it would work, who would do what. The financing of it. Brilliant, where do I sign? Oh, nowhere. If you're interested, talk to these charities. He dropped the glass bowl. In other words, this guy was a theorist, with next-to-no interest in the actual implementation of his musings. I kind-of fell out with him right there, and I'm still mixed up about it. Obviously he's a great writer because he's a great theorist. I wouldn't have read his book otherwise. It's for others to take up the cause. It's the "teachers teach because they can't do" argument, which, if you take all this on board, isn't a fair criticism.
Back to social media, we want theorists. We don't expect that guy on Twitter to pop up at our door and start getting hands-on with our Facebook account.
Anyway, so which did you turn out to be? I'm a strong activist, a very strong reflector, a very strong theorist, and actually a very low pragmatist.
So let's start with the theorists. "Theorists like to adapt and integrate observations into complex and logically sound theories. They think problems through step- by-step. They tend to be perfectionists who like to fit things into a rational scheme." So these are people who read books, drink-in theories and research and form their own mental models of the world which turn into success strategies. Their inspiration comes from books, theories, discussions, lectures. Probably, text is best for them and since these are not brief, cursory thoughts, they are labrynthian connections between a book they are reading now with a book they read three years ago, a blog seems the right place for this person.
"Pragmatists are eager to try things out. They like concepts that can be applied to their job. They tend to be impatient with lengthy discussions and are practical and down to earth." Well, none of those will have gotten this far down this blog for a start, but if you've managed it .. I'm really touched, thank you. Drop me a line and let me know (since I'm not one) if I've got this wrong > > but this video how to fold a t-shirt in 2 seconds (with apologies, there's a 20s ad at the front of that), seems perfect, and making such a video might appeal too so long as someone deals with the detail of posting it online. Inspiration for a pragmatist is going to come from noticing what's new in daily life.
"Activists like to be involved in new experiences and are enthusiastic about new ideas. They enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards. They are unlikely to prepare for the learning experience or review their learning afterwards." So these are the people for whom Outward Bound type training courses are made. It would be a big deal, but having a video team on board when a group of 'activists' are given a hard task to accomplish, that might make compelling watching. A friend who decorates cakes got interested in the sort of icing used in very hot countries so went off to learn. Even a self-made video diary of that journey might be interesting. It would have to be made 'live' .. activists seemingly won't reflect afterwards. There are social media outlets that are genuinely 'live' such as Bambuser and Twitter of course. I wonder if activists are the right people to run Twitter customer service, because customers will constantly challenge and perhaps an activist is the person who will be the dog with a bone in the company until they get the customer an answer. Inspiration for an activist, then, is going to come from new developments, they might be the future watchers, the people always on the lookout for the new and interesting.
"Reflectors like to view the situation from different perspectives. They like to collect data, review and think carefully before coming to any conclusions. They enjoy observing others and will listen to their views before offering their own." So these could be the editors making the videos about the activists. Or they'll keep a diary (online or not) of what's happening and draw conclusions along the way. That could be 'live' on Twitter or gathered together into a blog, book, research paper or presentation. So their inspiration will come from watching, observing, measuring and analysing. Perhaps they can dive into your Analytics.
So back to me being a reflector and theorist, it's all headwork for me so I spend my days musing over how 'this' works compared to 'that'. In today's fast moving world not everyone has that luxury so I may be able to provide insights to others. So for me perhaps I should build my Twitter stream with things like "the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to a family, to rest and leisure, to an adequate standard of living, to a cultural community" .. I just picked that randomly as an outstanding part of a book in my inspiration pile (pictured in previous blog) that I'd previously read and marked up for the future. See, how theorists work? If that inspires someone, great. People may well follow a stream like that, obviously with a few more practical things thrown in, like .. "online sales techniques won't work if your service stinks or your prices are wrong .. if your value proposition doesn't make sense".
And of course, I have this blog in which I can explore my beautiful theoretical world to everyone's benefit :-)
To find social media success, it seems logical to create your strategy around your learning style.
One more thing. There's another way of looking at learning styles, there's a questionnaire at the bottom of this page where you can work out whether you are primarily visual, auditory or kinesthetic (physical). I'm auditory, so that would take me towards podcasts, perhaps presenting on video, AudioBoo and so on. Visual obviously would take you in the direction of video. Kinesthetic might take you to video demonstrations.
A final thought is the advice to bands "you have to fill a club before you can fill a stadium" (from Stratten's UnMarketing, I think), which he applies to social media, meaning, get good at one thing before you move to other media. So if you've worked out your learning styles and worked out what that means you'd be best at online, become fabulous at that one thing. Keep doing it and build your following (remember, all the reward comes on the last day of years of consistent work). But don't open Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bambuser, AudioBoo, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, YouTube, Flickr accounts all on day one and then try to juggle the whole thing. Be great at one thing.
The only thing wrong with all of that is a) if you're, say, an activist but your audience is mainly theorists (then you've got a bigger problem and might need to outsource or build support around you), and b) if you're a big company .. then you'll need to match people to social media activities and build a team of complimentary skills.

By John Allsopp
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