Future challenges in learning and knowledge transfer

The project Nordic Knowledge on the Web will organize a conference on November 24, 2011 in Vaasa, Finland. It is possible to follow the conference via Adobe Connect, too. My presentation in the conference will be about social media in higher education and business, and what we can learn from each other.

Conference program seems very interesting:

  • Quality in online teaching: Tools and strategies to enhance quality in virtual learning environments
    Morten Flate Paulsen, NKI Nettstudier
  • Is technology rich education  a change agent for higher education?
    Tor Söderström, Umeå University
  • Social workplace learning: the key to innovation and growth?
    Miikka Salavuo, Miikka Salavuo Oy
  • Knowledge transfer in  project based business, Jyri Kulmala Wärtsilä Ltd
  • Social media in business and higher education – what can we learn? Miia Äkkinen Aalto University School of Economics
  • Case presentations
    • Erfarenheter av att använda ny teknik i undervisning och forskning
      Inger Eliasson, Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå Universitet
      Minna-Maarit Jaskari, Department of Marketing, University of Vaasa
    • Tillämpningar inom förnyelsebar energi
      Dimitris Athanassiadis, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Umeå
    • Nordiskt högskolesamarbete inom idrottsledarskap och tränarutbildning
      Geir Hareide Hansen, Universitet i Nordland, Bodö
      Jan-Erik Romar, Åbo Akademi, Vasa

The project “Nordic knowledge on the web” (NKW) is a collaborative project between universities in Vaasa, Umeå and Bodö. The goal is to create, market and run a Web-based customer knowledge center containing lectures, disputations, animations, debates and practical applications and related educational materials around.

Social Media Development Path

The use of social media in an organization demands an open mindset. The old working culture need to replaced with a culture of openness, sharing and empowerment if the organization wants to use social media in a beneficial way. There is no point in embedding the old habits and approaches to the social media services.

Already in 2000, Michael J. Earl said that:

“Business processes need to be re-engineered because they are not longer appropriate for the new electronic integrated channels.”

Organization cultures and habits are slow to change. How to make that shift happen?

I have noticed that personal use of social media and good experiences from it will encourage the organizational social media use. When people see the possibilities of Facebook in free-time, it’s easy to use it also when working. In some cases, it may be vice versa: the organizational use of social media will encourage people to use social media services for personal use.

 Next month our family will be busy with Kvarken Games, a local swimming competition for young people. Our daughter will swim there, while we parents will work as volunteers for arranging the competition. It is not easy to coordinate a happening as big as this where all the people work voluntarily. Thanks to social media services, the coordination is now simpler than ever.

Doodle is a service for finding a date for a meeting, but it can also be used to coordinate the shifts at swimming competition. Another hobby of our kids is Finnish baseball, and I am one the coaches. Moms and dads of a baseball team were suggested to use a closed Yammer group for internal communication within the group of parents. It was fun – like Facebook – and it was easier than communicating with e-mail. And all the messages were in a common “data warehouse” in Yammer where everyone could find all the information afterwards, and there was no need to store messages in the folders of own computer anymore.

From this, the distance to the internal use of social media services is not long. The bigger the organization, the greater the advantages of social media are in internal use. In some organizations, internal use of social media services could replace some of the e-mail messages within the organization. Not bad! Sometimes organizations are surprised with the issues the internal social media use brings with it: a better communication culture, employees like each other’s comments, they support each other and cheer on. There are solutions like xTune for finding expertise in an own organization and even beyond organizational boundaries. In several cases, the use of social media inside the organization will lead to a bigger transparency, too.

And when you have good experiences from personal use of social media and organizational use of social media within an organization, the use of social media with customer will not be frightening anymore. When you are familiar with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, it is easy to use it for dialogue with customers and other target groups.

Could you suggest your group of parents, hobby, association or club to try social media services in internal communication? Doodle, Yammer and Facebook are all free, some time it will take from you but it will be worth of it!

Social Media in Education

As a social media researcher, I have been asked a few times to give a lecture about social media in education. Usually my focus is on the business use of social media, but it is always very inspiring and fruitful to look at things outside your own box.

I just heard from a teacher at a vocational institute that the students had asked the teacher to use Facebook for communication between the teacher and the students. Facebook may be the best example for communication purposes, but for the educational purposes the experts recommend more collaborational tools like wikis or blogs.

You can find a lot of information and experiences in Finnish on Sometu web site. And an interesting interview about a Finnish language teacher Annukka Kosonen and her experiences about social media in education is published on the web site of the Finnish language teachers’ association. I liked especially her comment about getting off the class-room centricity with social media.

In the famous YouTube video clip “Social Media Revolution 2” it is said that already now, some universities are giving students tablets instead of the books. Very interesting! A friend of my daughter is currently living in Shanghai and waiting for the next autumn when she will receive an own AirBook from school. The teaching tools really are changing. I thought that this is something that is happening only in the “big world”, but just recently I heard that high school students in a little town near us, Pedersöre (Western Finland, Ostrobothnia) will get iPad tablets. Wow!

When thinking about the technical solution or tool to be used in education of children, we should pay attention to the natural ways the children are using internet. For example for adults, the email alerts are “must-have” properties in social media services but for children they are not so necessary because I think that the children use more instant messaging services and chat. This picture by Intomobile could be from our car when I’m driving my daughter and her friends to the gymnastics class and they are transferring music to each other’s phones via Bluetooth.

Recently, we were visiting at my brother’s family and I noticed that my niece (5 yrs) and nephew (3 yrs) were pretty smart iPad users. I was wondering how to learn to use it myself, and when I was still thinking about how to teach my daughters 5 years and 10 years of age to use iPad, they were already using it and playing Angry Birds on the sofa with their cousins. Mom was left far behind on the technological adoption curve.

Eliina Puijola, a consultant at Hienosäätö Coaching, has a service called “Yritysleikki” for schools. The idea is to make children to design their products according to the target group and create marketing material based on this. My elder daughter participated this with her class and was very excited of this project and enjoyed a lot about learning new thing this way.  Marita Reinikka, one of the teachers in this school, published a wonderful YouTube video (in Finnish) about this project – look how great products and radio campaigns the children have created!

There are challenges for using social media in education in every level. With children we have to be aware about protecting their identities and help to use Internet and social media in a safe way. On the higher educational level, the challenges are different. One of the biggest challenges is knowledge sharing among researchers. There are researchers who never share anything else than published articles, and then there are people who like to collaborate with others, search for co-operation partners in research, etc. Today I was very delighted about receiving an invitation from a research colleague Johanna Janhonen to join a group of Finnish social media researchers on LinkedIn.  

In every professional group, there is a lively discussion about personal identity vs. professional identity and people are wondering if they should accept students or customers as Facebook friends. Creating a Facebook page is a nice way to handle this challenge. A German and Swedish teacher Hanna Graeffe is an excellent example of a teacher who has created a Facebook page where she can communicate with her students and other people interested in these languages. If there is a need for a more closed communication with the teacher and the student, they could create also a closed Facebook group, the content of which is visible only for the members of the group.

When people ask about a good example how a Finnish school is using social media, I always recommend them to see how Sataedu uses social media. There are Facebook pages, student blogs, wiki pages, etc. By the way, the public organizations using social media in Finland are listed at sosiaalinenmedia.org, there you will find a lot of Finnish examples.

I was giving a lecture about social media and education for Learning in Networks group at Tritonia EduLab (University of Vaasa) last month. There I became aware of the great project: Nordic Knowledge on the Web. I hope this project will go on, and the knowledge of the researchers will be shared more and more.

Challenges in social media adoption and use

Together with Meri Kuikka, PhD student , we have written a research paper about determining challenges in organizational social media adoption and use. Two days ago we received the official announcement that our paper was accepted to ECIS 2011, the 19th European Conference on Information Systems (Helsinki, June 9-11, 2011):

Thank you very much for submitting your paper to the ECIS2011 conference, organised by the Aalto University in Helsinki. As in previous years, the review process was competitive, with an overall acceptance rate of 31%. Your paper has been reviewed and we are delighted to inform you that it has been accepted for publication and presentation at ECIS.

Just a short summary about our study (the powerpoint presentation and the article itself will be published later on):

  • The contribution of this article is in identifying challenges in organizational social media adoption and use, and classifying them into different external and internal issues.
  • We highlight the importance of strategic planning in social media adoption. We believe that even if social media tools are inexpensive or free, how they are used by the organization needs careful planning, and that employees need clear guidelines on what the expectations of the organization are regarding social media use.   
  • The internal challenges identified in the literature review included economic, resource-related and attitudinal challenges, while external challenges were associated with company reputation, legal issues and technical or system challenges.
  • Of the internal challenges, two types of challenges were identified in a case organization (a Finnish multinational corporation operating in metal industry) that received no mention in previous literature: ownership challenges, defined as difficulties in determining owners for social media within the company, and authorization challenges, defined as providing employees with the authorization to use social media in their work.
  • Also network identity in social media was considered as a challenge. Several of our interviewees and workshop attendees expressed a desire to not mix their private and professional identities in social media.

Researcher, personal brand and social media

I was just discussing with a group of researchers and asked how I have been creating my personal brand on the Internet. I have tried all kind of alternatives, satisfied with something and unsatisfied with others. At the moment I have a solution that I can recommend. I have created this blog to write about my research topics (in English), and thus make my knowledge visible and let people know what I am studying.

But how to reach the audience? How to get the right people to know how great blog posts I am having on my blog? Here I use social network services. After writing a blog post, I will tell about it on my professional Facebook page (sometimes also on my personal Facebook profile), on Twitter and on LinkedIn. This is like a triangle where blog is in the middle of a triangle and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are located in the corners of the triangle.

I gathered my own experiences and ways to work in this presentation.

What are your tips for a researcher or specifically for me to strengthen the personal brand with social network services?

Social media objectives need connection to business

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It is great to notice that the companies are gradually moving from experimenting social media solutions to integrating it into their business. In order to create value, social media objectives need to be connected with business. 

I am currently writing an academic research paper about social media strategies and alignment between social media and business. There is lack of academic literature in this field so inspiration to own writings has to be acquired from the practitioners. Mark Smiciklas (@intersection1) has blogged about social media strategy framework in Social Media Explorer. This is one of the best frameworks related to social media strategies that I have seen because of the high importance of the business value in the framework.

This picture shows very clearly that the biggest values are achieved only after integrating the social media into the whole business. Mark Smiciklas writes:

“As your brand moves along this axis towards integration and, possibly, a social business model, value SHOULD increase.”

“Value will vary based on an organization’s definition. This may take the form of a tangible sales contribution, cost savings, service improvements or efficiencies related to internal communication, consumer advocacy, etc.”

“Value is predicated on the willingness and ability of a business to connect social media metrics to the achievement of organizational objectives. Without goals, analytics or a pattern of correlation, the value axis is assumptive at best.”

 The last sentence is the most important: value is created by connecting social media to organizational objectives.

Some companies proudly inform us about achieving the objective of 1.000 or 10.000 fans on Facebook. Is this a good objective or not? The answer is that it depends on the business and what you are measuring.

For those organizations that are, for example, aiming at increasing the market share in certain area by 20%, this is a good objective. They want to get more traffic from social media services to their web site, and have perhaps calculated that by increasing the Facebook fan amount in this area from 500 to 1.000 the objective will be better reached.

But what if your objective is to make the existing customers more satisfied with your service, can it be measured with 1.000 fans? I doubt that. In this case, you can support the objective for example by creating a closed LinkedIn Group for your key customers where they can discuss with you and with each other about business problems and how they could be solved with your products or services. In this case, a more proper way of measuring could be to measure customer satisfaction before and after launching this kind of VIP customer community.

Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) from Radian6 says it well in her blog post How to create measurable objectives:

“If your goal is better customer service, you measure things that indicate customer satisfaction like reviews, sentiment, positive comments/feedback, decreased “incident” reports from the call center. If your goal is brand awareness, you measure things like website traffic, share of conversation, media placements, volume of online chatter, or even standard market survey results.”

Tac Anderson (@tacanderson) asks what are the most social media strategies missing, and the answer is:

“They are missing organizational alignment with the overall communications strategy which is often not in full alignment with the business strategy to begin with.”

What organizations can do to connect social media with business objectives? I suggest identifying the business objects and discussing with your people how social media can support these objectives or can it perhaps create new ways to do business. After this discussion, it is time to create metrics for measuring social media – such metrics that are connected with your business.

In the end, some public crowdsourcing: If you know academic papers related to this theme, please leave a comment about it – thanks!