Is Using Social Media Like Pulling Teeth?

One of my favorite evangelists in the Social Media space is Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt on Twitter) the Director of Education and Events for the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP)– a small nonprofit headquartered in Dallas, TX.

Jeff_Hurt_10-14-2009_2-55-51_PMYou wouldn’t think of dental work and social media, but he’s done great work in getting a pretty stodgy group to use some really neat tools — and I ran across a great interview where he actually listed off all the tools that he and his staff use on a daily basis:

What social media sites/tools are you using?

  • Animoto Videos (free or low-cost video creation)
  • Blogtalkradio (interview members, speakers, board candidates, etc.)
  • EventCenter & EventPartner Webinar Platforms (which include webinar microsite, registration process, podcast recording features, text chatting)
  • Hootsuite (to schedule our daily tweets)
  • iCohere eCommunity (velvet rope eCommunity for members only)
  • Facebook Fan Page (for conferences and events)
  • Google Alerts & Twitter Search (for NADP as well as specific industry key words)
  • LinkedIn Group
  • Ning groups (for our own professional learning)
  • Social Collective Conference eCommunity (which also includes event registration, marketing and crowdsourcing features.)
  • Tinychat – to engage in conversations with general public about dental benefits
  • Tweetdeck (to monitor chatter on specific association keywords as well as government initiatives)
  • Twitter
  • Vovici for our research and surveys
  • WordPress Blogs (conference blog, public outreach blog, advocacy issues regarding healthcare reform)
  • YouTube

Send This To Every Web Developer You Know! Now!


I ran across this amazing usability study of how “inline validation” helps visitors complete your web forms more easily and with a better experience from Luke Wroblewski at “A List Apart”.

(For those of you among the non-technical, it just means that as you type in your answer the software gives you feedback on whether or not it can accept that answer, or you have to say something else — rather than waiting until you answer all 25 questions and hit “submit” at the bottom.)

I’ve long railed at my developers to do this, and they keep whining about how hard it is and that they don’t want to do it.  Now I’ve got the ammunition.  Ha!


Celebrate What You Suck At!


As difficult as it must be for you to believe, dear readers, there are some things at which I am not amazingly skilled.  In fact (brace yourselfs) there are multiple areas where my skill level is so low that special measuring equipment must be brought in just to determine the exact level of suckitude.  (I suspect that that is a “Havi-ism” but I’m not good enough at attribution to go and check it out.)

now_discoverI used to work frantically (and usually unsuccessfully) to either cover up or rationalize these areas — because after many years of education I’d been convinced that we all had to be good at everything.  Geometry, Chemistry, English, Folk Dancing, Athletics — and that if you weren’t great you just kept slogging to improve.

Then, I read “Now, Discover Your Strengths” byMarcus Buckingham.  (Well, I already knew Marcus from “First, Break All The Rules”.) People talk about books that change their lives, and this was the one that did it for me.

In a nutshell:  You’ve got things that you’re really great at, and things that you suck at. (Well, he doesn’t say “suck”.)  And if you focus all your time on improving what you don’t do well, you someday might improve all the way to kind-of-all-right.  But if you focus on the things you’re already great at, you could become world-class.

Short aside — this is usually where people say “Well, but what if that thing I’m bad at is realtionships?  Or raising children? Or world peace?”  And then I say “I’m trying to make a point here — bite me!”

It changed how I think about the skills that I need to run my business, the skills I need to live my life, and the skills I need to get where I want to go.  Now I have three categories:

  1. Things I’m Great At
  2. Things I Suck At, But Would LIKE To Improve At
  3. Things I Could Die Without Ever, Ever Doing Again

I spend lots of time trying to improve at #1 — to the point where I can charge clients embarrassing amounts of money because I’m the cat’s ass.

I spend some time at #2, connecting with the best experts and training I can find — often failing over and over — to improve at something I’d really LIKE to do better.

I spend virtually no time on #3, and either pay someone else or find a way to just stop doing stuff that I’m really not good at.

I was reminded of this the other day, when I offended a friend by observing that she really sucked at a particular skill.  (I had noticed that she was telling this to a large group, and celebrating the fact that she’d found an assistant who could handle this task seamlessly — so my friend could do the voodo that she do do so well.)  But in my typical insensitive way, I forgot that some people havn’t had my years and years of announcing to the world that they suck at stuff.

So I’m now adding a “Step Four” to the list.

Announce, loudly and proudly, that there are things that you suck at. And that it’s really OK with you — actually, that you’re proud of it.

That it benefits your clients, because you’re focused like a laser beam on improving the skill set that they pay you for.  That it benefits your spouse, because you’re focused on being the best husband/wife/partner/clone that you can be.

At first, it’s hard.  Like admitting you’re an addict at an AA meeting.  But it gets easier and easier with time.  Soon, you’ll laugh as you say it — and your audience will laugh right along with you.  Because if the “expert” is allowed to have weak spots, maybe they won’t be so afraid of looking silly.  Or asking for your horrendously overpriced help.


I’m Busy Failing — Don’t Bother Me!


I’ve written previously in this space about my belief that as educators (or teachers, or trainers, or facilitators) we often treat “failure” in exactly the wrong way with learners.  Through the K-12 experience, we pretty much dwell on what you did wrong and punish you for it — with bad grades, remedial classes, dunce caps and other types of pain.

After that, in the real world (I observe that place, but refuse to live there) we also punish you if you fail.  Trying something new means the risk of making a fool of yourself, being told that you should have known better, that you wasted resources or time.

Gen-next learners spend a lot of time on video games.  Failure there is the standard mode of learning.  Your car crashes, your airplane gets shot down, or your soldier gets blasted by the bad guys.  That’s just an expected part of the learning process. So you push the “reset” button and try again, having learned something.

I ran across this great video from Honda called “Failure:  The Secret To Success” talking about how they built their incredibly successful team by failing, again and again.

“Honda is now the sole supplier of engines for the Indy Racing League.  We’d really prefer to have some competition in the series, but perhaps the Honda success drove some of them out.  Maybe they’ll come back.”  Tom Elliott, American Honda

What would your classroom or e-learning site look like if you encouraged and demanded that your participants fail over and over as they participated?  If it was an accepted and expected part of the experience, rather than an “exception” that you immediately tried to locate and stamp out?

Pretty much exactly the same experience as when you learned to ride your first bike.


Your E-Learning Competes With This

If you’re still building online learning that has bullet points and a nice little “next” button on the bottom, you should probably just hang it up and get a job greeting customers at WalMart.  Because the audience is going to be bored in minutes, and won’t bother staying around to see if you’re using the “Jeopardy” game show template this time for the rote memorization section.

Here’s what they’re watching on other sites.  It’s the “Mistabishi ‘Printer Jam” and it’s from RadarMusicVideos. Radar is a network of most of the best online music video directors on the world.

So — can your learning compete with that?