With the coronavirus pandemic, every single person across the globe is being asked to stay home — luckily, we live in a digital age where mentorship and learning can occur online. Not to be confused with Wikipedia’s definition of social learning, the social learning we're referring to takes a digital approach to learn from your network using online social media platforms.
Why is social learning so popular? Sit back with a nice cuppa tea 🍵 — we'll start from the very beginning.
Social learning in accounting — how it all began.
The disruptors in the accounting industry are the emerging accounting platforms—like Xero and QBO—that have made it more efficient for small business owners and accounting pros to monitor organizational finances in real-time. This is often referred to as "cloud accounting" or "online platforms."
Unlike traditional desktop solutions, which are not subject to much change before their next release, online platforms change at a moment’s notice — making it difficult to create training materials, guides and traditional textbooks on how to use the software.
In the past, you could take an evening course at a local post-secondary institution on how to use desktop accounting software. With technological changes, it's now difficult to keep a curriculum updated. This is why accounting professionals and small business owners are turning to social media to learn at this frantic pace.
Use social media to get your questions answered, quickly.
You could contact a support line to get assistance with how to use accounting software — but with the abundance of Facebook groups, you can also get your questions answered quickly based on the collective knowledge of members in the group. I dare say that sometimes this is faster than calling support.
Social media acts as a connector letting small business owners and accounting pros communicate rapidly and visually to get immediate information on how to solve a problem.
Getting started with social learning.
It's not as hard as you may think — I’m certain you have at least one social media account that you can use to begin your social learning regime.
Over the last several years, I’ve been using social media not only to build a brand but to upgrade my knowledge through social learning using the following social media platforms.
One of the first social media platforms to rise to dominance, Facebook is an ongoing leader with over 2.32 billion active monthly users. Cleverly, accountants and bookkeepers have found ways to create communities within Facebook.
A bit of terminology — Facebook pages vs. groups
- Belong to a person or a business. It’s one-dimensional.
- Offer less engagement and are mainly used for information purposes.
- Are shared pages where members can comment and contribute posts.
- Offer a wealth of knowledge that allows for members to view and engage on a topic by being alerted when a new post is published.
What to expect.
Although each Facebook group is unique, you can expect a vast amount of knowledge depending on what the group specializes in.
Optimize your Facebook group experience by familiarizing yourself with the group description and rules before engaging. It’s important to follow the rules of the group to maintain your inclusion.
Groups are moderated and governed by admins who have the authority to remove and block your Facebook profile if you violate their rules.
It’s like being voted off the Island — so take it seriously!
What kind of educational content will you find on Facebook?
Social learning can take place in all sorts of mediums on Facebook. Members commonly post questions in a Facebook group to ignite a conversation — subsequently, you'll find a wealth of knowledge in the responses (comments) and perhaps a few screen images or how-to videos to tackle the problem you may be facing.
Webinars are regularly posted to Facebook groups and are great for learning without having to venture out to a conference or travel extensively.
During webinars, you can post questions and interact with the presenters in the comfort of your own home.
Many webinars are promoted through Facebook to encourage you to sign up and join the conversation. Can’t make the specific date and time of the webinar? No need for drama. Most webinars are recorded and can be sent directly to your inbox afterward (you'll still need to sign up for the webinar to get the content).
Some Facebook groups “Go Live” with a broadcast to interact with the audience. It's a great way to interact with your group admin.
Don’t worry if you happen to miss the live broadcast — a video of the live broadcast will be posted to the Facebook feed for you to view at your convenience. Plus, you can still interact with the topic of the video by commenting.
Our step-by-step process on how to join Facebook.
- Go to www.facebook.com/r.php and enter your first and last name along with a few other details like your email or mobile number, birthday, gender and, of course, a password.
- Once your account is created you'll need to confirm your email or mobile number.
Tips for creating a Facebook Profile.
Once you've confirmed your account, it's time to build a professional Facebook profile.
- Start with your profile image. A current up to date photo is best — this way, when you meet up with your peers in real life, they can easily identify who you are.
- Pick a cover photo that matches your style. If you're at a loss to find a nice image, check out Unsplash for free stock photography.
- Edit your profile and add a candid Bio and let your personality shine. You may also want to add your work experience and educational background.
How to join a Facebook Group.
Now that we have you set up on Facebook it's time to connect with your peers and join a Facebook Group.
Let's say you're interested in learning about QuickBooks. Simply type "QuickBooks" into the search bar and press “enter” to find groups that relate to that topic. You’ll soon be connected with your peers and learning from them — this will take mentoring to the next level.
Speaking of Facebook groups, here are some industry Facebook groups you should know.
Twitter acts as a social butterfly. Topics are presented so fast it’s hard to keep up to speed. The shelf life of a Twitter post is only a few minutes. Despite it being a fast-paced platform, I've found Twitter to be my VIP access to stellar social learning opportunities.
What kind of educational content will you find on Twitter?
Twitter chats are a common way for individuals to join in on a conversation at a set time identified by a hashtag. A series of questions are asked and answered either one-on-one with a guest or to all individuals who join in on the Twitter chat.
Another common way to search for social learning opportunities on Twitter is by using a hashtag. Let's say you're interested in learning more about Xero. Go to the upper right corner in the search section and enter #Xero.
Once you press enter, you'll be directed to view all recent conversations, mentions and learning opportunities that other twitter folks have posted using the #Xero hashtag. This is a great chance to stay up to date with individuals you follow and potential future learning opportunities.
Twitter lists are a great way to keep track of the amazing content related to your favourite hashtags. Think of it as your customized newsfeed to keep up to date and informed on industry trends and opportunities.
Our step-by-step process on how to join Twitter.
- Go to https://twitter.com/i/flow/signup and add details like your name, email or mobile phone.
- Confirm your email or mobile number to activate your Twitter account.
- Pick a unique username and password.
Your username is the key to your success. Really dig down and find something that's catchy so that folks can easily remember it and mention you in their social media posts.
Twitter's been in the social media scene for a while so you may find that your name is already taken as a username. Try and come up with something relatable and unique — for example, if you are an electrician and your name is Emily perhaps your username could be @Electric_Emily.
Tips for creating a Twitter profile.
Now that you have created a Twitter profile it's time to spruce up your brand.
- Upload a profile image and cover photo. To keep things consistent, you can use the same photos as your Facebook profile — this is a simple way for your followers to find you on other social networks. If they know your profile photo from Facebook, they're likely to find you easily on Twitter too!
- Set up a catchy Bio and have some fun with it. This is where you may want to reference a company Twitter account, a few hashtags and don’t forget your website so people can learn more about you.
Out of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn is my absolute favourite by far. LinkedIn acts as your virtual business card and upbeat resume.
You won’t find many candid photos of humorous memes on LinkedIn. A good rule of thumb is to communicate on LinkedIn like you would in an office setting.
Since 2003, LinkedIn has rapidly changed how they engage professionals and share content. Not just for career seekers, LinkedIn offers so much more. When used properly LinkedIn is a great way to find your ideal client or next networking event.
During networking events, LinkedIn makes it super simple to connect with your peers. In fact, I no longer carry business cards. I use the LinkedIn QR Code reader on my mobile device to quickly connect with people I meet at conferences, meetups or the local cupcake shop! It's great to start a relationship and save a few trees.
Want to try this QR Code out? Open up the LinkedIn app on your mobile device and click on the QR Code symbol found in the "Search" field located at the top of your screen. Hover over my QR code below and select "connect."
What kind of educational content will you find on LinkedIn?
Since LinkedIn also has a built-in publishing tool called articles, there is a never-ending supply of great content at your fingertips.
Articles are similar to blogs — the main difference is that the articles are created and posted directly on LinkedIn.
Webinars, case studies and whitepapers.
Similar to Facebook and Twitter, you'll find postings for upcoming webinars as well as other valuable content like case studies and whitepapers.
Our step-by-step process on how to join LinkedIn.
- Sign up by going to https://www.linkedin.com/reg/join and entering your email and password.
- When prompted, enter your name and create a password.
It’s important to note that you must use your actual name when creating a LinkedIn profile.
Tips for creating a LinkedIn profile.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is considered a professional network that has its own culture to gain greater insights into its members.
- Use the About section to summarize what makes you unique.
- Don’t forget sections like Work experience, Education, Skills, License and Certifications to make it easy for people to understand more about you. To make things a little easier, LinkedIn has a built-in Profile Strength Meter to help you build a strong profile.
- Perhaps you have a big heart — how about mentioning your Volunteer Experience?
- Have something you're proud of? Perhaps a publication featuring you or an awesome test score! Detail it out in the Accomplishments section.
- Have Endorsements and Recommendations. By providing more credibility to your profile, you'll really increase the chances of connecting with peers, your next boss or ideal client. LinkedIn makes it simple for you to request a recommendation from a peer already on the platform.
- Lastly, don’t forget to personalize your URL to make your image truly shine!
Other ways to get knowledge.
It really is a sea of information out there. But if you dig enough you’ll soon find a nice golden nugget to help you learn something you didn’t know before!
Here are a few of our hidden gems.
- Other social networks — Instagram and Pinterest can be insightful to follow along and catch a whiff of new refreshing workflows.
- Videos — YouTube and Vimeo have a wealth of How-To Videos for just about anything including accounting software!
- Podcasts — are wonderful to listen along while plugging away at a bank reconciliation.
- Newsletters — Our friend and Future Firm founder Ryan Lazanis has an incredible newsletter called Future Firm Weekly Top 5 that emphasizes the social learning aspect of Cloud Accounting. Ryan has curated an amazing list of social learning avenues for you to discover in his article The Ultimate 51 Resources to Follow.
Take a digital approach to learning.
We're part of an exciting era because we now have the option to learn online. Don’t get overloaded with all the various ways to learn on social media. Start with what you currently use and narrow down your search to a specific topic. Soon you’ll be digging up some great social learning tidbits.
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