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Twitter for Trainers: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Ideas

— by Jessica Stillman

Learning and developmentTraining

How do you know an idea has gone thoroughly mainstream? It appears in melodramatic primetime television. This is even true of training. Take the ‘Twitter for Training’ episode of sudsy medical drama Grey’s Anatomy from last year for example. Training blogger Jane Bozarth summarized the action at the time:

“The new episode of Grey’s Anatomy …  included a whole storyline about using Twitter as a training tool. The Chief was adamantly opposed to tweeting from operating rooms, calling Bailey’s Blackberry a ‘litigation machine’ (sound familiar?). Meantime, staff were bending the rules and residents from all over the country were following along with surgery backchannels, eventually appealing to the chief’s expertise and ego. Learners were able to ask questions and get answers from a master. Everybody won — including Twitter.”

Whether you’re a fan of the doctors of Seattle Grace or have no idea who Bailey and the Chief are, the underlying lesson for L&D pros is the same. Twitter has more than arrived as a training tool, so are you using the micoblogging platform to its full advantage?


If you’re still a bit behind and looking for a beginner’s intro to using Twitter in your capacity as a training pro, instructional designer Justin Ferriman recently penned a great post on the fundamentals of training and tweeting entitled, appropriately enough, “2 Stupidly Simple Ways to Use Twitter For Training.” What are they?

“Tweet Your Answers! This works best if you are conducting an instructor led training session and you have exercises and/or breakout sessions incorporated into the schedule. During a breakout session, group participants into a couple of teams. Give the teams 10 questions or so related to the material and require teams to “tweet” their answers (multiple choice or short answer) as quick as they can at a specific account.

“Since Twitter timestamps tweets, you can see which right answer was submitted first. The only setup needed for this strategy is the creation of the Twitter accounts prior to the event (the accounts teams will use and the “master” account that they need to tweet answers to). You could even through in a twist where you tweet back to teams different hints and/or feedback.

“Tweet Your Questions! If you are training to a new process or procedure, allow participants the opportunity to tweet any questions they may have, either on the job or during training. What makes this strategy more unique is that instead compiling answers and sending them back via one large email, ensure that there is someone monitoring the twitter account so as to provide near real-time response (even if the response is, “I will look into it”). Since there is a character limit, the questions have to be precise, but so do the answers!”


If you’ve got those basic uses of Twitter for training down pat, you’re ready to move on to intermediate tweeting and explore more ways to use Twitter before, during, and after training. Lee-Anne Ragan obliges with a long list of suggestions on her Rock. Paper. Scissors. Blog. Among her ideas: “Ask participants to introduce themselves, for example with the name, location and one thing they want to learn from the workshop or what their biggest challenge is facing them that’s related to the workshop topic.” Or, “Tweet a link to a poll like GoPollGo to ask participants where they are currently at with the subject matter.”


Think you’re a Twitter ninja? Then perhaps you’re ready to take on the challenge of designing a whole course on Twitter. Terrence Wing shows you how in Learning Solutions Magazine, though he cautions, Twitter “isn’t a methodology for every training intervention. I am not suggesting you abandon your authoring tools or LMS’s. To the contrary, I am suggesting you expand your toolkit to include Twitter as a delivery platform — as appropriate.”

It’s a detailed article and worth a read in full if you’re thinking of putting together a course on Twitter, but the basic principles of success are outlined by Wing in handy bullet points:

  • Use a practice or dummy Twitter account to practice composing the course. This saves you from sending out tweets that may conflict with your tweeting strategy. When the course is ready, save it in the account you want to go live in.
  • The Favorites tab is the best place to store a course that won’t disappear amongst your frequent tweets.
  • When moving tweets from your timeline to your Favorites tab, be sure to do it in reverse order. This way the first tweet the learner reads is the first step in your course.
  • Include a few tweets that provide instruction, especially the first tweet. This tweet should direct the user to the next step.
  • Go synchronous by using Justin.TV or

How have you use Twitter for training previously?

MoreHow to Save ‘Social Learning’ Before We Destroy It.

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.

Image via trekkyandy

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