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The Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to navigate social media

There’s a lot of conversation about social media.  And for good reason.  The tools let you connect with peers who share common interests.   It’s also a great way to build a personal learning network.  For example, if you build rapid elearning courses with Articulate products there are all sorts of resources available to you:

  • Articulate’s Facebook page keeps you up-to-date on news and information.
  • Connect with us via Twitter.  It’s a more personal connection to the network and you can stay on top of the cool tutorials we create with Screenr.
  • Articulate sponsors two blogs: the Word of Mouth blog features Articulate-specific news and the Rapid E-Learning Blog offers general elearning tips and tricks.  In addition, many of the Articulate folks have their own personal blogs that also offer interesting tidbits.
  • The community forums are a great resource for quick help from others who build rapid elearning courses.  They share the types of tips and best practices that you can only get from other users.  Personally, I think it’s the best online forum I’ve ever been part of because of the great interactions and downloads.  Check out this recent thread.

As you can see from the example above, if you use Articulate products there’s an entire network of people and an active community for you to be part of.  And that is usually the case in any community where you share common interests.

Not only is social media good for you, it’s good for your learners.  Many organizations have their own tools like blogs, wikis, and discussion forums.  It makes sense to blend your elearning courses with social media because you teach your learners to create their own learning network.

The challenge with these tools is that it can be hard for people to manage all of the information.  In fact, I was talking to someone recently who said that she really appreciates all of the resources available through sites like Facebook and Twitter.  But she felt overwhelmed by all of the information and has started tuning out.

The Value of Community

When I was younger, I took great pride in not listening to mainstream music.  Instead, I sought out bands that no one knew.  The problem with unheard of bands is that they’re typically unheard of.  Back then we didn’t have the internet to find and listen to music. It was a challenge to be a non-conforming conformist.

I discovered the bands through a magazine that had a reader section titled, Desert Island Discs.  People listed the ten albums they’d take with them if they were marooned on an island.  I used that list to find someone with similar interests.  Inevitably they listed bands that I didn’t know.

And that’s the value of community.  You’re tapped into a network of people who have similar interests.  They’ll provide connections, resources, and perspective that you might not get elsewhere.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - social networking Click here to watch Social Networking in Plain English.

Even if you build traditional elearning courses, social media has value.  It’ll strengthen your network of peers.  And if you include it as part of your course design, you can leverage many of the online tools and help your learners build their own network of peers to support them long after they’ve completed the course.

It’s easy enough to integrate social media with your rapid elearning courses.  Here are a few examples:

Filtering the Noise

Tapping into a learning community is fine.  But with the many resources available today, the “tapping into” experience is more like this scene from the movie, Small Time Crooks.  You just want a little but end up getting a lot more than you can handle.  Or so it seems.


Click here to view the video clip.

No one goes to a library and complains that there are too many books.  That wouldn’t make sense.  You want as many books as possible in the library.  You just don’t want them all at the same time.  The same goes for your learning community’s resources.

Here are five simple ways to manage all of the information available to you.  I also did a quick screencast that walks you through some of these tips.

  • Use a feed reader to subscribe to the resources.  Many of the social media tools and sites have an RSS feed.  By subscribing via RSS feed, you can access everything from one site rather than having to visit each site that interests you.
  • Filter by keywords.  Some of the people I follow in Twitter post more
    than ten times a day.  It’s hard to keep up with all of that.  Besides, there are usually only a few things that interest me.  So I tune them out.  I don’t even look at their posts.  Instead, I create keyword filters.  This helps me get rid of the noise and only see those things that interest me.
  • Find information that’s already aggregated.  Don’t feel like doing any of that sorting or subscribing?  No biggie.  Just find someone else who does it and go to that site.  For example, if you’re active in Facebook and use Articulate products, become a fan of Articulate.  A lot of the community news and resources are available there and that saves you from having to do it yourself.
  • Focus on what’s practical.  Even if you do all of the sorting and filtering, it’s still a lot to handle.  Personally, I’m more interested in practical applications of ideas and not all of the conversation.  So I tend to pay more attention to tutorials, examples, and demos than I do news stories and conversations.
  • Tune out.  OK, this kind of goes contrary to the whole social media thing, but who cares?  Don’t worry about being on top of all of the chatter. As a wise man one said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”  Sometimes you’re better off tuning out and staying focused, than you are getting anxious and trying to stay on top of everything.  Just tune in when you want.

Social media technology opens the door to a lot of helpful information and helps you build a network of like-minded peers.  In addition, your training program will be more effective if you can teach your learners to create and manage their own learning networks.

How are you using social media?  Are you using it with your elearning programs?  I’d love to hear how it’s working out.  Click on the comments link to share your thoughts.


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30 responses to “How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload)”

Tom, I can’t believe I was thinking of a similar topic as yours at the same time on the same day! I just posted my thoughts about how I’m keeping on top of all of my social media intake here —

Great thoughts from you of which I’m sure you’ll find resonance on my blog! Thanks for sharing.

Would have been a great post had it not been for the fact my corporate firewall chews up anything that resembles social media. Go figure.

Here is a trick that I use to focus on specific topics in Twitter and Yammer. I will search hastags to read tweets, or yams, on specific topics. So, if I have a hankering to see what people are sharing about Articulate, I will either click #Articulate in a post or search #Articulate.

Adding hashtags to your own tweets is also a great way to expand the reach of your tweet and find new followers and new people to follow.

Most importantly “tune out” as you advise. No one can stay on top of it all, but if you only read 1% of what your followers share you will probably get an immense amount of information.

Thanks for the great advice.

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by justinawilcox: RT @tomkuhlmann: How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload)

[…] How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload) | The Rapid eLearning Blog | Tom Kuhlmann | 26 Jan 2010 […]

I think people become overwhelmed because they feel the need to be involved in almost every social media offering out there, but don’t ever really take the time to learn enough about what they’re getting involved with.

Reading FAQ’s, following the tips during setup, and a general browsing of the function can usually solve the problem. It just takes some time and effort.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Gentleman, Sarah Gentleman, Phillip McCreight, Brian Batt, Linda Locke and others. Linda Locke said: Social Media Coach How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload) […]

January 26th, 2010

The “Small Time Crooks” clip reminded me of the quote the IT in my section uses on her e-mail:
“Information is gushing toward your brain like a firehose aimed at a teacup.”
~Dogbert to Dilbert

Most days that’s how I feel! Thanks for the great tips!

I could not get the Common Kraft video to run..or at least the streaming function was not working. Did others experience this?


@Anne: it’s possible that their server had a hiccup. You could always view in on Youtube, just search for the title.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jan k mccorkle and Janet, IRENE MALIN. IRENE MALIN said: How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload) » The Rapid eLearning Blog: #socialmedia […]

Great post Tom!
I would say using a twitter client (like hootsuite or tweetdeck) is a huge help in filtering the tweets. They both let you set up columns and/or tabs to display only the info your interested in seeing.

Hi Tom,
Great post – love the commoncraft videos. Anything coming about collaborative learning and wikis? Social media is changing everything – even where connectivity is not so good. Anyone interested in seeing how it is being used in international development should check out our free e-learning course entitled “Web 2.0 and Social Media for Development” – it will take less than 3 minutes to sign up. French and Spanish versions to follow. Go to and checkout the modules section.

Yes, yes, and yes. All good info shared and well defined. Glad I am not alone in this thinking, hmmm. *waving bye for now*

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by G. Panagiotakopoulos, Kimberly Worthy. Kimberly Worthy said: How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload) » The Rapid eLearning Blog: via @addthis […]

“No one goes to a library and complains that there are too many books”
Exactly. If you’re reading all of the books in the library, or even all the books on a topic to get to the information you’re seeking, then You’re Doing It Wrong. Make use of Twitter’s new Lists, hashtags and aggregators (for lack of a better term) like Twitterfall. Tagging is incredibly important in this little “Web 2.0” world we’ve created, and if you’re not tagging your contributions to all your social networks in an appropriate way, users will have to read the entire library to find you!

You mention you have a Facebook fan option. How about creating an Articulate user group on LinkedIN- may engender some good collaborations?

[…] The Rapid E-learning Blog: How to Navigate Social Media (and Avoid Information Overload) […]

Great article! It was very helpful. I enjoy using computers, the Internet and technology in general, but keeping track of all of this stuff can be overwhelming. Thanks for your help!

Since there is too much knowledge to individually acquire, connecting with others is wisely advocated in this post.

There is another streamlining technique that also enables the personal knowledge management spaces to be easily networked; explained here:

Excellent read. Thank you.


@Dallas: good tips in that link…thanks for sharing

Information overload is one of two essential problems that scar social media. The other is related and it is the disassociation of content. Learning in the web 2 era requires an ability to navigate quickly and isolate information snippets. But we do not have the tools to integrate that information with natural browser tools. The browser is still the same essential UI as always, yet the internet has become overwhelming.

That’s why my startup has developed the solution everyone’s been waiting for. It’s called MemoThis and it gives you the ability to place a virtual sticky note onto any area of any web or portal page and use it to manage private research, collegiate collaboration or distributed blogging.

Sorry, for the shameless plug, but we’re confident this simple, elegant solution will resolve the very issues you mention and reorganize your thoughts within the context of the page. Search is great until you get to the pages the target pages. We allow the everyday user to integrate their thoughts with the published content they find so ideas are never lost, and they can be vastly more productive online. It’s a user-controlled mash-up.

Try it out at and let us know what you think.

Kjell (chel) Kahlenberg

Memothis looks interesting. I’ll check it out.

Social media sites are great to keep in contact with old friends and network with new friends, as well as creating that sense of community. Then there is massive amount of extra nonsense that gets ridiculous. Filtering out what you want to see and what not to see is important or you can get lost in the mess of the site. I like the TUNE OUT tip, because you are exactly right, it’s really annoying for me to see every comment made on my Facebook friends list or that I’ve gotten another 10 invites to be someone’s neighbor in FarmVille. I like that Facebook offers a chat application to instantly speak to members online. Social media sites to be careful though, sites like MySpace (or what SNL cast member Seth Meyers calls “the abandoned amusement park of the internet”) lost popularity very quickly and in my opinion was because of this overload. MySpace pages were a mess of information, 2 songs playing at the same time, slideshows going crazy, and a posted survey of a person’s history…WHY??? It’s funny that saying that I feel old because I’ve had my Facebook account since the days of when it was only accessible with an active college e-mail account. I’ve seen the rise and fall of some of these sites; some go onto greatness and others crash and burn. Social media sites have greatly increased the level of online communication and I am grateful, but it can be easy to get lost in the information thrown at you.

PS. Sorry if you are a fan of MySpace

Great article. The tips regarding how to navigate social media should be very helpful to people that are new to this kind of thing. I think that some people just need to be aware of different methods of getting information, like how you mention creating keyword filters in Twitter.

I am guessing some people (or maybe most) don’t know that they can do that. It’s definitely also a good idea to just look for the specific information you need… since there are so many sites and resources out there in social media. Because sites like Facebook and Twitter are relatively new, I could see some people, maybe in the corporate world, trying to go out and get all the information they possibly can on every single social media site, which would obviously not be very necessary just to get familiar with social media.

Also, some people are probably not aware that social media sites can be used for learning, not just sharing personal information with friends on Twitter or Facebook. Like you stated in the article, ” You’re tapped into a network of people who have similar interests. They’ll provide connections, resources, and perspective that you might not get elsewhere.”

@Brian: good points. I’ve been think a bit more about this. One role the community plays in addition to the networking is the role of curator. The life span of much of the info is short whether it’s good or bad. So, the community needs to curate the info and help keep those things valuable afloat.

This was a very timely article for me! I am beginning a course in Instructional Design, and much of the technology is very new to me. As I searched for appropriate blogs and sites, I really felt overwhelmed. There is a lot of information out there. It is a challenge to find what’s relevant!

[…] seen a slew of blog posts, studies, articles, and general commentary about this phenomenon. There are even psychological […]

[…] the past we looked at how to navigate social media and manage all of the streams of information.  We also discussed ways that being part of the […]

[…] passato abbiamo visto come utilizzare i social media e come gestire tutti i flussi di informazioni. Abbiamo anche discusso su come far parte della […]