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June 2020
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Make Online Connections
TD Magazine

Make Online Connections

Talent development professionals can tap into the value of online communities.

Talent development practitioners increasingly make note of what they can learn from the marketing field—such as creating learner personas and frequently collecting data, as Danielle Wallace suggests in the TD article "Steal Marketing Practices for Better Learning Programs." Although targeted for the marketing industry, a recent Reddit and GlobalWebIndex report The Era of We: and the Rise of Online Communities offers valuable guidance that talent development professionals can take regarding connecting with their intended audience.

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The report discusses how individuals are using social media and online communities—preferring the latter—and what they're gaining from the digital world. "When asked why they visited online community sites," the authors explain, "the second-most popular answer among users in the US was to connect with people who have similar interests." The most popular answer: discovering new things.

In contrast to social media, online communities feel safe, the report states. As much as talent development practitioners talk about the need for a safe learning space and work environment, consider these respondent findings: 36 percent more online community users than social media users said they could have meaningful conversations, and 28 percent more of those online community users said they are respected by others. Beyond providing a place to be heard, online communities are a space to be authentic.

What can this mean for talent development and the organizations and employees they serve? As Carrie Addington writes in the TD article "The Retail Potential of L&D," "replace target consumers with learners." Similarly, insert learners in the Reddit-GlobalWebIndex report's assertion that "Ultimately, consumers value knowledge and opinions from people they know in real life, or people they have a genuine connection with above all else."

Given what online communities do, how can talent development professionals use them to their advantage? Design learning experiences that bring people together in online communities to share—spaces that enable learners to have meaningful conversations and share authentically—a safe place to ask, offer best practices, and exchange ideas.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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